I found a letter from my mother dated April 12, 1989. The date meant nothing at first read, then I read, “No, I don’t think your father will ‘go to hell’ (grin)” and I remembered that my father died in early April of ’89. I’m not sure why I would have asked Mama if I thought he was going to hell. I was sure of it.
She further writes, “I think, rather, that he will be busy learning differences in the types of love that there is. I believe that he is just fine. Instead my concern lies in anyone who could see what happened to him and yet continue to surrender to those forces that shaped his unhappiness.”
This—and the rest of the letter—makes me nuts. I’m incensed that she wrote about him learning different types of love (I sneer here) when she knew what he did to me. It’s a crap thing to say to a daughter who felt the ‘love’ from that man. And the letter sounds so…reasonable, even with its roundabout finger-pointing at Dad’s mother , the mild terminology (Dad wasn’t unhappy; he was miserable,) and the complete lack of acknowledgement of my truth.
She writes, “Sometimes people make choices, act a certain way, do certain things for unacknowledged ends. They live by and within a set of rules with the expectation that their compliance will ensure a set outcome, whether it is money or returned affection or a gathering of objects or maybe the fending off of loneliness. Perhaps it is a combination of all these things. Then, after years of minor and sometimes major compromises, the person doesn’t get whatever it is that he or she “purchased” with the prescribed actions. What then? Maybe the person interpreted the “rules” incorrectly, maybe something else—but the changes in the person are accomplished anyway, the goal is unattainable, and the perceptions of the person are so altered by the day to day compromises that he or she has forgotten the rules of living according to inner clarity. A fine mess. Oh, well, I guess it is pointless to say any more on this. (smile)”
Actually, it’s brilliant.
And I’ve re-read the paragraph before her comment about Dad learning about different types of love. I’m busted again—I still skim my mother’s letters because they’re so hard, so painful, to read word for word. She writes, “I’ve been reading about incest…and…the conclusion I’ve come to is that there seems to be many kinds of incest, not all of them physical. Perhaps it can all be crystallized into the concept of a failure to love, or a failure to understand the nature of love—how to love—“
This makes her no-hell comment less inflammatory, but I’m still angry. Part of it is that I want to be, I think, but I’m also puzzled/peeved that she was reading about incest 25 years after the fact, and she spoke so dispassionately of the matter, like it had never touched her. Like I was a friend she was counseling. Gag me, ok.
Finding this letter is a blessing. It’s opened a vein, not of gold but of molten lava that I’ve tried for years to access. I’ve been unable to feel anything other than baffled grief regarding my mother, and I’ve known that it was superficial, that mere pain didn’t do justice to either of us.
I miss —having a mother. And sometimes I miss her.