Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dear Mother,

It's been a long time since I've talked to you. Oh, we've spoken, cordially at public events; but I have held you at an arm's length for almost two decades now. That was most certainly a selfish action on my part, defensive, maybe a bit paranoid. It was the only way I knew how to preserve the peace I had found in my life, a life you criticized. A life you scoffed.

But here's the thing. I've had a few things you haven't had. First, I've known love. Unlike you, my marriage to John has not only lasted, it has flourished. It is a friendship first, not a business arrangement. I do not need to manipulate him. I do not need to hide behind any facade in order to maintain control. In fact, he has taught me something that you never taught me; that there is something beautiful in vulnerability. Yes, mother, vulnerability.

And another thing I have is friends. Do you remember what you taught me about friends? "Friends are only there because they want something from you. Friends are a waste of time. You don't need friends." Yeah, well, you were wrong. And I won't be dead a week before I'm missed, so...

Here's the deal, mother. Writing you was not my idea, but my therapist's. I had to write another letter for her, one to Caswell, which evolved over time into my victim impact statement, and frankly it was a hell of a lot easier to write. Less painful. Do you hear that? Writing to the bastard who raped me was less painful than writing to the woman who gave birth to me.

I remember the last words you spoke to me, they went to my voice mail. No, I did not give you any warning that a detective was going to call you and ask you questions about the rape and my timeline. I knew you would be appropriate with him, that you would of course be willing to talk to him, and be of any help you could be. You would save face. But I wasn't going to talk to you about it, and I wasn't going to interrupt a lunch with John to listen to your lies.

I have come to grips with being raised by a narcissist. It has actually come in handy over the years. I have been able to help others understand the abuse they are enduring, because it's hard as hell to see it from within the fire. But now that I'm on the other side of it, I understand. I understand your inability to love. Your desire to control everything and everyone, and your intent to destroy that which you could not control.

Another piece of therapy homework I had was to grieve not having a mom. That was tough. How do you understand the loss of something that you never had? I mean, it's like explaining to a fish that it's wet.

I've gotten back in touch with a few folks from Glendale over the years, mother. Remember Angela Jenkins? Remember the things you said about her? Remember how often you told me we were better than her, than her family? How wrong I was to enjoy being at their house, how I needed to raise my standards and accept that they were too low class for me to hang around?

Yeah, well, do you know who spent time with me the night before the sentencing hearing? Do you know who made me laugh? Who encouraged me to follow my desires to continue things like writing and stained glass? Do you know who welcomed John into her heart? Yeah. You were wrong about her, mother. Angela and her husband of almost 50 years; they were the ones to bring comfort to this grown-up scared child. And you know why?

Because they love.

Angela died last month, mother, and I watched as well over 300 mourners greeted Buddy and Shelly for over 6 hours. Angela impacted her world. She lived well and loved hard. I watched Shelly grieve, actually, I am still watching her grieve. And you know why? Because she loved her mom and her mom loved her.

So, mother, my homework assignment is complete. I hate that my friend is grieving. I still cry for her because I see her pain. But that pain has helped me more than anyone will ever know. I now know what it means to grieve a mom. I've seen it, and in the most minute sense of the word, felt it. My relationship with Angela may have been brief, but there was always love.

Despite your best efforts, I have learned to love, and to be loved.

So goodbye mother. It is long past time, but I am no longer holding you at arm's reach. I am letting you go. You no longer have space for negativity in my head. You can no longer limit me with your short sighted, self serving philosophy. So don't even try, because now I know the truth. All the time you tried to convince me that I was wrong? or broken? or just stupid?

Nope. Mother, it's you. Not me.

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