My relationship with my mother is complicated.
Get in line, right?
My mother struggles with a non-treated mental illness and has for all of her adult life, I would guess. Maybe longer.
She is a slave to her destructive, damaging impulses and addictions. They've stripped her of her health, her financial security, her relationships, her dignity.
As her only child, my feelings for her jerk back and forth between love and hate, empathy and disdain. I want to slap her or hug her. I never want to see her again, I want her to move in with me. Sometimes I rail in anger at her, sometimes I beg in desperation - for sins committed, for the awareness and improvements I know will never come.
I've often said to my husband, "Peace won't come for either of us until after her death."
Last week, she had a heart attack.
My mom has long enjoyed a mind-boggling relationship with suffering. She revels in it, she insists on it. Nothing, and no one, can keep her from it. She felt pain in her chest and arm, called 911 herself, got helicoptered out of the middle-of-nowhere, had surgery, and told no one.
I heard it from her neighbor, who called the fire department when she finally noticed something was wrong over at my mom's house - it looked too still, closed up.
Coincidentally, I'd just talked with her doctor the day before, a patient and caring man. The kind of doctor you want but never get. He'd been concerned, as we all were, that she could no longer live alone. It was a conversation she and I had many times, or I should say I had it. She tuned it all out. It's a conversation that went like most I've had with her since I was 13.
A 40 year wrestling match. I always lost.
"Please stop giving everything away."
"Please don't insist on buying dinner."
"Please don't insist on buying everything for everyone."
"Please stop enabling your alcoholic husband."
"Please respect the rules I've laid out for my children."
"Please stop smoking. I'm allergic."
"Please stop smoking. You've had cancer 3 times."
"Please stop gambling all your money away."
"Please respect my boundaries."
All fell on deaf ears.
"Please don't live alone in god forsaken nowhere when you're in such poor health," got the same negative reception as everything else. Or, no reception. She simply pretends I'm not talking.
Her doctor suggested I write her a letter. She might take it better. So, I did. She still hasn't seen it since she is still hospitalized. But, I mailed it.
I put a lot of effort into trying to lay it out to her gently. Without rancor or resentment. I used phrases like:
"I care about you."
"Your living situation scares me."
"You have options."
"We want this chapter of your life to be safe."
Blah, blah, blah.
Even though it was a letter all about her lifestyle and several options for better ways to live, it was really all about her death and dying. A round about way of asking, "Please, let us make your dying easier than your living."
It's been painful to watch her lifelong, deliberate and relentless self destruction. She's frail yet tough. Meek yet stubborn. Until very recently, she moved at a frantic pace, a race to spend, gamble and smoke until the very last second of her life.
She's done a bang up job of it too. She's got nothing left.
I am angry at her. I resent what she's done to herself. I resent what her untreated illness has done to our family. I find her refusal to acknowledge it infuriating.
Yet, last night I realized that when I wrote her that letter, spelled it out as carefully as I could, I left out what I really wanted to say, but couldn't.
Please don't go. I'm not ready.