I hated her. And now that she is dead for several years, the one regret I have is that I waited so long to banish her from my life. For the last 10 years that she was alive, we didn't speak.
She lived someplace in Florida, where my brother tended to her. On the day she died, a niece notified me by email. I went ahead with my scheduled plans... and went shopping with my husband.
Alas, there is no Bad Mothers Day on the national calendar to commemorate the hurts she inflicted and the cruelty she perpetuated. No black roses are sold to send to the bad mothers still alive on this day, no spoiled chocolates, no cards that speak the truth.
I have friends who love and venerate their aging mothers, who tend to them with profound concern and generosity and appreciate the opportunity to give back some of what they got. Other friends lament the passing of their mother, and find ways to honor her memory. These behaviors are nearly incomprehensible to me. How wonderful it must have been to feel a mother's love, I imagine.
There are other friends who are alienated from mothers dead or alive. We are members of an amorphous secret sorority that silently protests the messages that bombard us about family. When I encounter another who knows what it's like to have a bad mother, we bond. I also secretly believe that many of us who got so little from our mothers go on to accomplish more than well-loved children. Perhaps we're trying to show the world we're worthwhile. I can name two outstanding women off the top of my head, Gloria Steinem and Ruth Reichl, who both wrote of life with difficult (to say the least) mothers.
When Mothers Day rolls around, I don't think of mine as much as I do of a great friend I lost on that day. She was a mother and she was only 50. Whether she was a good one or a bad one, only her daughters know. The girls had taken her out for brunch and hours later she was dead of a heart attack. I watched them grope toward adulthood and each of them now lives well and has children of their own.
Not me. As a child in the house of my parents, I vowed that I would never replicate a family situation similar to the one I endured growing up. I waited late to marry, found a loving man as uninterested in raising children as I, and made a happy life unlike the one I knew when I was young.
If you've read this far, perhaps you, too, had a mother more like Mommie Dearest than the ones we watched on TV in our youth. And if that's the case, welcome to the sisterhood. You are not alone.