by Vanessa M
Three months before my brother died in June of 2013, I ran into him at my aunt’s house.
I hadn’t seen him in over a year. We sat in the hallway, chain smoking and talking about our childhoods, our pain, how damaged we still were.
Carlos’s face drooped like a hound dogs, his cheeks caved in—the same look longtime heroin addicts get. If you have a heroin addict in your family, you know that look well.
At the time my mom and I hadn’t spoken in over a year.
As I write this, it is November of 2015 and my mother and I haven’t spoken in well over a year and a half. I’d be lying if I said I’m happy about it. The little girl in me will always want my mother to love me.
My mother has stopped talking to me countless times. This time I can’t tell you what it was I did or didn’t do, but in the past it’s always been because I didn’t do something or live my life the ways she insists I should not. It doesn’t matter that I’m a month shy of 40 and left her house 27 years ago and never moved back.
“I’m the mother!” she’s said, like that cancels everything else out.
Her silences have dragged on for months. And each and every time, I’ve gone back, my head hanging, wishing, hoping, sometimes even saying it outright, “Love me please, Mother. Love me.”
Every time except this time.
We have been taught to sacrifice ourselves at the altar of the family. That works and is wonderful when your family is supportive and loving and self-aware, but what happens when your family is not these things?
What happens when your mother does not mother you? What happens when the love you need to function and be a productive member of society is not given to you by the people who are supposed to give it to you?
Our culture does not teach us how to deal with these realities so we have to teach ourselves. This has been my life – teaching myself to mother myself and support myself and be there for myself. And I had to teach myself (am still teaching myself) how to mother my daughter in a loving, tender way.
This is my journey.
I don’t know anyone who’s done it or at least I can’t remember if I do. Who am I referring to? People who’ve walked away from their mothers. Who’ve said, “That’s it.”
This past lunar eclipse, under the red moon, I cut communication with my mother.
My mother has punished me for 39 years by denying me her love. I never had the audacity to walk away from her completely. I’ve gone months without talking to her, or better said, she’s gone months without contact. I’ve run into her at my aunt’s house during these silences. What’s she done?
She glares at me. Then she gets up promptly and says, “Me voy (I’m leaving),” through gritted teeth. Her lips pulled back over her teeth like saran wrap. The same face that would send me scampering to a corner when I was a kid.
The last time she did this, my aunt’s best friend came out to the hallway crying. She hugged me and said, “I’m so sorry.”
“How do you deal with that?” she asked.
“I’m used to it,” I half-lied.
The truth is that I am, but it doesn’t cut any less deep every time.
That day when she walked by me, she pulled her shoulder in so she wouldn’t touch me.
This is my mother.
I don’t know why she stopped talking to me this time. I know that in my grief over losing my brother, I was forced to face countless griefs I’ve been carrying, including the grief over being unmothered.
I realized in my healing and in therapy that my mother is a bully and has an undiagnosed mental illness. I realized I don’t deserve the way she treats me and the cruel shit she does.
I never have.
A few years ago, I stopped by my aunt’s house with my sister-friend Jessica. I was there to pick something up.
I didn’t know my mother was there. She glared at me like she does, then she stood up to leave. I introduced my friend, “Jessica, this is my mom.”
My mother gave her a wide smile and shook her hand. “Hola.”
Then she lifted her nose in the air and walked by without another word.
No hello to her daughter. No blessing in answer to my “bendicion” as has been our tradition since I was a little, little girl.
When we left a few minutes later, Jessica stopped me in the street. “V…” she said and stared at me, her eyes wet. “We’re not gonna talk about what just happened?”
“What do you want me to say, sis?”
Jessica searched my face. I was numb or was trying to be. I shifted my weight and stared up the block at the tigueres on the corner. I pulled my scarf tighter around my neck. “I told you how it is between me and her…”
“Yeah, but… It’s different to witness it for myself.”
Jessica put her arm around me. We walked straight to the liquor store. That night, we sat in my kitchen and got falling over ourselves drunk. We didn’t talk about it again.
I don’t want to hate my mother. I don’t want to vilify her. I don’t want people to think she is horrible or hateful or cruel.
But more than that, I don’t want to hold it in anymore…this reality of my life. That I am unmothered. That this mother wound has been raw and open for a long, long time and I have to heal it or risk losing my mind.
My mother’s last message before I blocked her came on September 26th.
Somehow she found out that I’m in a relationship with a fellow woman and she had to tell me what she thought about it.
She called my relationship garbage. She called me stupid. She said my daughter would suffer as a result of this stupid decision. She went on and on about how stupid and sinful I was.
I know she’s projecting. I know she’s ashamed of having me being in a relationship with a woman, my Millie, for 20+ years.
I know she sees that relationship as the biggest mistake of her life. I know all these things but none of this excuses her behavior. None of it. I won’t give her a pass anymore.
I didn’t respond to my mother’s text. I cried. I heaved. And I knew then and there that it was time to walk away.
After 39 years of her punishing me by denying me her love, it took her trying to deny me this love for me to say, “That’s it” and “Ya!” and “I’m done.”
I blocked her under the blood moon while sitting in my partner’s backyard.
I cried hard. I prayed. And then I let her go. I don’t know if it’s forever but I know that it’s for right now, and that’s enough.
I’m taking my power back. At the ripe age of 39, I choose me.
I choose my heart. I choose the little girl who somehow knew at 13 that she had to save her own life.