Today my mother told me not to come to her funeral. Today I feel like an orphan.
She e-mailed this to me not out of love, and concern, but out of bitterness and resentment. I can't remember a time in my life when making sure my mother was happy was a not an ongoing concern and pre-occupation. It's called co-dependency.
My childhood was one of abuse, violence and emotional at the hands of my mother. I idolized my father, he was a an increasingly absetn hero figure. But when he started working abroad for 6 months at a time, and my mother took her frustrations out on my brother and I even more, I failed to understand he was escaping.
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He disappeared in the summer of 1986, just before I became a Christian. He left behind me aged 16, my brother aged 15, and a younger brother aged 1 year old.
Sometimes I feel like my family was like and extended episode of east enders. My memories of growing up on a council estate (public housing), my mother fighting in the streets one time with a neighbor, the endless arguments, door slamming, and one or other parent walking away, threatening to leave, commit suicide, and so many secrets. finding out that they were both unfaithful, my father starting a new family, I have 4 half brothers, and my younger brother turning out be my half brother (I never did the maths on when he was born and my father away).
My father made contact 3 years ago, because he was in and out of prison in the middle east, not because he really wanted to re-connect with me. I fought the foreign office, got on national news, and at last got him released. After a triple bypass, he lives around the corner from me, but may as well live in the middle east, you see he never makes any attempt to contact me at all. Some things never change.
And my mother, well she has always made everything about her, her feelings, and whilst I had to literally tip toe around the house as a kid for fear of meeting her wrath, I have had to tip toe around in every other way since. My mother as a typical co-dependent manipulated me with threats, withdrawal of love and affection. So when I helped my father, she felt and expressed a sense of betrayal that was overwhelming.
I bore the brunt of her anger and hostility, the 'how could you after all I have done?', the use of my faith as a tool to say 'you're a pastor and christian, how could you do this to me', and when I tried to reply, took all the good in my life and through it back at me, as if I have so much so how could I dare speak to her, and understand her plight.
So one day when she went berserk on the phone, saying she hated me and never wanted to speak to me again, I calmly responded, telling her I loved her, and if that was true I would do as she asked, but that I was here to talk if she ever wanted to. That was like adding fuel to the flames, and her resentment escalated into letters several pages long about losing the son she loved and had been proud of.
In reality she had lost her son, the one who would constantly diminish himself to make sure she we happy. Then she co-opted my brother and grandparents, the back channel triangulation's, and manipulations. I got the phone calls from family members saying I was making her ill, and how could I treat her like this.
And every-time I reached out, a letter saying I hoped she was ok, and loved her and did she want to meet up, I got several more pages of accusations. I joked with my wife that my mother would go to her grave, wishing me as much pain as she could, and her dying breadth would be to curse me.
Recently I sent her a photo of the kids, asking if she was ok, and sending my love, and I got a long letter and e-mail repeating how a terrible son I am. When I didn't reply - you see my mother likes to goad people so they get cross and angry then they feel bad for getting angry and she can use that as leverage against them - I wouldn't play the escalation game, I got another letter on e-mail today, saying I was not to come to her funeral, she does not want me there.
Mind you everyone gets letters from my mother, my her parents and siblings get them too. Since they started getting them they are more understanding of what I have been getting. Her latest card to my grand parents said 'may god forgive you two because I never will'.
My mother couldn't remove financial support from me, there was never any to take away. But she has always taken her presence away, her love has always been conditional, and now she thinks that taking her death away from me, this will work somehow.
So how does that affect me today. I feel orphaned, I functionally have no father or mother. I have never known a time in my life when they have been there for me, nurturing me, able to support me. I grieve the lack of presence in tough times, when I wish I knew what it was like to be told 'don't worry, we are here for you, things will be ok', instead I feel I always had to be there for them in ways to support them. It took me until I was 34 to be able to say that it was not my responsibility to make my mother happy, and not feel guilty inside.
And the main legacy I have is anxiety. I always had to anticipate disaster, as disaster always came, wether running out in the snow in my pajamas, begging my mother not to take an overdose of insulin, or persuading the removal men who refused to move our stuff in the house after my mother was hostile with them, or missing college to look after my young brother. Every time things were good, I was on edge waiting for the disaster, the abuse, or my father to leave, and he did.
The say when you are a kid, the experiences you have, get put down in connections in the brain. I carry those with me to this day. Always struggling when things are good or bad, expecting disaster, I can't switch it off. And my mothers voice is still in my ear whispering her resentments of anything good in my life. And from being a pastor and from just my friends, I know I live in a generation that is so fatherless and motherless; I am in good company.
My mother is ill, mentally disturbed, I am not angry with her, I am just carrying a sense of loss and loneliness. My father is gone too, never there for me, ever. I'll never know what it is like to grieve parents who were there for me and supportive, that I can say I miss seeing.
I forgive them, I thank God for the legacy of my kids, who know little of this pattern of life. I see the kingdom of God in my family, the church families I have belonged to that have brought unconditional love into my life, and helped me live.
And I know that with God's grace I will go on and he will help me more. But today it's hard, today I feel full of panic, fear, and grief, wishing it didn't hurt, and I could cope better. So I rang my grandmother, just to let her know, and she told me she loved me, and was proud of me, and I was special and wonderful. That helped alot :-)