I love my mother. I have come to this over the years. I love her and I wish she was here to be part of my life. If my mother had not been so sick with alcohol addiction, she would be 79 years old now and a source of wisdom to her family. She would not have done the terrible things she did.
But mom was a revenge drinker. This is a known fact. She told both my sister and me on separate occasions that our father had been the one to introduce her to alcohol. I have a letter in my possession from an old family friend, Gertrude, to my mother. In it she tells mom that there’s nothing wrong with drinking but that one shouldn’t do it to get back at someone.
The someone she was getting back at was dad. He spent money like water. He ran around on her. She told me after I was grown that he’d even gotten a woman pregnant in another state and paid for her to have an abortion. My mother never was able to let go of the sins against her. What she didn’t seem to realize at any point is that my sister and I suffered the most from her revenge.
I was thinking about that the other day as I worked on my book (I really am working on it, I promise), going over moments that remain in my memory and trying out mental puzzle pieces to see how they fit.
Once at a party my parents were having, my mother, very drunk, was angry at me for closing my bedroom door and was trying to pry the door off the hinges and remove it.
She’d told me not to close my door. I did it anyway, being the recalcitrant teenage daughter that I was. My father’s music was loud, the people in my house were talking and laughing far too loudly, and there were clouds of already stale cigarette smoke wafting down the hall. I just wanted some peace.
I could have allowed her to do whatever it was she wanted to do with my door. I could have kept the fight between the two of us. But I chose the most damning strategy of retaliation in that moment. I called out for my father.
I had to scream his name for the sound to carry over the Easy Rider soundtrack playing on the console. He came running, and grabbed her like a linebacker coming for the running back in a slow motion football play. It was overkill but it felt so good to exact my revenge on her in this way. 4th and 10. Dad wrestled mom away from my door and back down the hall.
My mother had been utterly humiliated right in front of me. Her parenting authority was obliterated by this move and we all knew it, consciously or not.
I wondered yesterday if this was not also the final scene of their marriage. It occurred to me that maybe mom had held the door incident against me and that was why in a few months, when my father left for good, she put me on the street and kept my little sister. Maybe paybacks really are hell.