She, the martyr, likes to be the pillar of the community and the centre of attention at her church, but behind closed doors mum is a very different character, overbearing, moody and rude, and everything – and I mean everything – revolves back to her. “Oh what a terrible time I’m having with all this worry,” is a statement we grew up hearing much too often.
I find her to be a very toxic person and for the last twenty years, I’ve managed to maintain a healthy distance, which in my opinion is never far enough. These days, we only text every 6-8weeks, but her lack of interest in anything other than herself can feel very damaging, even after all these years.
The last time I made the mistake of sharing something significant was when I suffered a slipped disc. One day, mum asked what was wrong and I duly told her the basic facts, but she never did reply to that text. I didn’t hear from her again for almost four months.
She text me the other day and this really shows her character in all its glory.
Mum: Hi Cat, how are you
Me: I’m fine, thanks, how are you?
Mum: It’s been a busy week with services at church and all the bible meetings and I made soup for the Sunday lunch club and all the ladies said how lovely it was. I can’t do it every week, but I’m always there to give them a good laugh and boost morale. But, we’re okay. Plodding on (She means her and Dad. I wonder if she ever notices we haven’t actually spoken a word in over sixteen years).
Me: That sounds nice
Mum: They want me to be Secretary for the Women’s Guild because it’s never the same when I’m not there to organise things. I said I would think about it, but I’m not sure I am up to it, I like to support them all I can, but you know how I’ve never “been able” (she means after losing a lung sixty years ago and barely a week goes by without some reference to it).
Me: How’s Auntie Barbara (who’s severely disabled since birth but still lives independently at 86yrs old and never complains)
Mum: B is ok. I finally went to the Doctors with my niggling complaints (actually, she’s never away from the Doctor’s). The Doctor is getting onto the hospital about them, but it could be thyroid problems. The main problem is I’ve sweated all through winter (she also sweated her way through an early and late finishing menopause and we never heard the end of that either and we suffered the full force of her depression).
Me: Do you take codeine for pain? (Codeine makes me sweat)
Mum: No I don’t like taking too many tablets, I’m already on 10 a day. No one knows pain like I do, I have a high tolerance for pain, but it’s just my back and my arthritis and my right foot gives me terrible bother but the Doctor gave me cream to rub on. The last Doctor gave me painkillers but I don’t use them. I’m not one for complaining, me and yer Dad just soldier on as best we can. So R u ok then? (She has revelled in her martyrdom since my earliest memories).
Now, I do not know what possessed me to respond with my next text. Maybe there is still an urge deep within me to reach out to my mother and… well, receive a mother-kind-of-response.
Me: I need to go for a colonoscopy next week because I seem to be losing a lot of weight too quickly.
As soon as I pressed the ‘send’ button, I regretted it and waited for the cold cutting response. I can never be certain if I’ll get an answer at all, so it was a long ten minutes. Maybe there is a hidden need for her to find it within herself to show as much love and compassion to her children as she puts on show for her churchy friends.
Mum: I know the feeling
End of conversation.