I still find it difficult to write about my mother. Feeling the overwhelming emotions as they wash over me with every word that I used to describe the sensitive betrayal I felt growing up. The confusion that followed every flick of my mother’s tongue. Many of my own friends and relatives who loved my parents dearly could never come to understand what I and brother endured as youngsters. Instead we would be pushed aside even farther into invalidation and the false narratives our mother would conjure up throughout the years.
I was being told repeatedly that there was something amiss in my head. I was the storyteller of things that never happened. I would question myself wondering if I had made it all up. Was it a dream that I happened to walk through? Was my imagination that exquisite to enable an emotional attachment to a made-up event?
Brother and I were in grade school when mom brought a dog home with her. Tommy was a toy poodle and his owner Aunt Ruthie was being put into a long-term care facility. Mom explained that Ruthie’s husband hated the dog and didn’t want anything to do with it. I recall Tommy being scared to death as he made a b-line to mom’s room cowering under the bed. He wouldn’t come out for anyone and if you tried reaching for him he would bite! I think he stayed under the bed for about 2 months until he finally attached himself to mom.
Now that Tommy was attached to our mother we couldn’t even get close to her. He had made his claim and would lunge at us if we overstepped onto his territory! Mom took the dog everywhere, on picnics, family outings and to tell you the truth all of us felt as though we took a backseat to this new little intruder!
Tommy would eventually get used to the noise of a busy household and us kids as we would run around playing chase and he would be hot on our heels. He was our first family pet besides the two mice that dad brought home previously in a peanut jar that mom refused entry. It was the first and only time she ever stood up to dad and told him that if he didn’t get them out of her house, dad and the mice would be looking for another place to live!
Approximately two years later brother and I came home from school and found mom at the kitchen table in tears. We wanted to know what happened but the tale she eventually spun that day never made much sense. She had taken Tommy to the vet and they had to put him down! We stood in shock knowing that Tommy had been running around the house as we were getting ready for school that morning. He showed no sign of being sick or hurt at all and we voiced this to our mother. We asked her what had happened, and mom’s reply was that the vet said a disc in Tommy’s neck must have been damaged by Ruthie’s husband when he kicked him.
Now being an adult and going through this story makes me sick to my stomach. If you know anything about toy breeds, just a jump off a bed can cause a spinal injury. They suffer from spinal degeneration which unfortunately is a normal occurrence but there are tell tale signs as the illness progresses. What I found peculiar at the time that she was telling us specifically it was a kick that caused the injury. She was also blaming someone that had nothing to do with the dog for over two years before the incident. Brother and I both sighed in relief because we were always being blamed for everything. This time there was not even a question of guilt which we also found irregular. She repeated this narrative to family members and friends, and no one even questioned it. As a kid, I remember shaking my head thinking am I the only one that sees that there is a problem here? I recall it weighed on me as I was left to question what really had happened to Tommy.
Mother had her episodes! Her tirades of insanity are something I will never forget. The worst part is there was no rhyme or reason to them, no cause, nothing! I would be sitting at the kitchen table quietly eating breakfast and soon frozen in time as I was being stung by a dishtowel while my cereal and milk would be flying across the room. I wasn’t allowed to say anything about the incident, or I would be invalidated immediately while being told it wasn’t that bad. These things never happened when father was home which only left brother and I to deal with the guilt and fear of what we could have possibly done wrong to have upset mother.
It is strange what memories come to the forefront in your mind when healing.
The things long forgotten but help us remember the horrific lengths one will go to cover up their misdeeds. The false narratives that are created to discredit any truth from coming forward or to ostracize those who hold the knowledge of what really happened.
To me it is just more validation of what mother was capable of. That Jekyll and Hyde personality that brother and I had to deal with until she was bedridden with cancer and eventually passed. Remembering the love that I had for her even though she could be so vicious one moment and the next telling me to come lay my head on her lap so we could watch television together.