The picture left will remind me." Pearl Jam
Today's appointment was quite something. Today, I talked to my mother, my father, and every other adult who was around watching my mother feed me donuts and hot fudge sundaes ... WHAT THE F*CK WERE THEY THINKING?
My parents took me to a shrink when I was 9 years old. Dr. Sturm, I think. They thought I wasn't social enough because I mostly liked to read and be alone rather than playing with other kids. How could he not have seen me, 100 pounds overweight at that young age? How could he have done nothing, said nothing to protect me?
The guidance counselor at Willetts Road Middle School in Roslyn Heights, NY -- I can't remember his name -- Margy will -- but what on earth was he thinking? How could he have known how troubled I was, how fat I was, how I was eating, and done nothing?
My father was complicit. Everybody was complicit. They all gave me over to my mother, who was nothing short of completely nuts (seriously, at the end of her life, she screwed with one shrink too many and finally had a diagnosis) and I became her toy. She would swear she loved me more than anybody else in the world, but she took my childhood -- I had to be the adult taking care of her for my father, who would have done anything to get out from under that responsibility -- and she fed me and fed me and fed .... My father was fat. My brother was fat. I was fat. And nobody ever said anything. My mother was perfect. I was a troubled child ("breaking like the waves at Malibu" ~~ Joni Mitchell). She had all the power. I had only her, like having a handful of sand.
My grandparents. Aunts and uncles. Friends, family -- nobody said anything ever. Nobody tried to stop her. Nobody reached out to me. Nobody took responsibility. The responsibility was all mine.
The one area that I have never taken responsibility of? My weight. What I put in my mouth. I had no fun except eating. I had no childhood except being fed. I had no down time, no irresponsibility -- I was taking care of her. It was so wrong. Nobody tried to rescue me.
My father. He was here today. I told him I need to take the pictures of my mom down from the living room wall where they've been since she died. I told him I need something to replace them with. He asked me if I wanted a loan. No, you SOB, YOU OWE ME. FIX IT. YOU OWE ME. A FRIGGING PAINTING, dammit. I took care of her for you. I was why she could leave the house, to grocery shop, to her shrink, wherever -- she could never be alone and you sure wanted none of it. It's stupid, I know. A painting has no significance. I don't know why I think that's the right "payment." But two weeks ago, after the session in which I first talked about my mom's abuse, I daydreamed about taking the pictures of her over to his house when he wasn't home, taking my pick of what's on his walls, and hanging her pictures there instead.
(I'm sorry, Dad. You don't have to read here if it's too hard. I need to be able to write what I need to write, though. I need this place, this space, for me. It's not that I don't love you. It's just that I don't understand how you could let her ....)
Is it the culture? We didn't talk about abuse back then. Is it that she was beautiful and put together with clothes and make-up and nails and the whole deal? That she kept the house beautifully? Was it my fault that I was 100 pounds overweight when I was 9 or 12 or even 15? Really? Can anybody have believed it was my fault?
I feel physical pain as I write this with tears streaming down my face. I will always always always feel like a failure for not looking like her, dressing like her, wearing make up and doing my nails like her. I will always feel ugly. I will always ....
Or maybe not, because that's what this process is about, right? Nothing has to be always. Maybe I will find a way to take responsibility of the one part of my life on which I've always given myself a pass. Maybe I will take a little less responsibility over everybody else and get ahold of this demon. Maybe this time it will be for real. I want it. It's time now. I'm 53 years old. My mother is dead. My dad is happy. And there is nothing stopping me except all this baggage. And that is what therapy is for, shedding baggage, right?
I think I'll keep the pictures of her in the living room.
"Don't call me daughter. Not fit too.
The pictures kept will remind me."