September 6th is my mom’s birthday.
It occurred to be recently that I tend to refer to mater in the past tense, even though she’s not dead. I wouldn’t even say she’s “dead to me,” because I don’t pretend she’s dead. I just talk to her slightly less often than I talk to (or toward, more like) people who actually are dead. There are plenty of dead people I think of as better, smarter, cooler, kinder, and less violent and psychotic as mater. For the record, I last spoke with mater in September of 1995. So I guess that’s a sort of anniversary as well.
Funnily, I’ve also been thinking about gaslighting lately (Even saw the film from which we get the term. Jessica Lansbury is 19 years old in it!!). More than the violence, constant emotional and mental abuse, being ordered around like a servant, rarely being allowed out, the gaslighting did a shitload of damage to me. It’s another one of those things I didn’t realize was SO pervasive until much later. It’s also another one of those things that I reacted hugely and horribly to when it happened (often to a very small degree) with other people later on.
If someone tells a story wrong, I’d be outraged even if it was a stupid thing that didn’t matter. “His shirt was BLUE, not green! Tell it RIGHT!” Because I grew up knowing that when someone didn’t tell the truth about something, they were doing it to make me look bad. That’s not actually paranoia when you grow up with one of those “You see what I’ve got to put up with!” parents always harping on how tough they have it while they’re using their kid as a punching bag.
Everything my mom ever said about me was exaggerated to make me look bad, stupid, selfish, greedy, vain, or otherwise terrible. Didn’t matter if she was talking to a teacher, a neighbor, her husband, or our extended family. If they were impressed with a drawing, she’d tell them I traced it. If someone praised my good grades, she’d lie and say she called the school and “made” them change my grades. If I lost something, she said I sold it or gave it away, or “let” someone take it. Always. Constantly. And the bitch of it is, there are still people in my family who believe that shit. I’m told my mom’s husband actually thinks I invited a band of drug fiends into their house to steal sports memorabilia. Nevermind that I don’t think I have a single friend who would knowingly walk into a house with a basement full of swastikkas. But I digress.
It was my mom’s birthday. I didn’t sit around crying, drinking, watching movies we watched together when I was a kid. I wasn’t angry or short with H, or walking around finishing arguments from 30 years ago while the cats just stared at me, confounded. I had a regular day, doing all the stuff I normally do.
So I feel pretty good about that.
Guess we’ll see how I do next Mother’s Day.