When I talk about my mother to those who don’t already know, or those whom I haven’t seen in a long time, about how she’s doing, I find the conversation gets tricky really quickly.
You see, I don’t lie about her, but I want to be fair to her at the same time.
What I know
Yes, she moved to Jordan. Yes, Jordan the country. Yes, the Jordan that’s in the Middle East where there’s always a bunch of shit going on.
As far as I know, and as far as she tells me, she’s doing fine. She married someone over there (I think it was about five years ago?). Her third husband is from Ireland and a retired film maker of some kind. He had a hand in films, and now he’s retired.
What I don’t know
The question that usually follows the series of questions over her whereabouts is usually, “Why is she over there?”
I used to say, “I don’t know.” But I think that response gives people the impression I don’t care. I usually respond with, “That’s a good question. Maybe you should ask her.”
I have several theories about why she went over there January 21, 2010 and hasn’t come back. But I never actually asked her, point blank, why she wanted to go there before she left. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to argue with whatever answer she was going to give. I didn’t want to fight with her, or for her, because I wanted her to go.
In some ways, mom had become a burden on my brothers and me. Emotionally, for me. Financially, for them. Those two aren’t mutually exclusive, but I didn’t take on nearly as much of her financial situation as my brothers did.
But I digress. Back to my theories. Mom had said she felt “god told her to go there.” She had said “god told her” to do many things over the years. I still don’t question her sanity, but I do question her reckless willingness to invoke “god” to justify whatever she was going to do.
I think my mother suffers from depression. Since my diagnosis last year, I have thought back on some of her actions before she left.
- She isolated herself. One time, it was for a solid month.
- She sometimes thought people were out to get her. I would tell her that it seemed kind of vain that people she knew would spend so much time and effort just to make her feel bad, but she seldom listened to me.
- I think she wanted to disappear and start over. Like all was lost. Like the ones who loved her only did so because they felt sorry for her. She’d never admit it, but maybe she felt unworthy of love.
Cowardice at its finest
I tried to be the peacemaker between my mom and some of the people she thought were after her. I wanted to be neutral. To just listen and not judge. It took its toll on me. My performance at work suffered the most.
I regret not asking the questions I wanted to ask before she left:
- Why are you really leaving? (Don’t feed me that line of shit that “god told you to”)
- What about your grandkids? (She’s only met one of the six)
- What about your kids? (Was brokering peace really that impossible?)
I didn’t ask because I was too scared. I wanted her gone and was afraid that fighting for her would change her mind. The tension I felt between her and her “enemies” became too much to bear. I felt I couldn’t fairly point out her mistakes in her conflicts because she would get defensive. Hearing her say, “I made a mistake” was a damn rare occasion.
I use the anger I feel about events from my childhood to influence how I’m raising my sons. I missed out on a lot of things because we were poor. And that wasn’t necessary all mom’s fault. However, my brothers and I didn’t ask her to get remarried to a verbally abusive alcoholic after she dumped us off to live with my dad for nearly a year so she could go out and do god-knows-what.
I feel like so many opportunities were wasted because of a lack of encouragement and engagement. I believe she wanted us to succeed, but maybe since she hadn’t quite done it herself, she didn’t know how to encourage us.
But I try not to blame her for my mistakes, or missed opportunities. Much in the same way I don’t credit her for my successes.
Happy birthday and Mother’s Day
Today, mom turns 55. I’m not sure she minds if I share her age. From what I have written above, I think sharing that bit of info isn’t as egregious.
I wonder how she celebrates it? I wonder if on her birthday (and Mother’s Day tomorrow) she pauses to feel even a small pang of regret for moving away? Does she miss us and her six grandsons, only one of which she’s seen in person? Would she ever come back? Would we have her back?