Birthdays, being the increasingly LESS important as we get older, are somewhat of a non-event for me mostly. Apparently my mother thinks so too.
As I awoke this morning, wondering if indeed ANYONE would even remember, I meandered around for a bit. Admittedly I was a bit bummed. I mean 47 feels OLD. (And I FEEL old!) Suddenly, at some point over the past decade, I have become old. My kids are young… my husband, younger than me by 11 years. I am out-testosteroned in this household by 3 to 1; 4 to 1 if you include the cat.
Brush teeth, find clothes, consider breakfast and lunch for the kids before they are off to school and…. Aww. A heart warming rendition of “Happy Birthday” from my little ones! (hopefully no one will turn them in for copyright infringement! Such a glorious age we live in.) It is Oh SO nice to be remembered, especially by my angels. (HEAVY sarcasm – albeit nostalgic – with the term ANGELS in reference to my boys.) Really, they are so sweet at times.. I was very touched indeed. They might be challenging in many ways, but they are my little princes.
I continued my morning while rambling on in the general direction of the children, and soon the text arrives: HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I miss you! My estranged husband. Well, OK… not exactly estranged. He is living in Florida for another weekend in training at his new job, so I’m harassing him a bit with my commentary. (Imagine that?!) He remembered! So often he is out on the road or completely out of the country even, flying around and it can be difficult for him to make the time to communicate at times. Today he is in class for ETOPS, and he has a very FULL and long day in front of him. Nice that he thinks of me!
All in all, this morning was turning out wonderfully. In the past I have had my special day totally seem like an afterthought, where the only one wishing me a happy birthday is the cat. (Could it have been that on past birthdays he was simply meowing for food? Certainly not! Wishing me a happy birthday he was, damn it!) As a special needs mom and aviation widow (another affectionate euphemism) I don’t have too many splendid mornings, or days I would call ME-CENTRIC, to say nothing of relaxing. There is no quiet; No calm. It is hustle, bustled, and get your ass in gear! But this morning was pretty amazing, by all accounts!
Then it came: The familiar buzzing of my cell phone. My parents were calling, no doubt for the obligatory annual Happy Birthday wishes. I picked it up and said, “Well hello!” I was in a great mood and trending skyward. The voice on the other end seemed falsely jovial. “Well… Happy Birthday.” It was my mother, and though her voice was pleasant enough, she seemed pained to be bothering with the wish and, as typical for our conversations, it seemed awkward. I began to wish that my Dad had made the call so I could speak with someone who was sincere. After all, he is the one who personally selects, signs, addresses and mails cards to me anyway.
My mother continued, “How old are you today? 46?”
“I’m 47 Mom,” I correct.
“Forty-seven! Well.. let’s face it; You might as well say 50!” My mother and I have never really gotten along.
“Gee, thanks… just what I want to hear,” I retorted. “I believe you said the same thing last year.”
She redirected for a moment and then came back to the idea of calling me 50, at which point, I said goodbye and hung up the phone.
Reflecting upon the short conversation, and wondering why I had to be raised by someone who obviously is more competitive than loving and is a proven narcissist with an ugly track record, I slumped from happy to depressed. Why me? Doesn’t every woman deserve a sincere wish for a happy birthday from, of all people, her own mother?
It used to be that I would be quietly angry over the early but misfortunate turn of our mother-daughter relationship. It seemed that as soon as I had an opinion of my own and wishes to express my feelings, she began to shut me down. This began in my high school days, and has continued since. I have screamed and ranted and raved over this women – about her, to her, and in spite of her. I have excommunicated her from my life on several occasions, and quite honestly, not sure that I would be talking to her today… IF it wasn’t for my children. You see, when a woman has kids of her own, she craves that mom-daughter bond. A voice to console and an ear to listen and understand the trials and tribulations of parenthood. I never received that. The last time I shut her out was in the first months of my oldest son’s life, when she ruthlessly attacked my spirit and calm by hurling insult after insult at my sleep-deprived self while I was defenseless and vulnerable to her moods. I recall that she went through menopause in her 40s, and it seems like she never has improved since.
I have been running away from the pain inflicted by this woman for decades. Any happiness I’ve ever had in life has been stolen by this woman. She spoils it with petty retalliations – for what, I’m not exactly sure. It always seemed she was upset over the amount of attention my father gave to me as a child, and even still she acts territorial. I was adopted as a baby, and always told how badly I was wanted, but her behavior seems in direct opposition to any of those sentiments. It always seemed to me that she had kids not to have any sort of enjoyable relationship, but rather to have a doll to dress up for her amusement, show off to her friends, and then stuff me away on the shelf once she was bored with me or had better things to do.
I have gone all these years without any published complaint — perhaps I should’ve left it that way. But electronic journaling, as it were, seems to bring this out — forcing the feelings to the surface (despite my feelings of guilt for being angry and hurt over her years of emotional assault and battery) and defying my attempts to calm and quiet them. Despite my fears of judgement and ostracizing.
My husband, civilized soul that he is, thought I was mental when I initially explained my relationship with my mother, I just know he did. He said, “Well, I’m sure if you sat down and tried a little harder, you could work it out…” Sigh. Alright, well.. he would just have to see for himself, I told myself. And he did! After getting to know my parents, he confided that he had never met a more tenaciously hateful and vile woman in his life, especially the way she is with her daughter. When I announced that we were to have a baby, she glared at my husband (then boyfriend) and said, “Well that’s what happens when you don’t wear anything!!!” Never mind the pleasantries, I guess. No “Congratulations!” No feigning of joy or excitement. Nope, not my mother! To listen to the story, you are probably assuming I must’ve been a very young woman, hence her strange behavior. Alas, but no. I was divorced and 35! Granted, the situation was not ideal – but a baby! I had tried before to conceive and was heartbroken that we couldn’t. After miscarrying, my marriage fell apart. In retrospect that was the initial root cause, though I was not to fully understand that for years to come. Obviously, with things not working in the marriage, we discontinued attempts to have children, and we finally separated a few years later. Imagine my surprise when for all of those years of effort and difficulty, I suddenly wound up pregnant! It was surely a gift straight from the heavens.
My mother arrived for Thanksgiving this year bearing nothing. She had no contribution toward the dinner nor did she appreciate the meal. If she said thanks at all, it was in passing as she left. My father on the other hand has always shown graciousness and appreciation for any kindness. She, on the other hand, is a beastly guest, by all accounts. The coup de gras was at dinner time on the following day, where my husband had laid out our plates with the leftovers and begun to plate food for the kids, who were waiting patiently. (We generally serve the kids first, as they are usually quite hungry by dinnertime and I would prefer they finish soon enough to let their food settle before bedtime.) Mom saw the food, got up from her throne (we call her Queen Bee) and proceeded to barge in front of my husband, yank the plated food and finish dishing up the leftovers onto her hijacked plate. She then sat and ate, without even a smile or explanation.
Indeed, the only reason I am still in touch with my mother at all is because my kids have established a decent relationship with her and love her. I did not originally begin this post to destroy my mother’s credibility or air any dirty laundry. It is a heavy topic for this blog… although, in thinking more on it, I did state that it was about LIFE and this roller coaster that leads us through all of its ups and downs. Sometimes we are battered and bruised, while other more joyous occasions, while wonderful, seem less interesting topics to blog. I guess that’s kind of where I am today. And despite my mother and her embittered defiance of motherhood, I am still here… and I refuse to give in, to be assimilated into her way of thinking, no matter how much pressure she places upon me. She has tried and failed every time. She has drug me through hell and back in the process. I do not have to be like her, or think like her, or even be angry with her. She may still be able to hurt me at times, but I am the master of my own destiny, and I will no longer allow her to usurp my happiness; my success; my dreams. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you cant walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Luckily, there is always a silver lining to every cloud. My silver today is beheld in my friends. (Who, I might add, have zero credibility as far as my mother is concerned, as she has always chastised me for having friends in the first place.) in all of their insight and thoughtfulness, they have truly made my day – offering a myriad of wishes for an extraordinarily happy birthday and generally complimentary. Some are friends of years gone by, some merely acquaintances; Some I grew up with and some, internet friends that I have yet to meet. From the bottom of my heart today, I wanted to wish them a heartfelt THANK YOU for thinking of and remembering me on my special day. I don’t mean to make it all about me, and in fact my birthday is normally not a huge deal anymore. It does change your feelings however, when you are forgotten and left to manage life alone while recalling how you USED to celebrate and be celebrated. I never expect people to send cards or anything for my birthday, but it sure is nice to know that people you care for have a special thought about you and who you are. When you feel worn down and dowdy, overworked, underpaid (or not paid at all!) being called beautiful by a friend you love is the best medicine in the world. I am truly feeling the love and wanted to share that sentiment.. and the backstory as to why it is such a blessing to me.
For all of you who care, and took the time to bother, thank you most sincerely. I cannot express with words how much gratitude and appreciation I have for you all. And whether or not you said a peep, I appreciate you all. Things may not be perfect, but I am so very blessed!