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Not long after my mom died, I was on the internet trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I wasn't "grieving" because, truth be told, it was a relief when my mom died ...and that bothered me. What kind of person is relieved when their mother dies?
When other people talk about their deceased mothers, they would get choked up reminiscing about fond memories, and wish for a few more minutes with their "best friend." I could never come up with a fond memory, but I could think of a million that, if I voiced, would make people shake their heads, smile at me, and say, "You must have remembered that wrong", or "No, not your mother. Why would you say something like that about such a wonderful woman?"
Something I typed in pulled up the term "Adult Children of Narcissistic Parents." I had heard of the term "narcissism" before, but I had always thought it applied only to people who thought they were more beautiful and smarter than everyone else. Reading the articles and stories posted by others, I started seeing a very familiar pattern.
There were insults and criticisms that were regularly and cruelly spit out in private, but rarely in public. If it was in public, it was said in a way that would seem like "concern."
She was a delight in front of other people, but would turn ugly and abusive once we were alone. If I mentioned her cruelty to anyone, I was told I was mistaken, I got it wrong, or my personal favorite, "Mothers don't say things like that to their children, why would I say something like that?"
I found out I was not her biological child when I was 16. It wasn't a big surprise actually, as I had questioned her about my parentage before. When I questioned why I was different from the rest of the family, her response was denial first, then to attack me. "You have oily hair and skin because you don't wash yourself well enough/use the correct shampoo/eat wrong. No one else the family has that problem, so it must be you." When I asked why I was pigeon-toed when no one else was, the explanation was because as a BABY, I refused to hold my feet in the correct position.
I will never understand why it was MY fault that my adoption wasn't done legally. I couldn't get a drivers license or a job because there was nothing legal with my name on it. My mother told people I didn't have a job because I was lazy.
I was extremely close with my grandmother. My mom's favorite way of keeping me in line was to threaten to not let me see her. She told me that my grandmother was just as guilty as she was that the adoption wasn't legal. If the truth came out, Grandma would probably be sent to prison. God she was a joy!
In my home, children should be seen and not heard ...and not even seen if you could help it. I was not allowed to go out and play with other children, I was not allowed to have children over. I was not allowed to join things that would have me interact with children. Her excuse was that she had already done all those things with my much older sisters, and she wasn't doing it again. Not exactly the training ground for learning how to interact with my peers.
I should "act my age" at all times, no matter if I was 5, 8, 10. Acting my age meant I should be a little adult. My favorite things were reading (anything that let me escape into my own head), jigsaw puzzles (again a quiet solitary activity), and listening to music (only allowed with headphones on and in the basement. No dancing or singing allowed.) I had no idea how to play like a child, so I had trouble making friends.
I was told over and over that my "biological father" didn't want to have anything to do with me, he already had two daughters that he raised. In actuality, he was an alcoholic who didn't want another baby when their marriage was failing, and wasn't really around me at all during the two remaining years before they divorced. She said he chose not to see me, to avoid having to pay child support (a lie ...you can't pay child support on a child that was NEVER LEGALLY ADOPTED).
When she remarried, I adored the man who I call Dad, but he was "set in his ways" and believed that all child rearing should be done by the mother. Everything she said or did was right because "She's your mother. You owe her respect." But even his love wasn't exactly unconditional. After one of their regular fights, he would go into his "dark place" and not speak to her OR ME for days or weeks on end. I couldn't depend on him because he made it obvious it was easy to cut me out. I lived for the times when I had his attention - getting good grades, and cleaning my plate. He liked a kid who ate, and when you have one parent encouraging you to eat, eat, EAT, and another who is telling you what a fat pig you are, it messes with your head. To this day, I have weight issues.
I had been told all my life that no man would want me, so of course, the first one who showed me affection had no problem getting me to have sex. I was pregnant when I got married young. I didn't get to go away to college like I had dreamed, but the voices in my head told me I wouldn't have done well anyway. I worked, and then had to help mom take care of my dad until his death. I promised him I would take care of my mom. God, I hate deathbed promises.
A few years after my father died, my grandmother was extremely old and frail. She was living with my mom, and I could see how scared she was. Her voice would shake and she would get teary eyed. Mom would yell at her because she needed to use a bedpan or had to have meals fixed for her. My little family moved in to help with Grandma. I took over grandma's care, bathing, feeding, cleaning up after her, doing laundry, etc. During the day a nurse would come to take care of her, "relieving" my mom of her hardships, which she exaggerated to everyone and anyone she could. She only took over Grandma's care at night, but she told everyone that she did it all, and no one else lifted a finger to help.
At one point after having my 2nd child, I was working 40 hours a week, raising two kids, making three different meals at a time (Grandma had special diet, baby had a different one, and then there was the rest of us), cleaning the house, doing laundry, and taking care of my grandmother - which included getting up at least twice a night. And yet all I ever heard from my sisters was that I needed to help out more, mom couldn't do this on her own. They certainly couldn't help, of course.
For four years, Mom would try to abandon her for the holidays. She told my sisters that my grandma didn't want to be around family. The truth was, she didn't want my grandma taking away the attention from her. The medical equipment was "embarrassing," and would "distract from the party," so I spent most holidays driving back and forth between home and whatever house the festivities were being held.
I never received any thanks for how much I helped out, but she always told me what great things my sisters were doing or promising to do with her. As far as Mom was concerned, my one sister walked on water. Everything she said or did was perfect, and the fact she did absolutely nothing to help with anything was just the way it was. I was here, and I should be the one responsible, period.
After all the years of nastiness and selfishness, my mom's health went downhill, at the same time of my older sister's. There was no insurance, and no money, so I became Mom's full time caregiver. Even then, when she was completely at my mercy, I still couldn't treat her the way she really deserved to be treated. I was gentle. I put up with her constant criticisms and insults. I made sure she went to her doctor appointments, got her prescriptions, and took her out often.
When she developed dementia the real fun started. I couldn't sleep at night because she tried to wander. She would complain about things that didn't happen or weren't said. Then there was the actual "crazy" stuff that comes with dementia (trying to eat out of the garbage, looking for "missing children" from the news in her closets, almost strangling her dog because she tightened the collar as tight as it would go, stripping naked, defecating wherever... you get the idea.) I felt alone. My husband was never the nurse type, and I didn't want to put any of it on my kids. My oldest sister was dying and I was trying to be strong for her. My other, perfect, sister acted like we didn't exist, and if she did show up, it was all about how hard it was for HER.
My oldest sister died, and my other sister had to be talked into coming the funeral. She lived 30 minutes away. It was so far to drive. Her anniversary was coming up, and she didn't want to have go to something that was going to ruin her mood on her anniversary! How selfish of our other sister to die at such an inconvenient time!
She would promise my mom a visit, a trip, anything, but never follow through. Every cancelled promise was taken out on me. After my sister would call to say she wasn't coming, within minutes, my mom would have an "accident," usually involving the above-mentioned defecating somewhere that would require extensive cleaning on my part.
When my mom finally reached the point requiring hospitalization, my sister finally showed up. Like my mother, she only did when it was "public." If I had kept my mom at home, she never would have came to visit, but in a public area like a hospital where she could get sympathy, she was the concerned daughter making a daily visit. It was then I discovered that my sister was just like my mom.
I was spending hours a day at the hospital, waiting on my mom hand and foot. I knew her schedule, her moods, her doctors and her prescriptions. I answered all the questions, my sister knew nothing. When I went to visit one morning, I was pulled aside by one of the nurses. Apparently, my sister took it upon herself to notify the hospital that I was not biologically my mother's daughter, and therefore all medical decisions were not to be brought before me, but her. I was good enough to physically care for her ALL BY MYSELF for years, but not good enough to decide when she needed hospice?? That's where my sister screwed up. The nurse herself was adopted, and had a hostile relationship with her own sister-who was not adopted and was constantly trying to make the adopted one seem lesser. Not the best choice to try to get on your "adopted is lesser" side.
Its been four years now. I have no contact with my sister at all. I hear from my daughter that she posts lots of messages on Facebook on how much she misses my mom, how depressed she is that the extended family has "abandoned" her, how she was so close with my mom at the end, and nobody appreciates how this loss has affected her.
Meanwhile, I am still angry. The mention of my sister's name gets me riled up. I have a hard time remembering my mother without getting upset, teary and emotional. I don't miss her. I am just so pissed off over my lack of childhood, the constant insults that make me question everything I do to this day. My husband tells me "get over it" and that's it, that I'm making it worse on myself. He doesn't believe in therapy, although I really feel I could use it.
The thing that really messes with my head was the last thing my mom said to me. I had been with her all morning, and had to pick my son up from school. I was gone about two hours to get him, feed him, and help with homework. As soon as I walked in, she started in on me. Where was I, why was I gone so long? While I was apologizing, she startled me by asking when I (my name) was coming. She then started ranting again, how I call and say I'm coming, and then I never come, that I promise over and over to visit, but I never do. I realized she wasn't talking to me, she thought she was talking to my sister! She fell asleep for a few minutes, and when she woke up and saw me, she asked me when I got there. I told her I just got there, she could go back to sleep and I would be there when she woke. Her last words to me were "I know ...I can always count on you ...you are always here for me."
Is it strange that what she said at the very end of her life bothers me the most? That she acknowledged that I was the one who took care of her, and that she knew my sister did nothing. I was the only one there to hear it. It bothers me that my sister never heard for herself that her mother knew she avoided/abandoned her. Instead, she goes around like the wounded child. All her friends gather round and tell her what a good daughter she was. They tell her how bad I am for neglecting her now, after everything that was done for me, bringing me into the family and raising me like I was part of it.