Drama Mama: My Crazy Mother
I don’t own the exclusive rights to crazy. I think many of us authors come from a long, pervasive line of insanity and nut jobs. There are those of you who have fabulous families and wonderful mothers. My mother, not so great.
I get it. That group may not understand the complexity of the love-hate relationship with which some of us struggle.
This rampage of uncertainty is how I balance my relationship with my parents. The source of this crucible isn’t solely maternal. I’ve come to know more of my paternal tree of squirrels as I’ve grown older, but my primary source material has always been the matriarchal line.
My family is nuts.
My mother’s issues aren’t her fault. She comes from a long line of unstable, abused people and it’s the baggage she inherited. My parents’ generation, for the most part, doesn’t believe in therapy, talking, or airing personal struggles. It’s silence and unwillingness to do the work that formed my childhood.
The truth about families is no one from the outside, no matter how close they are, knows the daily struggle of living in the asylum. The sea can appear calm and at ease, all the while swirling and spinning under the surface.
Without digressing into what is material for a ho-hum memoir, the undercurrent of my childhood was a riptide of conflict, abuse, and just plain crazy.
I navigated the wake the best I could in my little barque. Leaks and listing abounded. In my thirties, I finally worked myself to seaworthy. I have the tools to repair things as necessary.
Thousands of hours and thousands of dollars of therapy help.
As I’ve grown healthier, my mother has devolved. Some people may be in denial, but the evidence is plain. I’ve ensured her storms don’t impact my life. I’ve built boundaries and taken to sheltered coves when her tempests hit. My own crises I keep to myself. She knows little about our lives. There’s no definitive diagnosis, but I think my mother is a narcissist.
Everything must revolve around her. It’s fruitless to seek her comfort because she’s incapable of offering it. If you have an issue, she had it first. Have a cold? She has the flu. Have a mounted deer head? She’ll tell you why it shouldn’t be displayed. Do you have one? She has five.
I kept our conversations to the weather and listened to her latest gripe about whomever she had an issue with at the time.
It was a balancing act.
The worst thing about this careful balancing act is as far as she was concerned, we had the best relationship ever. It’s a tough thing to have a mother you can’t depend on for advice, support, or just a general kind ear.
Carol Brady, my mother ain’t.
Like most people raised in complicated homes, I’ve nurtured a surrogate family. Friends and extended family who’ve spent a lot of time in the company of my parents. Some of my confidants have been friends of my mom, who like me, have kept her at a distance.
Life has thrown me a tsunami, the motherf%$#er. In addition to the behaviors she’s exhibited my entire life, she now shows signs of accelerated dementia. My mother hasn’t been officially diagnosed.
Don’t get me wrong, my mother has some serious health issues. Of all the ailments she claims to suffer from dementia isn’t one she wants.
I can see it. I think my father can see it and he’s asked for help. By rights, I could tell them to sod off. They’ve refused me help thrice in my life during dire, life-threatening circumstances. I heard it in my father’s voice when they asked. He was afraid I’d say no.
The general consensus was unanimous.
“F*&% no, tell her to f*&% off.”
“You can’t. You cannot live with your mother.”
“You’ll become a serious alcoholic.”
I understand the issues. Believe me, the last few weeks have caught me in an emotional maelstrom. In the end, my friend Sarah said it best. “You’re a good person. A bigger person than that and of course you can’t say no.”
“Yeah, but I’m a small enough person to wish I could,” I responded.
“That’s the kicker,” she said. “There’s always wine.”
Of course, I said yes. The Beard said yes.
Now the insanity amps up. We’re looking for a house with land to accommodate a guest cottage. We’re upending our lives, our finances, our teenagers, and our routines to help my parents navigate the ravages of growing old. The phone calls come multiple times a day. She oscillates between her usual bitter sharpness and being completely confused.
I’m dealing with my mother in the manner I would deal with a petulant four-year-old. The thing is, dealing with her dementia is more straightforward than dealing with the things she does willfully. I can listen to her ask if we’re close to Barr Lake all day. It’s the backhanded sniping that was work.
I’m not writing. A publishing deadline for The Esau Convergence came and went. I’m helping my friend, Caleb open his art gallery (something I offered to do before this bomb dropped). Never mind the dust bunnies, the piles of laundry, and the empty larder plaguing our house as I unravel.
We have a three-year plan. We will leverage our own debt to allow my father to have both cash to cover her longterm care and will enable him to live in retirement with almost no financial burden. We’re about to dive into purchasing a larger house to accommodate a multigenerational family.
I’ll get through it. When you’re caught in a riptide, you have to relax and let it carry you until it weakens. Only then can you swim to shore. I’ll most certainly write about it, and with time it will become entertaining again.
The trick is to let go of the fight and trust the current will peter out so you can swim to shore.