Sunday I’ll be at my parent’s house for lunch celebrating Mother’s Day. My husband, my brother and sister in law and their daughter will be there too. My mother will be running from the kitchen to the living room serving us. First, she’ll bring out the mini Spinach pies we all love. Then she’ll dart back into the kitchen to warm something up or toast something.
She’ll seem merely slavish while we’re all enjoying ourselves – a brilliant cover for her decades of abuse.
We’ll all move to the dining table that she will have craftily laden with piles of smoked salmon, turkey and chopped liver, my particular favorites, and an abundance of Mediterranean delicacies like artichokes, feta cheese, marinated peppers and olives. We’ll raise a glass of Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio, whichever I chose, and we’ll toast this woman who abused me over and over again.
It started when I was 18 years old. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I blamed my father, whose parents both had type 2 diabetes. After all, I’d always heard diabetes is genetic and it skips generations. But in truth it was my mother who gave me diabetes. Type 1 is an auto-immune condition, just like the Hashimoto’s syndrome my mother has. Which incidentally she gave me thirty years later.
Never mind that my mother was so frightened for me when I got diabetes that she didn’t tell me until I was in my fifties that my father’s mother died of a diabetes-related heart attack just weeks before scheduled for a diabetes-caused leg amputation. No, my mean, mean mother never told me that! Her story is she was trying to protect me. Hah!
Never mind that when I was in my twenties and quit my advertising job to find myself, my mother convinced my father to stop badgering me; every time he saw me he begged me to find a job or go back to school. No, my mother made normal my four years of scribbling little drawings and calling myself a “greeting card artist.” My dog-walking and post-office running for a famous author. My hoisting cases of beer and fixing Margaritas at a local pub and calling myself a “mixologist.” Never mind the love, support, and checks she deliberately extended to confuse me and throw me off her trail.
When I moved to Japan at the age of 32 my mother cried. Sure, she was losing her little pawn! To try and reign me in she came all the way to Tokyo – without my father. That’s how sneaky she was. Naturally she planned to capture me and bring me home when no one was looking. Surely that’s why this non-traveller put herself aboard a plane, flew 13 hours, suffered fatiguing jet lag and wandered around a place where she couldn’t read or speak while I was working. But her plan was aborted: She fell in love with my friends and the courtesy of the country.
Returning from Japan six years later I went through a two-year reactive depression. Ex-pats prefer to call it “reverse culture shock.” What did my mother do? She took me into the comfort of my parent’s home, cooked my favorite meals, did my laundry and asked nothing of me. Stockholm syndrome set in – I began to fall in love with my captors. Fearing my mother’s unconditional love, I left again. I flew to Sydney where I spent a year trying to put my Pan-Asian-boots back on. They no longer fit, and I returned once again to the house of my captors. My mother took me in, only smiling to see me.
Lulled into a false sense of security, my mother’s abuse came again four years ago when I was 52 years old. She gave me tinnitus! One day sitting quietly in my living room chair I noticed there was no noise around me, but there was a steady buzzing in my ears. I couldn’t hear myself think. I could no longer meditate and fall into that delicious silence. Days followed that I wanted to throw my head out the window. The only thing that stopped me was knowing that my body would have to go too. My mother got tinnitus at 52. I didn’t know that until I got it. She is covert, my mother. She never complained of it. I hardly know how she didn’t.
She insisted on paying for me to see a renown tinnitus specialist who was on the cutting edge of a cure. Guilt-money to keep me quiet. I went, of course. Every few days she’d call me to see if the treatment helped. Just insurance to see that her hush money was doing its job.
I’m waiting now with trepidation for what she yet has planned. She’s still got osteoporosis, migraines and arthritis up her sleeve. And one day soon, her having a shelf-full of my favorite low-carb pasta for me to take home and her calling to see how my toe injury is coming along, won’t be enough to equal out her ongoing terrorizing. Here I am at 56 years old and she still tells me to wear a hat when it’s cold and take an umbrella if there’s a hint of rain. She asks regularly about my friends and professes to adore my husband. Her abuse is artful, I’ll give her that.
Of course, when she’s no longer here to abuse me, that will be the greatest abuse of all. Her fini accompli. I’ll miss her so much I won’t be able to stand it. And she’ll have the last laugh – abuse from the grave!
Originally published on Huffington Post.