My mother died today. Well, it was yesterday but I thought using the opening line from Albert Camus’ The Stranger (which is my favorite opening line in a novel).
You might be reading this and thinking that I am very cold about this whole thing. I promise you I’m not. In fact, I don’t know what I am. My life with my mother was complicated. She kicked me out at age sixteen because I talked back. That’s right! I wasn’t smoking dope, stealing her car or threatening her with a salad fork, I talked back.
It was a year before I came back over to see her. And she accepted me for a while. But, less than a year later, I was out again. No fight, this time. This time she wanted me to go away because I wanted to continue living with my father.
Three years later, I visited my mother again. This time, married with a little girl and a pregnant wife. I thought this would be a great time to get back together since she had more than me to look forward to. But things went south. And it started when my second child was born.
We were at a hospital in Westlake, California. It’s not there anymore. When my ex-wife went into labor, I called my father and mother one after another. Both my parents lived in Santa Monica at the time and were the same distance from the hospital. But my father was playing golf in Westlake so he was minutes away and showed up first. In a short time after I called them, we were informed that my baby was in trouble and an emergency cesarean section. The baby was also only 30 weeks in the womb and the hospital was preparing to send her to a hospital with an Infant Critical Care Unit. My mom, seeing that my dad arrived first, started complaining to me that I should have called her first. I waved her off and got ready for the c-section.
My second child was born and she was having difficulty breathing. They put her on a respirator and immediately sent her, via ambulance, to an ICCU in the valley. My ex-wife was unable to move. I had to follow the ambulance to the other hospital. We were followed by my father and mother. When I got there, the baby was hooked up to a bunch of machines and I was being prepped to donate blood for a transfusion. That is when my mother found it necessary to bitch, again, about my father. Tired and stressed out, I yelled at her, telling her that I have a baby in a respirator with about a 50% chance to live (she stopped breathing in the ambulance) and a wife bedridden in a hospital thirty miles away. I didn’t need her crap at the moment.
That did it. She kept quiet. For now.
Six months later, I was at her house with the two kids. My second child was doing wonderfully. That’s when my mother decided to exact her revenge. She told me I needed to stop seeing my father or I would be cut off from her will. I was taken back. After I got my senses, I told her she needed to do what she needed to do but I was not going to stop seeing my father. A few weeks later, I received a letter accusing me of some horrid things and saying she could not see me anymore.
That was it. I never spoke to her again. She sent me another letter saying the same thing. My mom could really write letters. This one was about eleven pages long. It was not expected. My ex-wife, knowing the effect it would have on me, read it and hid it from me. I saw it several years later and did not bother to read the whole thing. I got the picture.
When my children grew older and I was divorced, my mother slithered back into my life, albeit indirectly. She wanted to see my children. They knew the conflicts of the past and were warned about her from my ex-wife. Each child asked if it was alright to see her. I said it was though, deep down, it really bothered me. She became close with my ex-wife’s family (which is weird) and my children (though Joe never liked her). She helped out the kids financially in ways I could not because of the financial obligations I was stuck with from the divorce. That made me happy. It made me feel that, if she would not be there for me, she could be there for my children. I told my kids to take what she would give. She owed that to me.
Now she’s gone and my head is going all over the place. I am sad and numb. But I am also angry. She’s gone now and the fact we will never make up is complete. I am caught between the feeling I should have by her being my biological mother and the hell she put me through. I am caught between the bitter appreciation of her helping my kids and the hate I have for her throwing my relationship away.
I don’t know what I feel right now but it has only been twelve hours since she died. There are a lot of other things that are going on in my life that are clouding my feeling. I know this because my mind was spinning last night. I’ll just have to wait and see.