Motherless Day 3: Mom's Still Dead
The end of April and May are historically tough for me psychologically. I was both laid off from The Dissolve and The A.V Club killed My World of Flops around my April 24th birthday. I probably would have an easier time getting over those if I did not commemorate their anniversaries by throwing a giant party. That may be keeping me stuck, now that I really think about it.
Speaking of devastating rejections I’m having a hard time getting over, Mother’s Day is similarly difficult for me, as I imagine it is for everyone who was abandoned by their mother as an infant, as I was.
Mother’s Day is a maudlin, culture-wide call for us all to appreciate the sacrifices our mothers have made on our behalf but when your mother left when you were two years old and never looked back, it’s hard not to brood about what you don’t have. For me, Mother’s Day has always been Motherless Day, a time for brooding and loneliness, not appreciation.
I’ve gone through cycles of acceptance and profound sadness when it came to my mother. Visiting her when I was 24 years old, and felt stable enough to risk opening this formative wound made me realize that she was so mentally ill that she was fundamentally incapable of being any kind of a mother to me.
Even if my mother had not abandoned me when I was two years old, she still would have lacked the emotional resources to guide me through life. Even though I was barely into my twenties at the time, I nevertheless felt like it had fallen upon me to be the responsible, adult one in our relationship. She was like a flighty, high-spirited teenager, chattering constantly, bragging incessantly, engaged in a never-ending game of self-mythologizing.I was hopelessly disappointed in my mother’s narcissism and total lack of interest in anything I might have to say in no small part because I identified with it more strongly than I’d like to admit.
I was crushed that my mother didn’t ask me a single question about my life or my career or what it was like growing up without a mother and just kept talking relentlessly about her life as if it were a source of endless source of fascination because I felt invisible and unheard around her but also because I wanted to be the one jabbering non-stop.
I hated that my biological mother had absolutely no interest in listening to me because I desperately needed to feel heard in that moment, and I suppose in the twenty-seven years that followed it but also because I recognized that quality in myself.
I saw in my biological mother a brokenness I recognized in myself, a difficulty engaging with others and an ability to see beyond my own self-absorption. I told myself that I forgave my mother because she did not know any better, because she wasn’t capable of being the loving, involved, invested mother I desperately needed, as a baby and a toddler and child, sure, but as an adult as well.
I tried to show compassion for my mother because I knew that she was sick, but also because I want people to show compassion for all of the awful but all too human failings that I picked up from her.
Like I wrote earlier, I go through cycles. I’ve gone through periods of acceptance and wisdom and periods of fresh anger and disillusionment. Meeting my half-brother Vincent resurrected a lot of anger and sadness and bitterness I thought I had buried forever, as did becoming a father myself.
Nothing is more important to my wife and myself than our three and a half year old son Declan. He regularly asks my wife and I for hugs and we would never, in a million years, imagine denying him even a single hug. I literally can’t envision what could move a mother to deny their child everything, beginning with your presence in their lives.
I told myself that I was better off with my mother not in my life, that she had done me a tremendous service by abandoning me first when I was two years old and she was my entire world, and then again when I was twenty-four and I tried to have a relationship with her as an adult but she was incapable of even any kind of a connection so I ultimately just gave up.
My mom is dead now. You know you have a fucked up relationship with the woman who brought you into the world and then was all “Smell ya later” when their death doesn’t change your relationship with them in the slightest.
In the end, I suppose my mother’s life and lonely death serve as a cautionary tale of the dangers of thinking only of yourself, of prioritizing your ego and comfort and self-image above the people you’re supposed to love most. The best thing that I can do as a son and as a human being is to try to be as unlike my mother as humanly possible. I owe it to my son, and the son that’s on the way, and the wife who is an incredible mother to Declan to try to get over my narcissism and self-absorption, to get out of my shell and comfort zone and finally engage with the world instead of keeping it a comfortable distance.
My biological mother ended up teaching me an awful lot, albeit on how not to live your life and particularly on how not to be a parent, or a human being, really.
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