Archive for February, 2014

I think I need to break up with my mother.

Except that I can’t seem to screw up the courage I need to get it done. I’ve been thinking it over since xmas, and keep telling myself, ‘well, you don’t want to be hasty. Think about it a little more.’ I’ve been having nightmares about her almost every night, awful ones where I face her down and scream at her every evil thing I’ve ever thought about her and never said, in an effort to keep the peace.

I’ll back up:

Over xmas there was a terrible storm and an extended power outage at my parents’ house, almost a full week. Being a nice person, I called my parents every day to extend an invitation to them to come over, warm up, have tea, a shower, laundry, a nap–whatever they needed. They refused in the main, of course, because my mother “didn’t want to leave the dogs at home alone,” but for three days running they did come over for short periods. The power outage extended over Christmas and I offered to move the family celebration to our house, which they didn’t decide on until xmas day, when all the stores were closed, making it tricky to get groceries (particularly since my dad’s gone gluten-free for health reasons and my mom’s gone vegan for vanity). But we got a dinner up for boxing day, and my brother and his family stayed the night in something approaching warmth.

Now my mother’s new veganism is absolutely obnoxious. She’s acting like a spoiled college student about the whole thing. She’s strident, preachy, and will not shut up about it. The entire three days she came over, it was all she talked about. The chickens she’s sponsoring on a farm refuge. The donkeys. How my daughter should not grow up to be a dog breeder or a farmer (her fondest dreams at the moment, but recall that she’s *ten*) because it’s so horrible and it should be illegal but she could have a wildlife refuge instead. Meanwhile, I was sick, and so was my daughter, but I held my tongue all through until the boxing day dinner.

And at that boxing day dinner, I did something truly unforgiveable: I disagreed with my mother about veganism.

I had a tone, I’m sure, but I didn’t attack her at all. When she said that we are obviously not meant to be carnivores because we don’t have fangs or sharp claws, I said that we should move out of our houses, then, since we can’t build them with our fingernails either. She went on about the teeth again, and I said that while we didn’t have carnivore teeth, we did have omnivore teeth, since herbivores all have gaps between front teeth and back teeth–no middle teeth. Then she said that while we MAY be biologically suited to eat meat, “unlike animals,” humans have compassion and so she chooses not to.

“Just because I eat meat does not mean I lack compassion,” I said.

And she smirked at me, shrugged, and hasn’t said a word to me since.

Keep in mind that she’d just brought over several pounts of frozen meat from 2005-2010 that was no longer good enough for her to eat, but was apparently good enough for me–only if I ate it, I suppose, I would have been admitting to be a bad person without compassion. What a bitch.

A silence of 6 weeks would not be exceptional with her in any case, but this included her own birthday and my daughter’s birthday; at my daughter’s birthday dinner she completely ignored me for the entire evening, and when I gave my mother her birthday present with a “Happy birthday, mom!” she took it, mumbled at her dinner plate, shoved it under the table without opening it, and hasn’t said a word about it. So far as I know, she threw it away unopened. I mean I really have no idea.

The whole thing has wiped away any lingering doubts I had about my mother’s narcissism. Who but a narcissist would decide that someone’s disagreement about dietary choices constituted an attack and a betrayal that deserves punishment and ostracism?

I was angry with her, of course, but I’m furious with myself. HOW could I have let my guard down enough to give her the opportunity to hurt me again? When has she ever showed, in words or actions, that she cares about me at all? Why would I love her? What has she ever done to deserve it? Why should she be entitled to a relationship with me regardless of her behaviour?

I can’t see how I can have a relationship with her going forward, and what’s more, I don’t want to. If she wants to alienate all of her relatives and die in a cold dark room covered in dog shit, let her. (More on the relatives in a bit.)

Of course, this means my daughter also loses her. Not that she’s much of a grandmother–she shows up on special occasions with mediocre presents, but otherwise is not an active figure in her life, and by her choice since it would mean “leaving the dogs at home alone”–but still. We’d also both likely lose my dad, since he goes along with anything she says or wants (unless she’s sulking and ignoring him, at which point I am expected to listen to his endless complaints about it–but I can’t complain to him about her, oh no, she’s been a paragon of a mother). Which means no nearby biological family for her. And how would I explain this to her? “Your grandma is punishing me for disagreeing with her about veganism, so I’m sorry but we can’t visit with them for a good long time? Or maybe ever?”

Over the past few months I have been, very slowly and somewhat painfully, reestablishing contact with my mom’s estranged sisters. Once of them she hasn’t spoken to in decades, since they had a disagreement when I was a teenager. The other she hasn’t spoken to in years, though I don’t know why or precisely when. In both cases, losing the aunts meant losing the uncles and cousins as well, who I’d been close to growing up and lost without ever knowing why. One of my cousins got married last year and invited my mom and I to the shower, but my mother never passed the invitation along and I only found out (from my cousin directly) when it was too late to arrange to attend. PP and I went out for dinner with them last fall, and it was lovely–and also awkward, as they both were so warm and had so many nice things to say about me and PP that I was quite discomfited. I’m not used to that kind of approval and handled it very badly. But in either case, I had the kind of conversation with them that it has always been impossible to have with my parents. Just fun and casual. And my mother’s other sister, whose birthday is close to mine, reacted to our new conversations by sending me a ring my grandmother had given her; it’s the only thing I own from that grandmother.

In both cases I now talk to both of them more in a month than I ever spoke to my mother in a year. And with more warmth. But in all of those conversations, no one mentions my mother; she hangs like a spectre over every word, the bright pink elephant in the room. Every time it reminds me of how I used to fantasize when I was young that my mother and father would die, and one of these two families would adopt me. I shrugged that off as a normal childhood fantasy, but maybe it was more prescient than I gave myself credit for.

My mother is running out of relatives. Out of all of her siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, and immediate family, I believe she is only in contact with my dad, my brother, and her own brother. Everyone else has done something to betray her and is no longer welcome in her life. Even my brother, who she always petted, knows she is a lunatic.

So I can’t see any way out of breaking up with my mother, which I am ready for at last. But I worry about how it will affect PP, and I don’t know how to do it.


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