Journal: Putting Mother to Rest

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(Saturday, March 16, 2019, 10:15 pm)

I just went out with an old friend of mine from high school. She was my only female friend in high school and she’s a rather atypical female. The last time I talked to her it was just before I fled to Cambodia. I told her all the stuff that had happened with my parents up to that point. Tonight I filled her in on what happened after that and what happened in Cambodia. I told her some of what happened in Vietnam and since then, but not everything. But when I told her about the rest of what my parents had done, she was sort of quiet for a minute and I wasn’t sure what she was thinking. Sometimes it seems like when I tell people about this stuff, they maybe don’t entirely believe me. Finally she said that her parents have done some pretty awful, fucked up stuff (and they definitely have), but what my parents did was just so much worse. She said that they’re the ones that are supposed to protect me from bad shit, but instead they intentionally inflicted it on me and it’s just too shockingly awful. 

It was really nice that she said that. I was feeling kind of uncertain about telling her because I hadn’t seen her in so long and because it really sucks when it seems like people don’t quite believe it or don’t take it seriously. She said that maybe when I tell people, it just seemed that way because it’s so shocking that they might just not know how to react. And maybe that is it sometimes. I don’t know. But it was nice telling someone and then not feeling defensive about their reaction.

I have had a couple of other interesting cathartic experiences this week, as well. The first is that I realized that I am actually a significantly better driver than my mother ever was. She didn’t get her licence until she was 27 because she totalled the driver’s ed car. When she did get it, it wasn’t because she passed the driving test. She never took one. She prayed for a driver’s licence and one day it just came in the mail. That’s what she says. And she’s always slamming on the brakes at every stop light and just generally driving badly. I can’t count the number of times I heard her say “Hang on! We’re gonna crash!” while reaching her arm out to hold me in my seat as if I weren’t wearing a seatbelt. And about two thirds of the time, when she said that, we actually did crash. I was in several accidents with her where the car was totaled. I have no idea how many minor ones there were.

I didn’t get my licence until just before we left for Cambodia. I’m definitely not a confident driver, but it’s generally pretty smooth and pretty safe. I have had no accidents, no tickets, no incidents of any sort. And I have never said “We’re gonna crash!”

The other thing probably seems silly, but it felt sort of significant to me for some reason. When I was a kid, my mom had this wavery, way-off-key way of singing in church. It was pretty awful. My sister and I would regularly (and rather rudely) ask her not to sing (outside of church) because it was so terrible. I still feel guilty for that (even after everything). And I don’t sing in front of people. I only do it when no one’s around. I guess I have this fear that my singing (and driving, etc) will be like my mother’s. I don’t want to be anything like my mother, in any way at all, ever. But today I started singing along with an Ed Sheeran song in the car with my kid. It’s my favorite song on that CD but she doesn’t like it and I was annoyed that she was complaining through it, so I started singing louder. And she said, “Wow, Mom. You’re a really good singer.” Admittedly, she is not exactly a discerning musical critic, but even so, I felt this warm sense of triumph over the dark, looming image of my mother that always haunts me. It was a very nice moment.

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