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sunday 12.10.2000
not invited

assuming i get all the trimmings, there is one person who will not be invited for christmas dinner: my mother. she's already making the annual phone calls to remind me she exists. phone calls i would rather not get. and because of my rather cool reception, she will shortly be sending her infamous letters. letters i'd rather that the post office lose. of course, they only lose the stuff you really NEED to receive, and you always get the junk mail and other stuff you really could do without. mother may even go beyond subtle hints and ask me what we are planning for christmas. not being much of a good liar, this will put me on the spot, but i will not have her here. i just can't handle her. somewhere deep inside i am sure there is love still, she is after all my mother. i just do not wish to associate with her, hang out with her, or otherwise be around her.

before i get the usual "what a horrible daughter" treatment i am getting more than tired of, please be aware of several things about my mother. she is mentally ill, and has been for a very long time. when i was a teenager, barely out of the house myself, people expected me to take care of her, to "do something about her". she has rejected all help from the family. she has avoided permanent care and hospitalization. she has made such scenes that she is known in one local police force by name and i am known, or was known, as her daughter. the stigma of my mother's illness follows ME. she made my later teenage years a nightmare and the first years of my first marriage almost as difficult as his mother made it. have you ever had to explain to your children why their grandma is behaving so oddly by telling them she is sick? it is not an experience i would recommend to anyone.

when i was 18, my mother was one of those strange people you see on the streets with signs up in the air about how the end is near. except for her, it was attacking doctors. she thought they were trying to turn her into a man against her will. i still remember a time in the local mall when i had to call 911 because mother had just totally lost it. she went into the ambulance screaming "i don't want to be a man! i don't want to be a man!" i practically had a break down myself shortly thereafter. everyone wanted me to "come get (your) mother", "why aren't you taking care of your mother?". it all became my responsibility to take care of. me. an 18 year old kid, just barely getting out of the house and on her own was to take care of a 40-some-odd year old woman. the pressure being placed upon me to take care of a woman who didn't want to be taken care of, losing all my stuff twice because she lost the jobs that would have paid the storage fees, and coming face to face with the reality of how ill she really was, practically sent me over the edge that year. i went to friends who helped me get on my emotional feet. and from that moment on i did whatever i could to distance myself, but still be in touch because that's what a "good daughter" does.

over the years my mother has spent her time in the mental ward (max for an involuntary charge was something like 3 days, a week if the doctor felt the patient really needed to be there), but never was she placed in a ward or hospital for a longer period. we have laws that protect the mentally ill, which i agree are somewhat required. but our laws go too far. as long as mother didn't try to hurt herself or others (physically), we couldn't touch her unless she couldn't take care of herself. but every time we got to the point of submitting the paperwork, she got a job and out of the car she was sleeping in. the fact that she was in and out of the ward did nothing. the family is required to manage her and take care of her. forget it that most of us didn't have the money for a hospital. forget it that we have our own families we are trying raise. we are the ones who are to make sure she stays on her medications, goes to her doctors, and stays living in a home.

when i was pregnant with kitten, mom came for one of her unannounced visits. i was sitting there crocheting a baby blanket and she asked if we were giving the baby up for adoption. she almost got us kicked out of at least one place by showing up unannounced and, if we weren't home, camping on our doorstep until we arrived. she left if it got late and we still weren't there, but the number of times i had to clean up the front porch from her cigarette butts i can't even begin to count. i have spoken to her when she is not lucid, asked her questions and watched as she looks over my shoulder into the air before she answers. when you ask about it, she says she is getting the answers from the clock, the angels, whatever happens to be her delusion at the time. our first christmas in this place i picked her up for christmas and the whole way home her conversation didn't match up with what was being talked about, it was odd and disjointed and unconnected. when we got to the house, she said she couldn't be here and walked away. there was even a time when she just picked up and left, god knows where, and i had to clean out her apartment. in the end my husband had to do it as i couldn't handle the feeling of sorting through her property as if she was dead. that, and the number of insane paranoid notes posted every where made it an incredibly distressing experience.

and this kind of stuff has been going on for years. my mother is queen of the world and we apparently have all this property and money tucked away somewhere. i get letters about new houses in various parts of the world that are in my name (i really need to sell the chateau in france, seeing as i can't seem to find all my money to get out there any time soon), money, her position as president of the u.s. or queen of the world, you name it, she'll put it in writing. when we get letters like this, my husband and i joke a bit about it ("oh really? let's sell that beach house so we can pay off some of our bills!"), but inside i am crying. inside it hurts to have to deal with this. it has hurt to tell the men i married, "there's something you have to know mother..." it hurts to have to put protections in place against her behavior when i got married the first time (the second time was easy since we went to a justice of the peace). it hurt like hell to try to explain this illness to my kids, knowing they were losing out on a real grandma.

maybe this pain becomes particularly bad around the holiday season. when i was growing up mother seemed normal enough and the holidays were for family get togethers. all that is gone to me now. i am losing out, my kids are losing out, and it all crashes in around the holidays. i hope some day i can deal with this pain and not spend part of my holidays crying over things lost. she can't help what has happened to her. she didn't make herself sick. i know that. but it doesn't take away the hurt. nor does it take away the aversion i have to being around her on the holidays.

make sure to love your family this season, to let them know you are grateful for them and the TIME you can spend with them over the holidays. not all of us have that option.

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