Last night, well. Is it a good idea to make an appointment to tell someone something terrible? I don’t know. I have a lot to say.
I had thought that I was solely clean up crew, in the wake of SeaFed being unhelpful regarding my mother, but that’s never really how it works. Of course my sister was trying to clean things up too.
My sister and I sat at my table at the appointed hour, watching her cell ring on speaker phone, leaning over it–CALLING: MOM. My sister said later that I looked queasy, which I believe, but I actually felt pretty calm. My mother picked up and my sister did her best, explaining that she thought that SeaFed had gotten off the point in his conversation with my mother earlier that week.
In a patented SeaFed move, he sent Morgan an email assuring her that he told our mother that Morgan had a problem with her and her drinking right now, which Morgan had asked to be left out of and did not want to interfere with or pass judgment on. She told him several times that she was speaking to him on my behalf with regards to my concerns about Franny spending time with her, and her relationship wasn’t the issue.
“I don’t need HIM to talk to my mother for me about how I feel about anything,” she said earlier in the week. No kidding. Good gravy. The thought of SeaFed as mediator, healer, peacekeeper, FAMILY UNITER, makes my special vein in my forehead come out to say hello to everyone.
Then it was my turn. I decided to get right to it, since there were no pleasantries to exchange.
“We’ve decided that going forward, visits with Franny will be supervised.”
This was apparently new information; SeaFed had told me that he would be discussing this when he spoke to my mother, since he is the one who maintains contact with her. I could hear anger and indignation oozing out of her voice. I don’t blame her really. I wouldn’t want to be sneak attacked with…me.
She asked where this came from and I told her I had compelling evidence that things were out of control regarding her drinking. That kind of confrontation, accusation, that one really blows the doors off things.
“WHAT? Who is telling you this? You don’t KNOW me anymore, you haven’t for years,” she said. “You don’t know what I do.”
I reminded her that Morgan is in my life, that things were the same when I was a kid, that Franny was a witness to her drinking.
“What have I DONE to hurt Franny?” she said. I stuck to my point. I was not going to argue with her, to tell her I was right and she was wrong and bad. It was just about a parental decision, and that decision was not open for her to debate. I did not say, but I had hoped, that SeaFed could carry this one message to her without my involvement, but here we were. I picture Lucy Ricardo running around in the switchboard inside his head, frantically pulling lines out of holes and shoving them into others willy-nilly.
“Fine, if this is all this is about, I will stop drinking right now. I quit as of this moment,” she said. In a way I cannot really explain, it hurt me to hear the conviction and sincerity in her voice.
“Okay,” I said. “We can revisit things when you are serious about sobriety. Perhaps a year in.”
“How will you even KNOW, SJ? How will you KNOW what I do? You won’t know what I do when you’re not around.” My sister and I glanced at each other–whiplash.
“You’re right. I don’t know what you do when I’m not around. I made the choice to be away from you for myself and my kids.” I can only operate on the information I have, I thought, which doesn’t sound starkly different than the way things were when I was growing up.
“This is about YOU,” she spat. “You’re SO bitter. You’re such a bitter person. This is about how I gave your kitten away when you were five. You hold grudges for years, don’t you?”
“This call is to tell you that SeaFed and I have decided that visits with Franny will be supervised now.”
“Well, you’re showing me. You FINALLY found an opening to punish me with. You took away my grandchildren and now this. Who’s going to supervise these visits, anyway? How are you going to enforce this?”
“This isn’t about punishing you, this is about me doing what’s best for Franny. When we agreed on this, SeaFed said he was willing to do it. There can be breakfasts or other meals together without alcohol. I’m sure you’d be welcome to go out where they live, too.”
“Ha! SeaFed said this was ALL YOU. That is was ALL COMING FROM YOU and he had nothing to do with this.” If this is at all true it might explain why she sounded surprised when I had stated my purpose at the outset–maybe? A few things she said seemed like half-truths–they just felt off.
“Okay, if that’s the case, then I will supervise the visits.” I slipped then. She riled me. “I’m sure we have a lot of catching up to do. It will be so much fun.” I’m not proud of that, at all.
There was really nothing else for me to say after that. I thought it was fair that she asked why and was willing to answer. I forgot how manipulative she can be, how mercurial. I listened to her heap abuse on my sister for what amounts to telling my mother’s secrets.
One thing that I hate about an emotional abuse situation is when the the person with the problem explodes if the abused person tries to take ownership of their own experiences and relate them to other people, rather than keeping it a secret. It was obviously a massive betrayal that Morgan had told me about my mother’s behavior around Christmas, which was scary and hurtful. There was no personal responsibility, only us attacking and betraying her.
After it was over, Morgan and I compared notes and we caught her in a couple of lies, so I’m not really sure what’s been said elsewhere. I’m willing to white knuckle through this weekend and give SeaFed a pass until I talk to him today or tomorrow. I did not slag on him during the call and presented a united front, which to my knowledge, it is. I’m going to present me dealing with my mother from here forward as a good thing and something I am taking off his hands, and thank you so much for dealing with the hassle of the commute for this long.
Most of the things my mother said to me did not really bother or surprise me. I spent a lot of time crying over the past in the past, and I am content with my decision. The only things that really bothered me was the implication that I was happy about causing this “havoc,” about turning the table over like this. I feel like if she could at all see straight right now, she would know that my ideal situation is everyone in my family fucking skipping together and holding hands with matching bows in our hair or beards.
There was also the implicit threat in a few of her statements that I don’t have control, that I don’t really know what’s going on, I felt it hovering over me. “I will take advantage of the chaos in your life” because I don’t have a reliable co-parent in SeaFed. I have let go of a lot of my control over things anyway, so I wouldn’t say I’m even approaching panic.
If there’s one thing being divorced has taught me, if you keep your head down and keep plodding and being the best parent you’re able to be, things may change, as in, you may be given the gift of your ex-husband leaving a voicemail message to say he is moving away the next week. And in the meantime, while you are hoping that things will get better, you look up and remember that you are doing all the best parenting you can and that your kid loves you and feels safe.
“It’s corny,” I said to Morgan, near the end of the night and the end of our energy. “But you know what we’re doing here? We’re breaking the cycle, for you, for me, for the girls, for if you have kids. We can do better.”
I dreamt I was crossing the street. It was my old house, the cul-de-sac I had grown up on. To my surprise Nietzsche came exploding out of the neighbor’s bushes. There must have been some mistake; I got new cats when my cat was actually right here. She was so glossy and young-looking, and looked up at me expectantly like she always did to be petted. She was never a leg-swirler or meower.
The neighbor came towards me from her yard.
“She looks so good!” I said, petting her smooth coat and feeling her healthy flesh underneath.
“Yeah, it turns out you just weren’t taking care of her right,” she said.
“This is for the best,” she said, and turned away as I started crying.