Saturday, September 12, 2015

I Ain't God, Y'all. No Shit

About four o'clock yesterday I got the word that the memorial service for our Taylor's mama who died a few weeks ago, would be this morning at eleven. Although I am not even sure I ever met Taylor's mother, Taylor herself is a part of our family and always will be and so of course I had to go to the service.
I wasn't looking forward to it- I mean, who looks FORWARD to a memorial service- and when I got up this morning it was pouring rain. That kind of rain which seems happy to be where it is, no plans to move on any time soon.
But I had to go and had agreed to pick up our friend Togi from work to take him and that cheered me. Togi is man I just adore. On the surface two people could hardly be more dissimilar than Togi and I are but somehow, on some deep visceral level, we are much the same and every time I've ever had a conversation with him, it's been a good conversation. We skip the boring shit and get right to the real shit and we make each other laugh and I think we understand each other in a lot of ways.
Today was no exception.
When we got to the church, the rain had slacked some and we were very early but we found Hank and our friend Anna and we all settled in. Now Anna is a good Lutheran. And her church family is a good family. They are supportive of her in many ways and have been there for her when times were roughest in real and concrete ways. And she loves her church. She is a Christian and a church-going one at that but she never says a thing when I spout my atheist stuff but usually just laughs and she knows I respect her and even what she believes because if Anna believes what she believes, there's a reason. She's one of the smartest people I know. So I sat between Anna and Togi, who is also a Christian although the Jesus he follows is a radical Jesus and he and I share many beliefs about religion.
So before the service started, I told Anna to please not be offended if I didn't say all those creeds and things because I just don't believe them and she said that was okay and I didn't and she did and that's totally cool. I did not feel uncomfortable one bit.
And we shared a hymnbook and I sang the hymns because I grew up singing those songs and I know them and that was cool too, although can I say that these particular Presbyterians could not possibly sing any slower and every hymn was a dirge to wade through although at one point, the organist (and they do have a nice organ) got a little jiggy with it and that was nice. Anna had helped Taylor organize the event and all of the hymns and prayers and she did a good job and the minister did a good job and he'd known Taylor's mama as well as Taylor and her sister, for thirty years so he could speak from the heart to Taylor and her sister which makes a huge difference in such circumstances.

This was the same church my mother went to and at the reception afterwards, several people came up to me and talked about my mother. Which was not always comfortable for me. One woman told me she'd gone to see Mother the day before she died and that she'd been furious with the way the nurses were treating her and had even complained to the supervisor.
I'd seen Mother the day before that and it was a horrible experience. She was so angry and was taking it out on the nurses and staff and saying terrible things about them which I knew weren't true. Between the onset of dementia and the pain she was in from having broken her ribs and the drugs she was on for that pain, she was not in her right mind and she was accusing everyone of things that they were not guilty of which is not uncommon behavior in such circumstances. And this woman who was talking to me today had no idea that the things Mother had told her were not not exactly representative of the truth, so to speak. I feel bad for the nurses she chastised. I wonder what Mother told her about me, if anything. She wasn't happy with me the day I went to see her, I know that.

But it didn't cut me, this conversation, the way it could have. Or might have, once.

I remember at least a decade before my mother died, talking to a friend of mine about my troubled relationship with my mother. She told me, "Mary, you need to work these things out now because one day she will die and you will have regrets for the rest of your life."
As much as I pondered that, I just didn't see then or ever how that was going to happen. The working-out part, at least. I'd given up by then.
And whether the burden of that impossibility rested on my shoulders or hers or both of ours, I accepted it. And yet, I was a bit afraid that my friend had been right and I would go to my grave with regrets.

Well, I do have regrets but not the kind my friend was talking about. I regret a lot stuff about our relationship. A LOT! But I don't think I could have changed anything and I'm at peace with that and although I may be deceiving myself, I think I did the best I could.
And she may have too. That, at this point, is neither here nor there. It is just the reality of it.

There's so much blah-blah in our culture about forgiveness and understanding and healing and you know what? Sometimes I just don't think it's possible. As much as people talk about how forgiving someone is for our own sakes, I disagree. And what does that even mean if you're doing it for your own sake?
Forgiving someone (and I'm not necessarily talking about my mother here) and coming to peace with the knowledge that something unforgivable was done to you and/or someone you love, are two entirely different things.
Will I ever forgive my stepfather?
No. And so what?
While he was alive I had no desire whatsoever to allow him to believe for one second that I forgave him. Am I a cruel and unenlightened being?
Possibly. But I don't think so.
And I've seen so many people suffer and waste so much damn energy because they feel it is their duty to forgive a parent or someone who did them irreparable harm and they have been told over and over again that until they are able to do this- to forgive the unforgivable- they will never be able to heal.

Guess what? Some things you never do heal entirely from. Ever.
I always liken it to a friend of mine who had polio as a child. Did he survive the disease? Yes. After years in an iron lung. Is the virus still in his body? I don't think so. Will he ever be able to walk without crutches?
Some things a person can heal from entirely and truly and go on, stronger than ever before.
Some things however, will leave marks, scars, even deformities that will never go away.
And how ridiculous would it be for someone to suggest to these people that if they just forgave their disease, their accident and let the pain go...they would be fine and whole again?
No one in their right mind would suggest such a thing.

Do I think that it's entirely possible to release a lot of the anger and do a lot of healing from emotional injury? Yes. I do. Obviously. But a lot of that has to be acceptance that it happened along with the knowledge that it was in no way the fault of he or she who was abused or abandoned.
And often, just those two things are about the hardest thing you can do.

Well, as Lyle Lovett sang in this video

"God does, but I don't,
God will, but I won't
And that's the difference between God and me."

Such a great song. Definitely a favored hymn in the church of the Batshit Crazy.

I'm glad I went to that service. Not even so much for Taylor although I wanted her to know that I care about her and love her enough to be there. But also because I got to be with other people I love (May and Michael and Mark were there too) and because I got to share a hymnbook with Anna and because I got to talk to Togi and because I was reminded of a difficult time and it was okay.

Plus- all those great little crustless sandwiches and the punch with sherbet in it. Good Lord, but I love church-lady food.

Well, I guess that's all and god knows it's enough.
And so do I.

Love...Ms. Moon


  1. I feel like I've been to church with you and we've had a good conversation and sang a bit and ate those lovely church lady sandwiches together. That's because you've opened your whole heart here and to you whole truth and I get it. Completely. And I love you.

  2. Oh! Punch with sherbet! How I loved me some a that! I've got a case of non-forgiveness, too. My dear, sweet, wonderful mother-in-law was dying in the hospital some sixteen years ago. The whole family was gathered in the hospital, taking turns telling her how much we loved her. She was in and out of consciousness, but would mumble her son's name. We told her he'd caught a flight home from Texas and would be there soon. Well, six hours after his plane landed (the hospital was a 20-minute drive from the airport) he, and his brother who went to get him, showed up at the hospital drunker than two skunks! I was in the room with Mom when they stumbled in, and by then she was mostly out of it. They leaned over the woman who had given them life telling her they loved her. One son ended his sentence with a loud belch, and my husband immediately escorted them out of the room. Ten minutes later that beautiful woman passed. I told both of them that they could rot in hell for their gin-soaked breaths being the last thing their mother felt in this life. I also told both of them to never darken my doorstep again or even acknowledge me when they see me. I was told that forgiveness doesn't release the person I'm forgiving, but releases me. My response to that! That releasing shit is a bunch of hooey!

  3. It takes two to do the whole forgiveness/working out issues thing. TWO. I think you're right on the money about the whole thing. And church-lady food is the best. And I'm sorry about your friend's mom. I lost my dad not too long ago and while I'm doing better the last couple of weeks, it did take awhile.

  4. I, too, believe that forgiveness isn't always an option. Some people just aren't worth forgiving, they just are what they are and sometimes, stepping away from that crap is the ONLY thing you can do to save your own self from their bullshit. I chose not to repair certain relationships in my life, and sadly, lost my mom with things very unrepaired. I'm cool with that though, because I wasn't the only one responsible for the breakage. People who get hung up on forgiveness are people who second guess their decisions, I think. Not me.
    I am so very black and white sometimes.
    I'm glad you went to the service. Closure is such a gift.
    Now that you're streaming Netflix, watch the documentary about The Eagles. (The band, not the bird.) it's pretty fucking amazing! It's three hours long, but so very worth it.

  5. Mary you are so right about healing and forgiveness. It really is such a complex topic. Cruelty and abuse can be hard to forgive and how is that done ? I think that the assumption is if you forgive this will release the person from their trauma and ongoing pain. On the Netflix topic , well done . Technology often makes me feel powerless when I don't know how to do new things or fix stuff. I would think I was pretty fucking amazing if I did that ,Mary you are pretty fucking amazing .

  6. I agree on church lady food- THE best! You bared your soul today, as always, and were so right about not always being able to forgive, or to *fix* things in a relationship. Your writing is always thought provoking. Having just lost my Mom 4 months ago.....yes, I have regrets. But so did she. I can't say forgiveness was so much an issue as was honest conversation about each of our regrets, and acceptance. Truly listening without judgement. Nothing to be fixed other than good and open communication (for us, anyway). I guess my biggest regret now is not previously having been as open and honest as I was at the end of her life. We both could have done better in that aspect......but we gave it a darned good try and that is all that matters now.
    Susan M

  7. Mothers and daughters are such a complicated relationship. I do have some regrets with my Mom, hindsight is 20/20. I do believe I did the best I could taking care of her. I haven't had Church lady food in years. The last funeral I attended was sort of catered. Gail

  8. It 's so easy to just let this subject pass--again--but I can't. Over the years on this blog you have portrayed Mom as miserable, unhappy and meanspirited. Mom was the happiest, most giving and fun loving person I ever knew. She was hip, very liberal and passionate about the inequalities of this world. And no one laughed more than she did. She made friends easily, was beloved by many and had an innate sense of who she was and was very comfortable with that. That sense of grace. Why your relationship with her was so fucked up baffled her as well as me. I know it was her biggest regret. She felt she was missing out on having a good mother-daughter relationship.And I felt you were missing out on all the love and wisdom she had to offer. And I told you that many times ....but I know it's either there or it's not.... so.... there you go.. I was lucky I was given a lifetime of unconditional love and support from her so it was easy for me to give it back in spades. This isn't fun for me to post but I have to Sis--

  9. Thank you so much for this post. As heartinhand said, forgiveness is not always an option. But I wonder if we are defining it differently? If forgiveness means knowing my mother did the best she could, even though it was pretty shit out of luck, then I guess I forgive. I find with people are mentally ill, it's hard to differentiate between how much they just can't help and how much they could do better if they gave enough interest to try. Anyway, there don't seem to be many people who have these complicated relationships with their mother, and it's so comforting to know I'm not alone. She taught me to be her opposite and in that I am very grateful for my wonderful life. Love to you Mary Moon and thanks for being here every day. I don't comment much but I'm always here. Love, Anon Suz

  10. Addendum-After I posted I read your brother's response. Same in my family and for years it made me feel crazy. Parents have a different relationship with each child, especially given birth order and gender. My sister adored my mother because they were almost identical people. I was independent, difficult at times, didn't do too well with authority, didn't like rules that were unfair or stupid, I was so different from my mother. It created terrible conflict that got worse and worse. She was narcissistic and had a view of what our relationship should be but forgot to take into account who I was! My sister was everything she imagined. So, your brother is right but we're right too! Anon Suz

  11. Angella- And I love you too.

    Catrina- That's a very hard story to read. I'm so sorry that it happened that way. Death is a lot like birth I think. Some go easy and gracefully and some have complications. I'd have a hard time forgiving that behavior as well.

    jenny_o- No matter the relationship we have with our parents, when they die, there is definitely a shift in our universe. It must be recognized. And if it was a close and loving relationship, that shift can be massive.

    heartinhand- Yep. Step away. That's about all you can do sometimes. You may say you are black and white but I think that very often you just see clearly. It's those shades of gray that can fuck us up, isn't it? I will watch that movie if I can remember. I actually know (very vaguely) one of the original Eagles. He's a friend of Lon and Lis's. And he has a lot of family around here.

    Leisha- Honestly, that whole Ruku and netflix thing was pretty darn easy. Otherwise, trust me- I would not have been able to do it. And that assumption about forgiveness may be true but it may be hooey.

    Susan M- That IS all that matters. You did good, honey.

    Gail- Can there be a more complicated relationship? And yet, I feel like the relationships I have with my daughters is pretty plain and easy and good. They are wonderful daughters, though. Maybe that's it- I could have been a better one. I do not know how though. I wish it had all been different.

    White- And as I have told you- it is the easiest thing in the world for you to start your own blog, to write of our mother as you saw her, as you remember her. I think that would be awesome because you are an amazing writer and a life-time journalist and it would be a natural and good extension of your daily writing. Another creative outlet for you where you could put your amazing photographs and thoughts, keep the history of your life, our ancestors, your children in a place that perhaps grandchildren of your own could access. I am deeply grateful that you had a good relationship with our mother. That was solace to her and a joy.

    Anon Suz- Well, this it exactly. Every child in every family is raised by different parents, especially in dysfunctional families. The relationships between parents and children can be completely different and that is just the truth. It's interesting that you say that you grew up being the opposite of your mother and I think, especially as relates to my relationships with my daughters, that is true of me as well. I think that my mother, too, was narcissistic (oh, my brother is going to hate this!) and she could be as charming and delightful as anyone on this earth at times. And I feel certain, to give her credit, that many of the things she said to me were said without one thought of how they might make me feel. It is a deep sadness in my life that she and I had the relationship we had.

  12. so much in this post. I think I've mentioned I had a non-relationship with my mother as well. I've written about our relationship earlier in my blog life and my brother also does not understand my opinion or relationship but he was the baby and the only male child and the only one to carry on the family name and the sun rose and set on him as far as my parents were concerned. there wasn't a single thing that he did or was involved in that she wasn't there supporting him. I got none of that (to the point that they even denied me friends because they didn't approve of the people I wanted to be friends with) nor did my sister though she, as first born, got more than I did. so yes, we all have different relationships with our mothers and just because your brother had a good one does not mean that you could have also. my mother would probably also be clueless why I didn't like her, much less love her. and we do give up finally trying to make it happen. mostly. I think I've told you this before, that when she died I cried not for the loss of her but for the loss of the possibility of ever having the relationship I wanted with her. so, some things cannot be forgiven, should not be forgiven. you can move on, stop letting it control your life, get even with it, accept it even but not forgive. I don't feel any regret for my coldness toward my mother. I did my duty when she was failing, being the only child near enough to do that, until she went to live with my brother who put her in a family home, but there was plenty of love lost between us.

  13. Ellen Abbott- In so many ways, you and I are alike. I could go on and on here but I certainly do not want my blog to become a he-said/she-said. I love and respect my brother but this is one subject that we cannot and do not agree on. And how can we? Our realities were completely separate.
    But I know you understand and that is of great comfort to me. Thank you, Ellen, for taking the time to make this comment, to express how it was for YOU.

  14. You and your daughters seem to have such a wonderful relationship. My relationship with my son is good, but we have our moments. Gail

  15. My relationships with each of my children are so intensely different, and yet I am the same person. I know they will have such different recollections of me, because they are such different people. Every relationship is an interaction of two particular energies, and sometimes they harmonize and sometimes they are discordant, and every moment forward is based on the moment before, the shared experiences, for good or ill, sometimes adding up to very different outcomes. I'm sorry your different experiences of your mom create a discordance between your brother and you. I'm sure you're both telling your whole truths.

  16. Absolutely, relationships can be different as night and day between each child and each parent. I can think of examples very close to me on both sides of the family. I think it tends to arise most from personality differences and uneven parenting. And as Angela says, every moment is affected by preceding moments, on and on as the years pass.

    I also think that this is not necessarily apparent to every child, even when they have grown up. Again, I've seen several examples in just my small circle.

  17. I think different siblings might well have had different parents, they can experience such disparate upbringings. Your truth is your truth, though, however it manifests itself.

  18. This post, and your brother's response, certainly are a testament to how different intra-familial relationships can be. Of course you're both right, from your perspectives.

    I honestly don't know about the forgiveness question. I am blessed enough to not have been put in a situation where I had someone to forgive (or not) for an egregious wrong. I think, as you said, there's a learning-to-live-with-it that is NOT the same thing as forgiving, but I can see how that's ultimately as close as some people can get.

  19. Gail- Well, I'm just lucky as hell. And I know it.

    Angella- Yes, yes, and yes! That is so true and thank you. I love you and your generous, huge heart.

    jenny_o- Isn't it odd and yet, isn't it true? Families are the most complex things there are. They can be the source of the most support and love and they can be the most hurtful things on earth.
    And we really need to be aware that there may be no real truth of it ever. We all see through our own lenses. And that can make things very hard.

    Jo- Yes m'am.

    Steve Reed- It's as close as this old woman can get. I tell you that.

  20. I love that you tell the truth. Your truth. I am often too scared to. I hope no one scares you out of doing that. I love you. X

  21. The old wounds from parental defects still come back to me in dreams. In the light of day though, I understand that both of my parents were struggling with their own problems. My mother had terrible depression in later life. I choose to remember her before all of that because the last 20 years with her were terrible to deal with. My father drank and was critical, but I know that he had his own demons. I would certainly do things differently with him now. I would talk to him more openly and share my feelings more. I did not do that when he was alive. I know that I was protecting myself but I also had a lot of resentment. I understand that if I look at my part, I was often difficult and headstrong. Too much like my father I suppose.

    That being said, all anyone can do is try to stay sane in a life filled with emotionally fucked up people. You are different from your brother. Your truths are your own. My wife and I have different thoughts about her dad. He was an angry man. An alcoholic who was verbally abusive. Somehow I was able to reconcile with him at a level of love that I did not think possible before he died. My wife did not. It is okay because she had many more years in the trenches with him than I.

    It is no wonder that given what we live through that we are scarred and stay wounded. Just know that you are loved and cherished now for who you are. That is what's really important.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.