Wednesday, February 6
“Hey Sis!” Lila emailed. “Reading your mother's response, she is remarkably similar to the way my mother responds to this day. For instance, I was telling mom how furious I am, irate Bill left wine and beer at his house for Winnie & her boyfriend to enjoy while watching the Superbowl! And Felix, too. They are 20, Felix is 17. (Bill and his girlfriend, yep, still on that 10 day cruise!) Mom's response was, ‘Well you don't think I knew you drank at 20?’ Ugghhhh!!! I responded, ‘Mom, this isn't about you, it is about Bill buying alcohol for his unsupervised, underage children and encouraging them to drink. I need for you to see and support the gravity of this.’ Mom got it and switched gears.
“I promise you, a year ago, I would have been furious. We would have spent a couple of icy days avoiding each other. After lots of therapy, I am really learning to take a deep breath, express what I'm feeling, and get her on the same page. Mothers can be so damn defensive!!!!!! Oh yeah, we still battle, but she's my mom. We can be angry at each other, but we're not leaving each other! I also find it better to speak with Mom rather than text or email. The tone of the written word can be so easily misinterpreted and is always there for her to revisit.
“Make today a Brenda day!!!”
My phone rang. It was Miles, my first boyfriend. He was calling to wish me a two-days-early happy birthday. We’ve kept in touch for thirty years.
“I unfriended JB on Facebook,” I told Miles. “Tom shows me JB’s whacky posts once in a while. His latest was a lengthy homage to Joy Division, a band JB never listened to until one of our hipster friends went on and on about it being one of the greatest bands ever. Tom was laughing. He’s got JB’s number.”
“A friend of mine just divorced her husband because he’s a heroin addict,” Miles said. “She didn’t know it. People are good at hiding things. JB doesn’t know what he likes or who he is. It’s hard to have a relationship, almost impossible, with someone like that.”
Miles went back to work. I went back to email.
“I think maybe it would be best if I didn't go to Tom's talent show, though I would like to be supportive for him, just tell him when the time comes that I couldn't make it and that I will certainly be there for him when he plays during Libertyville Days,” my mother emailed.
I forwarded it to Lila.
“Midwestern mothers are every bit as good at passive aggressive as southern mamas!” Lila wrote. “Dang!
“I get she is trying to be a voice of reason, but you need a comrade in arms to share your anger and grief. Your line, ‘I need my mother to focus on me and my children, not the narcissist,’ is as accurate as it gets. You are the victim and you absolutely need to be babied now. Your children need to be babied, and frankly, they need to see how angry and hurt their grandmother is for their father' actions. Blake and Tom need to see your mother is united with you and will never desert you or them.
“Every time your mother sees JB, she can forgive him in her heart and keep it there. She must understand that his intentional choices have shattered your family and he has left you with few choices of your own. Therefore, your mother should create a wall around you. The boys don't have to see her slap down on JB, but they would benefit from sharing how shattered she is and, for the foreseeable future, she should be cordial but have as little contact with him as possible. Again, I think it’s better to talk things out rather than give her something to read over and over.”
I didn’t take Lila’s advice.
“It was too much to hope for that you'd tell me you'd be there for Tom and me 100 percent,” I emailed. “That's all I wanted.”
“I would love to be at Tom's talent show, but do not understand what you expect of me, it seems I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t,” my mother emailed. “So, I will plan to be there. O.K? I am really very sorry for what you are going through and would make it all better for you if I could. Just keep praying, God and I both love you and will always be there for you.”
“I just want you there for me,” I emailed. “You are my mother. You're the one person I need on my side 100 percent right now. You reaching out to JB to wish him a happy birthday and tell him you still love him pushed me over the edge.”
“You are my daughter and I am and will be here for you as long as I live. I know JB hurt you horribly, but you will be fine, it just takes time. He will have to live with what he did for a lifetime, and I am sure he knows it. I will come to your home and go with you to the talent show and stay close to you so do not worry. I love you and don't you forget it!!!!”
I took Tom to his voice lesson. I called Tracy.
“I’m going to talk to you as someone who has a son-in-law,” Tracy said. “I worry about my daughter getting hurt by her husband. She’s so in love with him. But I can see some things. I don’t know. But I love the guy, too. It’s got to be really complicated for your mother. JB was in her life for twenty-one years and she loved him. She needs closure. This can’t end, poof.”