Last week I wrote about how my mother’s controlling behavior and her contempt for men drove our family apart. Our family became increasingly fragmented since I was a young girl. By my early teen years, I secretly wished they would divorce; sparing me the burden of the toxic environment.
When my brother and I went off to college, it left my father as the sole recipient of my mother’s wrath. As a final bluff for full control of his testicles and soul, my mother packed my Dad’s belongings and put them in the driveway while he was out fishing for the day.
To her astonishment, he left, found a room to rent, and immediately began rebuilding his life as if he were preparing to do so for years.
Mom’s fall from the pedestal was a long one. To prop oneself up high enough to think you deserve the right to control other people requires building a tall ladder from unstable materials. The higher one goes, the surer and further the fall.
My mom was completely shattered by the realization that my father would never come back. She made several desperate attempts to woo him, but my father was in pursuit of the peace he always longed for and wasn’t looking back.
This was the beginning of a long road to recovery for Mom. A very humbling time.
My dad never got the chance to achieve his dream
About a year after my parents divorced, my father started dating a very nice divorcee around his age and I was initially very happy for him.
But, I quickly witnessed my father taking out his unresolved frustrations and years of eating shit on his new love interest and her son. She was clearly submissive – completely the opposite of my mother – and my dad reacted like a shark smelling blood in the water. I witnessed him become a verbally-abusive dick.
About two years into this, my father went to the ER for lower back pains. Suspicious, the doctor insisted on admitting him and doing blood work. The next day he developed pneumonia. He was then diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. He deteriorated before our eyes and three days later he passed away.
During my father’s traumatic whirlwind deterioration, my mother humbly accepted a back seat role as our family and Dad’s girlfriend huddled together in hospital waiting rooms making split second, life-altering decisions. At the same time we were also trying to make sense of our feelings and our possible futures without our father, ex-husband, boyfriend, victim and victimizer.
The closing of this chapter seemed like a new, more stable beginning for my mother.
Being a control freak doesn’t have to be a life sentence
In these early days of my mom’s recovery, she had only gone on one date that I know of. I think she tried too hard and she couldn’t handle the rejection again. So, instead of pursuing more dating, she resigned herself to being the best matriarch of the family that she could possibly be.
Mom spent the next several years rebuilding her relationships within our family. And rebuild them she did.
Gone were the days of judgement and condemnation of those of us who battled marital problems, addiction or money problems (you know… all of us). Over the years our extended family has become incredibly close and reliant on my mother’s Martha Stuart-like way of hosting our holiday and birthday get togethers. Our family now has a foundation of true, unconditional love. It is the transformative element everyone is looking for.
So how did my mother become my hero?
Lost in this story was the disintegration of my own relationship. Coming out of college, I met the “man of my dreams”. We were to have 2.5 kids, a dog, a white picket fence and be immortalized in a Norman Rockwell painting.
But, my husband’s idea of ideal didn’t completely match up with mine. He worked long hours at times and liked to go out for drinks after work once or twice a week.
How selfish! I found this unnerving and unsettling. My mind was made up. I wouldn’t let him wreck my kids’ family experience the way mine was wrecked. I became an irrational, controlling bitch-fest of a wife.
I became my mother.
Three years into this, I was blind-sided when my husband and father of my child left us with no warning. I was devastated.
The truth is, in hind sight, there were plenty of warnings. But, I was too wrapped up in my phony ideals and propped up way too high on my perch to be able to hear them.
But, Mom did. It was all too clear to her that I was following right in her foot steps. And back then, I was too filled with resentment to engage in meaningful dialect with her regarding my relationship. I mean, how could I take a single word of advice from this woman regarding a relationship?!
My mother clearly felt the same way. She never offered a single word of unsolicited advice. She only offered gentle encouragement and confessions of her realizations of her own short comings.
In short, my mother grew from her mistakes and matured into an amazingly wise person that now leads by example. It’s an incredibly brave thing to watch your younger likeness take her lumps knowing that the best you can offer is the unconditional love that heals wounds, relieves anxiety and provides clarity.
Over the years my mother has watched her children grow up, get divorced and struggle onward dreading the feelings of guilt and shame that emotionally crippled us as kids. Over time a new trust was born amongst us. The family nucleus now lifted us out of our despair rather than piling shame on it. It emanates from Mom. My mother has reset the dynamic of the entire extended family.
Some people are born into well adjusted families and play the part of their child’s hero so effortlessly. But a select few that are shaped by very challenging life experiences and triumph over them to become your hero… that’s the stuff of superheroes in my book.
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