Going Home, Part TwoIn the coziness of my aunt's kitchen, my Gram says, with a catch in her voice, "The only thing missing is your mother".
My aunt and I look at each other, but don't say anything.
How could we? If my mother were alive, this trip would not have happened.
Reason one: My nother was a compulsive spender, and my gram always bailed her out. It was not until my mother died that my gram had the money to fly us out.
Reason two: I could not have brought my kids to meet her. Yes, we were in touch until her death, but to have her near my kids in the flesh....no. She was a toxic, unbalanced person and while the kids will eventually be told about her mental illness, I simply don't want that image in their minds. I'm sure a meeting would have been dissapointing all around, because kids were always scared of my mother, and she never understood why. So she has been spared my kids refusing to go near her.
How to describe her toxicity? I have known of few people to control and manipulate a whole family the way she did. It seems my gram always blamed herself for my mother's mental illness and all that went with it: joblessness, dependency, physical illness. And I think my mother exploited that. During most of my life, my mother used that guilt to prevent my grandmother from having relationships with anyone else in the family. Her other daughter, her grandchildren, friends...if my gram made plans with anyone else, my mother suddenly became ill.
When I hopped a Greyhound to move to the other coast at the age of 17, to my horror, my mother bought a ticket too. She only stayed two months when she discovered that I was not going to be "there" for her the way she wanted. But I knew I had to escape.
When shye returned to her hometown, the pull on my gram became worse. At one point social services were called in- "suspected Maunchausen by proxy". But my gram denied all so nothing could be done. For the last few years my granmother was a vitual prisoner.
Some may think it is cruel to say, but my mother's death brought healing and reconciliation. And hopefully, she is at peace.