Driving Me Mad

Spent four hours in the car with Mom last weekend.

Picked her up in The Park, and we went out to dinner, and then to a dance recital for my youngest nephew.  Drove an hour back to my place to spend the night and relax a little.  The next day, we drove to visit my cousin for the memorial service for her deceased husband.  After lunch with extended family, and a beer with The Boy, i drove her back to The Park Saturday evening.

A bit of a whirlwind visit – tiring for her, but she was a trooper and enjoyed herself.  Lots of time together to talk.  And talk she did.

In addition the continued “spleen vent” about the slow progress* on renovations to her home, updates on various family members, and the requisite recital of her current medical complaints, we also covered a few other family issues.

My brother, T, and his wife are getting a divorce.  His third.  Her first.  It appears to be civil.  My Mom and oldest sister, S, have been trying to provide emotional support to T as he gets things sorted out and prepares to set out on his own – yet again.

He and i have talked a few times over the past few months.  i’ve offered to listen, as needed.  He asked me to help him update his resume, as he’ll need to find a more substantial job.

Mom seemed a bit surprised that T had been in contact with me.

Mom:  He told us something in confidence.  Now, if I tell you this, it’s in confidence.  Did he tell you that he’d been raped when he was 12 years old?

daisyfae:  Yes.  Back in November.  i remember getting absolutely furious when that Penn State coach was busted for raping children around the same time he told me.

Mom:  He told you then?  Why didn’t you say something about it?

daisyfae:  He told me in confidence**.  He was working with a counselor to sort through all of it.  Said he planned to talk to you and S about it soon.  i figured it’s his issue.  He needed to handle it the way he needed to handle it.

Mom:  Well, it was bound to happen.  He was always wandering off and catching rides with strangers!  It really doesn’t surprise me that he was molested…

If it is physiologically possible for a human being to simultaneously drop her jaw and bite her tongue?  In that moment, i did it.

daisyfae:  It wasn’t his fault!  He was twelve years old!  [calming down so as to keep the car in the lane of travel].  There’s no excuse for raping a child.  It wasn’t his fault.

Mom:  If he’d have told us about it, we’d have contacted the police.  But he was always running off like that…

i tuned it out.  There were still forty miles to go before we got to where we were headed and i needed to drive.

But i had to wonder:  Did she say this to him when he told her?

i need to call my brother.  Check in to see how he’s doing.

image found here

* Some progress after 3 years.  My niece, DQ’s husband, BJ, is laid off again.  While he is getting unemployment compensation, he’s been able to do a little more work on prep for the heating/air conditioning system.  “Some progress” is better than the “micro-progress” that was happening last year. 

** And Momma wonders why i’ve never told her ANYTHING personal all these decades…

34 thoughts on “Driving Me Mad

  1. OMG you just described my older sister to a tee! I kindly refer to her as being a toxic personality, because to use the words I’d really like would be beyond insult. It’s as if she is completely missing a damn sensitivity chip and has no discretion whatsoever. It took me a very long time to learn that although I love her dearly, she will never be a shoulder I can lean on without regret.
    I hope your brother is doing well. Make that call. It sounds like he needs you now more than ever.

    • she’s always been very negative and bitter. it’s gotten more pronounced as she’s aged… i know she has a huge heart, and wants to help. she just has a sharp tongue to go with it…

    • She doesn’t think about how things come out…suspects she feels a little guilty that it happened, even though it wasn’t her fault either. very tragic for him, though. he’s working through it, along with other challenges. i think he’ll get to the other side of it… and yes. there are evil people in the world. causing harm to a child is about the worst.

    • she doesn’t realize the impact of her words. never really has. the reason for the tongue biting? i know that barking at her, trying to get her to realize that her words carry a powerful implication would be lost. i can’t change her after all these years. not much point yelling at her.

  2. Many deep breaths. If you bite your tongue in two you will not be able to tell your brother that you are there for him.
    My family infuriates me too. It seems that the empathy gene has been excluded from the DNA of at least two of them.
    On your behalf, I am screaming loudly.

    • she does have a big heart… she wants to help. she simply doesn’t understand the implications that come with such statements. lack of empathy is a huge part of it. i think it’s crushed by the ‘drama dna’…

  3. The “he/she was asking for it” argument. Never bloody understood that – sorry hackles rising on this one. I just don’t get it when people say that.

    One of life’s lessons for me was once when I said to someone wise “I try to always treat others as I would like to be treated”… “Really?” he said “Seems a bit pompous of you” Blank stare from me “Try to treat others how they would like to be treated that is the real trick”… bombshell explosion in head. HOLY COW! I learnt a huge lesson in that few minutes and it is a lifetime of struggle since – you can never ever really ever fully know the right answer to that can you… but makes you readjust your default reaction from time to time

    • it is a struggle – how can you know how someone else wants to be treated? but it does reframe the point of view nicely. and opens the door to simply ask someone…

      when i am angry? i cry. the top of the list of ways i do NOT want to be treated in that moment? comfort. human nature makes people want to put an arm around you, offer sympathy… no one could possibly expect that what i really need is a board to break when tears of rage are pouring down my face.

      you never can know the right answer to that question – but it’s a question worth thinking about!

  4. I haven’t heard about mom in quite some time. She used to be a big topic of conversation around these parts. I didn’t realize I missed it.

    Try to talk bro out of #4. Some of us are just not the marrying type.

    Off topic: Our blogfather lost his kitty cat after 18 years. Gypsy was a fine feline.

    • She was asking about you, too. You should call more often… i’ll let her know you still care.

      Don’t expect #4. Although he’s stopped drinking, lost 50 pounds and looks healthier and better than he’s looked in years!

      Yes, saw the news about Gypsy on the eff-books… Hard to say goodbye to the critters. 18 years is a good run.

  5. So… I guess if someone beats the shit out of Mom and steals her purse, it’s her fault for carrying a purse and leaving the house? Or would she see it differently if it happened to her? Damn but that’s some serious lack of empathy there. But then, she was confiding in you, so maybe she wouldn’t say this to him (one would hope). My wife was pointing out to me other day an observation that the older people get, the more they just “say whatever they feel.” Maybe that’s the case. I’ve noticed that tendency in my own Mom. She’s nice to me, but sometimes I wonder what she tells other people. Not that I really care. Just a point of curiosity.

      • i believe this to be true, also. there are learned behaviors, too — as in, i can say tough things and nothing bad ever happens — but it has to be physiological as well!

    • i like to think she didn’t react that way – but i’ve seen her do it before. and she was like this when we were younger, too, but it’s gotten more pronounced through the years. i like your analogy… but using it with her would be of no consequence. she’s wired how she’s wired…

  6. And yes, I made an audible gasp at ‘well it was bound to happen’. Having almost dismissed various swear words from my mind I now wonder if perhaps this minimalising attitude masks some feelings of guilt on your mother’s part? Not that it was anyone’s fault but the perpetrator’s . . .
    Actually, I’m still swearing at your mother in my head. My heart goes out to the child your brother was and the man he is now.

    • i think it does mask a LOT of guilt on my mother’s part. she put my oldest sister and brother in foster care when they were young. she was a single mother with two small children and limited resources – so she had to work 3 jobs to try to earn enough to get on her feet. she felt it was her only option. unpleasant things happened to them in one foster care home – and she’s carried guilt for that. the fact that my brother suffered additional trauma on HER watch? certainly doesn’t help.

      even though i might have some understanding for why Mom said this – and all of the other mean, unfiltered, unsympathetic things she’s said to all of us – it doesn’t make it any less infuriating. i’ve learned to let it bounce off of me. my brother is obviously in a more fragile state at the moment – and i suspect he’s not as resourceful.

  7. I think tuning out was the best solution.
    I think maybe you & I come from the same blood line! lol
    Teflon skin is a beautiful thing innit?!

    As harsh as what she said is, she also comes from a different generation where that was the prevailing thought.
    Not an excuse. Just an observation.
    I have to remind myself of this when my Father lets loose with his vile craziness.

    I hope your brother can reconcile in his head and heart what happened all those years ago and heal the injured little boy within,
    From the sounds of it, Mom has some demons of her own to try and come to terms with.

    • a few years ago – within the lifetime of this blog – this incident would have had me enraged for months. clipping my words. perhaps skipping a weekly phone call to her in my anger… somewhere along the way, i’ve either accepted that i can’t do a single thing to change her behaviour, or i’ve completely disconnected myself from her emotionally. the only reason this upset me is the possibility that she said this to my brother in his susceptible state of mind…

      we all have demons. thanks for the insights. i think you nailed it.

  8. I just went through this same type of rigamaroll with my mother in law. Not exactly the same situation but similar and I just couldn’t believe her complete lack of empathy and inability to grasp the situation. She’s constantly saying things about my husband’s childhood that piss me off to no end, but I don’t tell him. He was abused and she walked in on it and now she makes these same types of excuses. He was only 12 yrs old when it happend and she totally mistook the situation for something he wanted, called him names and then tried to talk to him about it later and wonders why he wouldn’t open up to her about it. IDK, maybe your mom feels guilty and this is her way of coping with it. Maybe it’s the same with my MIL. My husband hardly speaks to her and she wonders why. My own mom was a bit of a trip too but not as bad. I think she was more compassionate, at least. Ah well, such is life. Carry on…carry on….I’m just trying really hard not to repeat the cycle with my own son.

    • i wish i could wave my hand and say “hey, it’s just how they were raised back then”… but your mother-in-law seems to have missed that part about ‘mama bear protecting the cubs’.

      trying not to repeat is the key. most of the time, i think i did ok — not tormenting my children with the same boneheaded mistakes i encountered growing up. but i know that i’ve done my own share of damage. in new, and creative, ways. perhaps this “parent/child malfunction” simply can’t be avoided in modern western culture…

      sending kind thoughts to your husband. and congratulating him for shutting her down and walking away…

  9. Good grief, what an incredibly insensitive thing to say about your brother. Some people lack the empathy gene, but as you say it sounds like there’s an unwillingness to take her responsibility for her abandoning him and a frustration with the course of her life which might be becoming sharper the older she gets and the regrets become more concentrated.

    I’m very glad your brother’s got you though.

    • she’s always been a bit crunchy, and never had much in the way of empathy – or filters, for that matter. she has always carried a sense of ‘i deserve a better life’. and rarely shown appreciation for the good things she’s had… i can’t do much with that. other than put on my kevlar and teflon and stay out of the line of fire…

  10. As I read this and the comments, so many things popped into my head. OMG was the first one. LIke someone above said, He/she was asking for it is the worst reaction to any rape. NO one is ever asking for rape.

    So as you go through this with your mother, it gives me hope that I will be able to cope with my father and his issues.

    And I wondered what kind of people would have been created if your mother and my father had ever successfully mated…. Lack of empathy gene x 2…. sounds scary

    • not sure i’m really ‘going through’ anything with Mom. she remains completely oblivious that she’s said anything hurtful or inappropriate. the greatest change over the past few years? i just don’t let it bother me as much. this one was pretty outrageous… but most of the little nuggets she shoots from her hip – things that would have rankled me years ago – simply don’t register. i’ve either grown stronger, or (more likely) broke my give-a-shit meter when it comes to what my mother thinks of me.

      she is what she is. perhaps she’s done the best she could have with what she was dealt – both genetically and socially. you can’t go back in time and change your father’s behavior. he is what he is, and has done what he’s done. the only thing you can do is consider your responses to him… and see if a different approach is less stressful for you.

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