Mother’s Day, 2016.
Oh how I dread this day, and have for the 24 years I have been married to my husband. I lost my mother to cancer in 1992. She and I had a difficult relationship-in all honesty she was emotionally abusive to me for years. I am trying to come to terms with writing about that struggle; however I find it hard to call my mother out on abuse that happened so many years ago. I know that I can truly help others who have been through or are struggling with a narcissistic parent . This pain rips you apart-and the years I have spent in therapy have taught me one thing: people make mistakes. I am not one to blame my problems on my parents; been there, done that. Once you pass the age of 40, you are accountable for your own actions. Hurting people hurt others, or at least that’s what they say. I don’t want to hurt anymore.
But today’s story only partly involves my mother, Mary Lou. Today I want to discuss the most hideous of monsters-my mother in law. I will never forget the day I met her. You see, my in laws live directly across the street from us. OH THE HORROR. The unmitigated horror.
I was sitting on the grass beside the pond when I caught a glimpse of her walking up the street. Dwain and I had a torrid love affair and had so far managed to avoid his parents’ judgment. I had heard the stories. She was a whirling dervish of criticism, hypocrisy and temper tantrums. I truly wanted nothing to do with her, but how to avoid her? Did I say my in laws live across the street?
“He loved her more than anything in this world.” The first words my mother in law to be spoke.
“Who? Who did Dwain love?”
“Why Kathy, of course.”Kathy was the woman who left Dwain with nothing. The ex-wife who bolted and took everything with her, including the silverware, knowing he would have their son and her daughter every other weekend. When I met Dwain we were both facing divorce, I left my first husband and took nothing but my clothes and old sketching. Charcoal pictures of album covers-Elvis Costello, Jim Morrison, Joe Jackson- to name a few. Kathy went as far as to charge Dwain with child abuse after her daughter woke him from a deep sleep and he swung his arms and hit her-by mistake, of course. The state police were smarter than she, and never charged him with anything. The fact that she had taken steps to crush the man, after he took her daughter and adopted her as his own, after they had a child together, after he received the bill for one of her abortions in the mail. He didn’t know if he was indeed the father of his son as he caught her in the bushes with another man, his best friend, soon after they tied the not.
I had just put my family and friends through hell by walking away from a marriage that was one week old. I couldn’t tell them the reason behind my departure. My first husband had tried to strangle me on the honeymoon, and when I received the glorious news that my cervical cancer had not spread and remained in situ, he screamed, “You just didn’t want to have children!” When you are 29 years old and dealing with cancer, you have no choice but to do what the doctor suggests: cryosurgery and a cervical biopsy. It was in that moment that I learned I was not to have children. The doctor told my husband that I couldn’t bare children-he just forgot to tell me.
And so, with those words hanging over my head like a toxic balloon, I made it a point to avoid her at all costs. Why would she think I needed to hear that information? It turned out she was bat shit crazy for her grandson-and nothing would stand in her way, not even her own son.
Over the years, she managed to treat me like a distasteful afterthought. Dwain and I were party animals back in the day; on the weekends we didn’t have Brad, we jumped from bar to bar, along with our coke addled friends. My mother in law was a born again Christian, and believed we were going to hell. Dwain and I were abstinent on the weekends we had his son, and we took him to church faithfully, until the day it became obvious that no one was paying attention to the sermon. Dwain’s parents and aunt were too busy fighting over how many cheerios the baby had, or who’s turn it was to hold him. The circus atmosphere left a bitter taste in our mouths.
Flash back to September 11, the day that shook our nation to its very core. We had spent much of the day watching the news coverage, thrilled to be home after working and together as a family. My in laws came up to wish us a happy anniversary (September 12, 1992-that is the day we were married by our pond, one hundred people standing in mud and wet grass, just to see us tie the knot.)
“Oh sweet Jesus, Dolly,” I cried. “The families and friends of these poor victims. The first responders and fire fighters, how will they make it home tonight?” I was hysterical, and my husband in shock.
“I know where I’m going,” she smiled smugly.
And that, my friends, is the most hateful sentence ever spoken.