Up until about a year ago, I believed my maternal side of the family mostly hated me just like my “matriarch” always did. I don’t know why or how I had that planted firmly in my mind.. They were never mean or cruel to me! Maybe it was the lack of trust or just my depth of general fear of mother…seeing these folks as extensions of her?
What I discovered instead though is a dysfunctional, but definitely loving and caring, part of my family I was never permitted to get very close to or spend much time with growing up. None of them seem to have the evil coursing through their empty hearts that my mother does.
Instead, after several heart to heart chats, I find out that I am not her only victim. Rather she’s had many long before I was even born and many since she’s ceased acknowledging my existence at all.
My Mammaw (maternal side) passed away from cancer yesterday morning. My mother always said hideously ugly things about her mother and her sister to me growing up (just like she did about my daddy). Half the time she wasn’t speaking to them which of course meant I wasn’t allowed to see them often or get very close to them.
Apparently back in 1973 when mother left my daddy for a wealthy man old enough to be her father, my Mammaw testified in court for my dad to get custody of we children; A Shocking choice for such a traditional, deeply Christian woman from the hills of Eastern Kentucky to think very small children are better off with their father!
My mother hated her for this most of my life,so my visits with Mammaw were rare and sporadic at best. (Out of love for my daddy and the desire to not do take my children’s opportunity to have a grandmother from them, I stupidly didn’t make this same choice as my mother… I have a post somewhere here about that truly ignorant and naive choice which I’ll pay for the rest of my life.)
I recall two deep conversations with my Mammaw . Both were after I was into my teens. Interestingly enough, these chats directly and drastically contradicted the stories my mother told all my life. First, Mammaw said when my sister and I were babies, every time she visited our house, mother was gone and daddy was home alone caring for us. Mother had always said my “no good dad was always drunk and running the streets leaving us alone with her and no food on the table”. Since my daddy was so affectionate and present when I was with him and mother seemed to want to be anywhere but home paying attention to her kids, and often took we kids on her various rendezvous with her lovers cheating on our step father whom she had cheated on our father with before leaving him , mammaw’s story really made sense and tied in better with the fact that she testified against her own daughter for child custody ( in the early 70’s even when most EVERY one firmly believed children belonged with their mothers!)
Many other stories Mammaw told me had these vast contradictions. I won’t share every one of them right now because this post would be longer than I have time to write this morning…
I think my second validation that I wasn’t born the awful horrible, can’t- do -anything- right-child mother said was when my Mammaw apologized once to me when we were alone. She told me she knew mother hadn’t wanted me and treated me badly and that she’d always prayed for a way to get me away from her even wanting to adopt me herself, but that she knew she probably would never win that battle in those days and then she’d never have gotten to see me at all if she’d tried that. She told me my sister and I weren’t actually my dad’s kids and my dad suspected that but he didn’t care a bit , he chose to love us like his own anyway. She said I was the result of an affair mother had had on my daddy with a tall wealthy blonde man whom she’d hoped would marry her but who refused to. So mother had to play a second child off as my daddy’s. Mammaw said I was the “spittin image” of this man and that this was the real reason mother was so cruel to me because I reminded her of the man she desperately wanted and couldn’t have ( my sister actually looks Asian or Polynesian (weird??!??) and I don’t resemble anyone in my family) .
I cried a lot at the validation that mother’s cruelty to me all my life wasn’t because I really did just deserve it. I cried to think that my Mammaw didn’t actually believe I was just a horrible child and to realize mother’s cruelty looked just as cruel and undeserving in her grown up eyes as well as my childish ones. I didn’t cry about my daddy though. Somehow I felt certain I DO belong to him no matter what.
From my maternal side of the family, I’ve learned recently that mother has targeted everyone of them for one reason or another and has been extremely cruel/occasionally nice when it suits her to each of them all their lives in various awful ways as well.
All these years, I truly believed I was the only person mother hated… When reality is mother hates nearly everyone at one time or another. She hates ANY one she can’t control or ANY one with a differing opinion than she. She also hates anyone who doesn’t go along with her blaming her victims for what she chooses to hurt them with.
Yes, mother hates almost everyone at one point or another. She has done unthinkably cruel things to many people, not just me. This validation almost feels good …except that I have to face the fact that she has done so much to hurt so many on her life.
I almosr felt better thinking she only hated me. Thinking she only punished me for being so naturally very different from her. But certainly the validation that it isn’t “just that I’m a horrible human being “, but it truly Is just that she is just a monster through and through is a bit of a relief.
Although I never got to be as close to my Mammaw as I’d always wanted, I love her very much for her honesty, her utter devotion to Jesus and the Bible, her caring when I believed no one did or could, and the validation she brought to my heart which gave me my first tiny pieces of hope that I wasn’t just an unlovable, horrible bad seed.
Thank you for that Mammaw! And your easy giggles and sweet kisses and your chocolate pies which were always my favorite!
RIP Walsie Rose. You will be missed.