My mother died in August four years ago. I have spent the last four years feeling guilt about her. I had a love/hate relationship with my mom since I was about fourteen. She died alone in her apartment and at the time, she wasn’t speaking to me. This silent treatment was nothing new for my mother. I probably should have forced the issue but at the time, I just couldn’t.
I used to telephone mom every day, just to check in on her. My mother had been treated for ovarian cancer, had a mild stroke, and a wide variety of health problems over the last five years of her life. I think she was also suffering from being slightly senile at the time she died. The last time I called her, I was trying to tell her about a screw up with my mammogram (everything was fine) resulting in me having to go back for retesting five times in a three month period. Mom kept interrupting me and telling me that she felt really bad and that the lady across the way was outside watering her flowers. She also wanted to know if I had talked to my sister. I really couldn’t get a word in edgewise during this conversation. I finally let the annoyance crack and said, “Mom, it hurts my feelings because you won’t listen to me about anything.” Her voice cracked and she said, “You hurt my feelings every goddamn time I talk to you, you bitch!” and slammed down the phone.
I was used to it and although I was annoyed, I felt like if I waited a week and called her back, she would act like nothing ever happened. Waiting a week was waiting too long. The next thing I knew, I was being told that my mother had died.
My mom was never a happy woman. She used to tell me constantly that “nothing ever worked out for her.” I tried for many years to change things for her so that she would at last be happy. Nothing worked. She told me on numerous occasions that the only thing that would make her happy would be to win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. That was one thing I could not do for her.
I hated seeing her bitter and unhappy. She simply could not find pleasure in things. It broke my heart. She loved me and my three sisters, but she hated us too a lot of the time. She hated me because I was “just like my no-good bastard of a father”. If I didn’t agree with her on something it was because I was “so goddamn superior.” If I slept with boyfriends, it was because I was a “slut and a whore.” I knew she loved me, but she was so difficult to please.
Mom took no real pleasure from her grandchildren. She always worried about money to the point that she couldn’t enjoy life. I really think her greatest crime was her sadness. I spent nearly sixty years trying to figure that out. She’s gone now, and strange as it may sound, I still miss her every day.