CLARITY ON ANN
BOX OF WINE happened before LETTER TO ANN. This may seem surprising as a friend of mine thought that the opening lines of BOX OF WINE were actually because of LETTER TO ANN. As a self-proclaimed creative writer, part of my writing process and joy is to tell my stories as a form of art. LETTER TO ANN had to be written before the finality of BOX OF WINE so I could feel like I explained the timeline. So here’s the addendum, CLARITY ON ANN.
Ann, aka my mother, always found excuses to be mad at something. My friend calls it leaving a trail. Phone hang ups, being outraged at a bank teller or a supermarket clerk, and generally being pissed off about seemingly small things. I referred to them as FUCK YOU fights. They have been such a constant in our past relationship that for a while I had almost normalized them thinking that all mothers and daughters interacted this way.
Since my separation from my husband six years ago, I have felt that Ann was looking for a way out of our relationship. An excuse for a FUCK YOU fight so she wouldn’t have to deal with any triggers, feelings, or emotions that my separation and divorce somehow brought up for her from all of the pain in her life with my father before and after their divorce. I just simply wouldn’t allow it, I would always reconnect somehow because I never wanted to be estranged despite the way our relationship made us both feel, usually not good. When I do replay some of the major FUCK YOUS, the first big one was when I moved in with my father at 15, and then the second one was when I moved in with my aunt, her sister, at 20. She never got over this and every feeling thereafter was likely a trigger for that unimaginable pain. Instead of talking about it, she went silent and the feelings festered.
I am no therapist, but I have been to therapy for over twenty-five years and I do have a really healthy handle on triggers. How they rise up in your soul and shake your cells, vibrate your blood and juice your intent, often misaligning the intensity of how you feel about something that can be relatively uneventful. Everyone has triggers, but the fact is that left unchecked, they can cause feelings of rage in your body that are unexplainable. This is why therapy and self-help books are helpful. They help you move through the feelings and stay calm. Calmness is strength. I have learned this from being both easily triggered and the recipient from someone who is easily triggered.
BOX OF WINE was a story that recapped the “final straw” according to Ann. Being a mother myself, I cannot imagine there ever being a final straw. I have such a healthy relationship bond with my son, I could never consider releasing him from my life. My thought would be to attend family therapy to talk about things if they ever got that bad, but that would mean that I would have to take personal responsibility for the role I may have played. After all I am the parent and there are certain elements of this role that simply cannot be pawned off on your child.
When I think about her final straw, I almost laugh these days as I approach a year of not speaking, not communicating at all with my mother because if anyone should have final straws it would be me. So for those friends out there reading this supplement to BOX OF WINE trying to get a handle on why Ann would have turned off the phone, unfriended me on Facebook, rest assured that her last straw was the last straws of many last straw attempts. I just kept coming back for more, like a rescue who wasn’t ever held. This final straw is a sad but welcomed gift in my life of many previous mom disappointments.
The thing is, though, I lost my brother to adeno carcinoma of the lung when he was only 25. I was just 29. My mother was only 51, a year younger than I am now. My mother got breast cancer when she was 65 right around the time she was getting ready to retire. I wanted to go down and help her. She struggled with this using language like “I don’t do well with company.” Company? I still went down and we actually had a nice time.
The pain from losing my brother in our family was intense; we were fragile anyway so this loss created a stronger emotional division in an already emotionally absent relationship. I, however, learned through this trauma how to look at a glass half full, how to say I love you when hanging up the phone, how to be humble and grateful for the people in my life so allowing Ann to release me did not come easy. As you can see by my writing, I don’t think the struggle will ever completely go away, but I am working on it.
Ann was always disappointed in me as a daughter and to be totally transparent, I was disappointed in Ann as a mother. Maybe she has a different view of things, but perception is reality and I seldom felt otherwise. I personalized a lot of this disappointment and to this day it can still show up in my interactions with my partner, my former husband, my employees, friends. I have worked my whole life on trying not to apologize for everything, not to fly off the handle at inane things that are really not important and I have done a lot of work on my soul through therapy, lots of reading, talking, art, and writing. Adversity and challenges often create strength and determination and I am a strong resilient woman because of this relationship with my mother. Frankly I would have preferred to gain my strengths from a healthier connection with her, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
In my writing BOX OF WINE, I really tried to end the sad story with the things that I really learned and loved from my mother, that I carry with me. These things are so important in my life, but when I really think about all of the terrible things she has done as a mother, I am satisfied that this relationship had to come to this. It is much healthier in the long run for my health and for my quality of my current really healthy loving relationships I have developed.
How does a mother daughter relationship get to the point where a mother actually emails her daughter, “ I prefer you never contact me again?” What I have accepted as normal behavior for all these years, excusable behavior turns out was not normal. Moving away the same year I got engaged, not helping with my engagement party, not being part of trying on wedding dresses with me, not coming to my bridal shower, being late for her mother’s funeral, not coming to my baby shower, my son’s bris, retiring and not offering to even help me while I was moving as I made the decision to leave not only my husband, but my home of twenty years, sending me a hateful letter after my son’s Bar Mitzvah scolding me for forgetting to ask the photographer at my son’s Bar Mitzvah to take a picture of her husband with my son. This letter came in an email while I was away on a trip to Europe after said Bar Mitzvah with my son after only six months of being separated. Stopping all communication with her two sisters without an explanation to either of them, not acknowledging her sister’s terminal illness, her ultimate death, her funeral, in any way shape or form with even a note to her grandson. And these are just the big easy things to write about. Within these major events lies layers of passive aggressive silent treatments, comments, and feelings of resentment that reverberated in every conversation.
After my aunt’s sad death and Ann’s abhorrent behavior, I decided to try out the not speaking with her for a while. But then she moved to the deep south sending me photos of the things I may want (or they would be thrown out to the curb trash, her words) but I would have to come get them. Important stuff like things that were my great grandfather’s, photos of my brother and me as children, all of these things that reminded her of her past so she could move away again from the feelings of the triggers they inevitably caused.
When I found out I had breast cancer two years ago, I decided to end my no communicating and called her to tell her that I wouldn’t be able to come get the things because of the breast cancer and there was a moment of kindness and empathy, but just a moment.
My former husband, our son and I went to look at colleges last year in the south and went to visit her. It was an awful alcoholic trip. Painful. She looked terrible as the alcoholism had really begun to leave its scars and I knew that I would not be going down there again. It wasn’t healthy for either of us for sure. She took me to the storage area that she had put the things in she had put aside for me. Everything was thrown in a Rubbermaid bucket. Pictures of my brother, my son, me as a child, letters from me as a child that were so painful, I couldn’t get over it. Who does this? How can a mother be so angry and resentful of her own child? A few months after that visit, we were getting ready to celebrate my son’s graduation from high school. I let her know that I only had two tickets to my son’s graduation and one would be for my aunt, (you know the sister she stopped speaking to six years ago) and the other would be for her. I told her I would try to get another ticket for her husband, but wasn’t sure about the success of this as this was my first and only graduation. At first she understood and we hung up easily, but as soon as we hung up I thought, “that was way too easy.” And I was right, within 3 minutes the phone rang and she was on the other end. She flipped out, and said,
“We won’t be treated like second class citizens!” slammed the phone down as usual. As usual I called her back to make sure she understood that I was going to do my best and as usual, she didn’t answer and as usual didn’t call me back.
Here is where BOX OF WINE starts. The subject line read like this:
“NOTHING.” Then the email. “I’d prefer you never contact me again.”
This is the “last straw.” Really.
My mother, way way way way before all the pain, way before breast cancer, way before the last straw.