“Confessions” of a Thankless Child…
When I was a child, my mother told me I would feel guilty when she died. She didn’t say this in anger or reproach. She sounded fatalistic, as if everyone feels that way, it’s just inevitable. I knew that was bunk but I didn’t try to argue with her about it. She felt guilty when her mother died so I would too. As absurd as it is to feel guilt for something one hasn’t even done, I’ve seen examples of causeless guilt in many places.
At the age of 13, I went into a nuthouse. No doubt, this was a big expense financially, not to say emotionally, for my hapless parents. When I attempted murder (during leave while on the open ward), it made things that much worse. I had no idea of how alienated she was until years later when I got ahold of my hospital records.
Mother discusses patient with little show of emotion and her warmth in describing younger sister reveals much that is not verbally expressed in her resentment towards the patient. Mother’s tensions toward patient have been more fully expressed since the latter’s hospitalization. She has shown increasing hostility toward patient’s visits home on week-ends, and once remarked to assigned social worker that her reputation had been ruined by the patient, and she could no longer accept her back in the household. By February, 1958, the mother had arranged to move into a more expensive apartment with fewer rooms, with the idea that the patient would not be allowed to return home. She also stated tearfully, “I no longer consider Frances my daughter.”
Fortunately, she never made that move and I had no idea at the time that she had even considered it. I was discharged as “improved” after two years and went back to my “home.” I was enrolled in a private high school but I decided to quit school at age 16 since kids can legally quit school and get jobs at that age. My plan was to get a job and my own apartment. I was prepared to fight them if they tried to stop me but they didn’t. I guess it made old mom happy to have her wish to be rid of me come true. I followed through with my plans and had a blissful year of freedom. After certain experiences (see autobiography), I decided to go home to finish my education. By that time, my folks had moved to the suburbs and were living in a large rented house which afforded me my own large bedroom and superior schooling than I had experienced in the city.
Well, you can take a girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl. I still had friends I had made in the nuthouse as well as during my year of freedom and I kept up with these friends to my parents’ displeasure. At one point, I thought I was pregnant and refused an abortion which, in my family, was the proper thing to do (sorry, “pro-lifers”). It turned out to be a false alarm so I continued with my schooling and went on to college which I graduated.
But, while I was still in high school, my mother had some sort of breakdown. She would spend hours sobbing on her bed. I knew I was the cause of her grief but instead of moving me to pity or guilt, it only made me mad at her. Then she got cancer and died. False to her prediction, I didn’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt. It only meant that my sister and I had to take care of the housework from then on. After we graduated high school, I enrolled in a college in the city while my sister went to one upstate. Our father moved back to the city and we shared an apartment near my college where I took care of the cooking and cleaning in addition to my studies and social activities.
The gist of my story here is that I never fit the image of the kind of kid my parents and society wanted and expected. Years later, my father once remarked, “You didn’t turn out to be the person I wanted you to be but you are the person you wanted to be.” He said it with approval. Thanks, Dad. He had always been the more accepting of my parents. He joined Parents Without Partners and married a woman he met there. She worked professionally in a facility for the elderly. So, when his health failed in his old age, it was strange that she put him in a nursing home instead of taking care of him. She said it would have been too difficult. Maybe she’s right. Who am I to judge. My sister took all the responsibilities for his life. He choose to go to a home in our state, since he felt hurt and rejected by his wife. One of the few times I visited him, he tried to talk me into letting him move in with me. Yeah. Right. I could just see it, him living with my partner and I in our studio apartment. I wasn’t exactly living the life-style he would have approved of and his presence would have totally camped my style. I seldom visited him. His home wasn’t really easy to get to from where I lived anyway. My sister visited him often. Better her than me. It was boring there. When he died, she took care of the funeral. I didn’t even attend.
Over the years, I have come to understand my mother and forgive her for her shortcomings. She was just a person who did the best she could. I am now in an assisted living facility myself. Since I never had children, I don’t the kind of family support others do. I’m living with my partner who has kids who visit her and support her to an extent, not as much as we would have liked. It sometimes feels lonely not to have visitors (except my partner’s visitors) and get taken out for lunch or visits to their house. But that’s what I get for not having had children. I would have had them but I never got pregnant. Probably for the better that I didn’t.
Perhaps my lack of guilt also helps me be more forgiving of their humanity. That’s maturity, after all, isn’t it? Realizing your parents are just people after all.
I’m not a demon. I’m a gal who fearlessly proclaims her humanity
It’s been called by many names but I call it “super sanity.”
“Bad Seed” or “moral imbecile?” I call that “inanity.”
You claim the moral high ground here but I just call it “vanity.”