Up until last August last year, I thought I simply had difficult episodes in my childhood. Other people, I know, had it worse. I had always tried to count my blessings. Then, in September, my mother snapped. At least her mind did, probably after decades of being dangerously taut and frayed. Looking back now, I can’t help admitting that my growing up years were peppered with twisted events.
Several closely spaced incidents might have led to my mother’s eventual breakdown. The year before, my grandmother died. My mother, I had mistakenly hoped, had made peace with her. My grandmother was one source of my mother’s insecurity. My mother claims that her mother, as well as her father, had favored her siblings over her. She, their firstborn, grew up under the care of her maternal grandparents; thus, she believed that she was unloved by her parents. My aunt recently told me that my mother once chased her with a pair of scissors after seeing the fabric for her graduation dress that my grandmother gave my mother. She hissed to my aunt, “If it’s for you, it’s always beautiful. If it’s for me, it looks like that!”
A few months after my grandmother was buried, my father died. Aside from the failure of his health, my father, I strongly suspect, died a psychologically broken man. My parents’ marriage was neither a happy nor a loving one. I had never seen them exchanging friendly banters, sweet glances, much less shared affectionate gestures. My mother had always deflected any hugs from my father, even with us kids around. All I can remember are the arguments and the fighting that highlighted their insipid, sometimes hostile, co-existence under the same roof.
The big chunk of it all, my mother’s high school sweetheart, with whom she was able to renew friendship a few months after my father died, darted out of her life again following a short-term reunion. He is still very much married and, I supposed, he didn’t welcome my mother’s advances. My mother believed that he was still carrying a torch for her after she chose to marry my father. This she believes until now. I don’t know what her reasons were for accepting my father’s marriage proposal but I believe that one shouldn’t blame other people for the choices that one makes in life. My mother claimed my grandfather preferred that she married my father.
While she was in her teens or even before that, my mother may have already been festering with hatred, envy, and insecurity when she couldn’t move past her parents’ entrusting her to her grandparents. Psychologists and psychiatrists were unheard of then, and mental instability or illness was only for “other people.” My mother’s state had remained unchecked.
Over the years, I remember my mother being in her dark moods, usually over issues of jealousy over my father. The atmosphere at home would literally be charged with negative energy that one could almost feel it, like pin pricks, on one’s skin. She would rage over the simplest lapses of those around her. My siblings and I would then stay in our rooms, get comfort from books or from the silence inside the four walls that buffered us from the turmoil outside. She must have been so wrapped up in her own battles that I can’t remember her taking the time to be motherly to her children.
And the biggest profanity of it all was such a warped and shameful notion. As we, her daughters started to grow up, she would suspect our father of giving questionable attention to and harboring dubious interests towards us. One by one, as we became teenagers, we started to drift away from our father fearing our mother’s ire. I have belatedly found this out. I thought I was the only one, but I also heard the same accounts and sentiments from my sisters and from my aunt.
My great heartache and realization after my father died is that my father was robbed of what could have been happy times with his children. These could have been his only consolation in a loveless marriage.
My mother has slowly recovered physically from her breakdown after she was hospitalized and treated by doctors. However, she is regularly taking medications for her mental condition, probably for life.
All she writes or talks about is her old boyfriend who doesn’t even give her the time of the day now. She doesn’t reminisce about my father and mentions him only grudgingly in the autobiography that she is writing. It’s mostly about the one that got away.
At times, I cry for myself and for my sisters whose childhoods were tainted with my mother’s twisted ways. More than that, my heart bleeds for my father who died not only with a broken body but also with a broken heart.
I pray I could forgive my mother, for she may not have been equipped to fight her demons. I want to forgive her, because I don’t want to live my life as she has lived hers.