December 29th, 1980
My mother wants me to come to Mississippi for a visit. She says she’ll send me the money for plane fare for me and my dog. It’s been two years this Christmas since I’ve seen her. Not entirely through my own fault. Two years ago I refused to travel at Christmas after my disastrous 36-hour stay in a blizzard at O’Hare the previous year. And then last year she was embroiled in the final drunken scenes of her sick marriage to Don. I wasn’t about to travel home for that; considering that I had a ringside seat via the telephone to all of their drunken battles. So now she’s all settled again with Rene in Mississippi complete with fake Christmas tree (when she only put up for me) fresh killed turkey and ham and presents under the tree. Donna Reed begging her only son to come home.
Refusing to come home– which I have no actually done yet– sets the stage for yet another scene in which she, the pitiful, battered victim suffers at the coldness of her son. The victimized woman, again– the abandoned widow.
All my life I believed that she was the victim of my insane father. All my life she made it very clear that she had stayed with this maniac only on my behalf– consequently making me liable for all her grief and despair. The fact that she continued to stay with him after I left home and the fact that the next several years were even more horrible shoots a hole in that theory. Nonetheless, lifelong grief is hard to shake.
After my father died, I made every possible effort to let her know that I was there by her side. The first year after his death I went home three times to visit– to let her know that she was not alone in this world. Then she started the drama of her and Don, a complete replay of the nightmare she pursued for 20 years with my father. And she involved me in the most unforgivable ways. Calling in the middle of actual physical fights, drunk, slurred, the noise of fighting in the background. Phone calls in the middle of the nights. I realized that she was just as much a threat to my emotional health as I had always known my father to be. She was one of “them” that I was running from. She is a tragic woman who creates her own tragedies– and who very much likes for me to be a part of them. I will not; and I have realized that nothing I can do will help her. I can only hurt myself.
Which means that it’s very important for me to maintain emotional distance from this woman. I do love her. In a curious way. I love the parts of her that never got a chance to grow and develop. I love her strength and her courage. And I have a first-hand knowledge of the demons that have pursued her through life. I love the gutsy way she’s faced them, although not always successfully.
But let us return to the present. The fact is that I am on new, precarious emotional terrain myself these days. This move to New York has been a complete change for me in every aspect of life: emotionally, intellectually, physically. I am still in the process of getting my bearings in this new world: fending for myself without the complex support system that a decade in Washington had provided me. Learning to live alone. Challenged by what seems an impossible financial situation. Dealing with my emotional and sexual needs in ways that I was never brave enough to try. Perhaps it is a bit dramatic for me to call this a life or death struggle; but often it feels like that. And I know that I am going to win. I know that I am going to emerge from this healthier than I’ve ever been before.
And, quite frankly, I am not at a point in the plot where I feel like I can go away for a week and subject myself to my mother. Dealing with my mother requires me at my very best– self confident, independent, and self assured. I am not that sure of anything right now to leave for a week in Missouri.
( A ) Emotionally, I need to stay put. I am doing just fine, thank you, and I do not need to leave the scene of the crime.
( B ) I am not at all sure I am ready to deal with my mother now.
( C ) Accepting her money to come home on is an affront to my dignity and an insult considering that she said “no way“ three weeks ago when I asked her to help me get a bank loan to get me through this current financial crisis.
So, the point is: for a variety of reasons, I do not want to come home (what am I thinking about, that double-wide trailer in Gulfport, Mississippi is not my home) and I absolutely will not indulge myself or her in any form of guilt regarding this decision.
Now, call her and tell her.