My husband and I are moving back to my hometown in three weeks, and I am not at all sure this is a wise thing to do. But it seems to be the best option we have at the moment, so we’re going with it. I can’t shake the feeling in my gut that things might not be smooth sailing, but decision’s been made.
So when my mother called today, I answered. Usually I answer the phone with trepidation. 30% of the time, she wants to talk at me, requiring only the occasional “Mmhmm.” 40% of the time, she’s calling because she has a “very-important-question-she-has-to-ask-right-now” that involves something like what color of curtains should she buy. The rest of the time, she’s laying an ambush. Today was one of those days.
She asked something about moving, then said, “Are you going to stay here or with your grandmother?” I told her grandma’s, because the last time I was home I couldn’t stop coughing when I was in mom’s house. Was is psycho-somatic? Don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter.
“But if you weren’t having problems here?” she asked with a whine of self-pity. And I did something really stupid–I told her the truth.
“We’re staying with grandma no matter what.” There are a lot of logical reasons for this. Grandma’s 92 and needs someone to help her take care of the farmhouse this winter. But that’s not the heart of it.
“Because sometimes you say things that are really hurtful.” Now I’ve done it. But there it is–the truth. My mother can be cruel–she’ll use things that I’ve told her in confidence to hurt me. For a long time, I bottled up the hurt. I had an eating disorder for the last three years of high school that resolved itself as soon as I left the house. She may not be in control of herself when says these things, but they cut right to my core. Out of self-preservation, I try not to expose myself too much to that.
“I don’t remember you ever being hurt by things I’ve said.”
The last time we were home for the summer, she brought me to tears because I sided with my father over whether or not he should be allowed to pack the moving van full of my brother’s stuff the way he wanted to, or the way the third article she’d printed off the internet recommended. I told her that dad needed to start packing, and since he’d already read the first articles she gave him, she should maybe step back and help him. She told me I was jealous of my brother and resented them helping him.
I had been frustrated that my brother left for NC three days before he expected our 60 year old father to pack up a moving van and drive it by himself to NC. In telling my mother this, I opened myself up for the guilt trips and manipulation. She continued to glare at me, then say things like, “You are just sitting in your room and pouting, not even helping me!” I continued to take trips out to the car, tears streaming down my face.
She apparently doesn’t remember this at all. “Well, I remember you said things that were very critical of me,” she said.
I didn’t. I could have that day. I would have liked to. But I don’t lash out in anger like my mother does. Because it’s wrong. It’s wrong to say cruel things to people and expect them to love you. It’s wrong to hurt people just because they disagree with you. And it made me sad that in demanding the truth from me today, my mom was hurt. I wish that we could have the kind of relationship where she and I can laugh and talk, where I could trust her with my problems and lean on her for advice and support and love. But that’s not reality. Reality is that my mother has a lot of emotional issues, and though she’s alright much of the time, there are also times when she is hateful and ugly.
I used to think that there must be something wrong with me–that if I were just careful enough, closed off enough, she couldn’t hurt me. I made myself as tough as I could, but the only real solution was to get away. I ran away to Michigan, North Carolina, Thailand, Louisiana. I don’t know what going home will do to me. I like to think that I’ll be able to stop running, that I’ll find the strength to stay without falling apart. But when I’m honest with myself, I know that my mother’s problems are big enough that they won’t go away on their own. And I know that I can’t fix them.
So why do I seem to be drawn back there again and again, almost like a magnet? Maybe it’s because for all of the places I’ve ran, I’ve yet to put down roots. And as much as I would like to kid myself, I am tied to that place more strongly than I’ve ever allowed myself to be connected anywhere else. So I guess I am, once again, going home.