The letter arrived today.Though I won’t mark it return to sender.I won’t open it right away either. I will parcel out its contents the way I would with any bitter medicine.
This isn’t a happy letter telling me that I got into the college of my choice or that I am a grand prize winner. This missive is from my mother trying to break up with me. As my boyfriend and I were leaving after a visit with her, she refused to open the door of her bedroom, saying that she didn’t want to let the cat out. I knew this was code--she was very angry with me.
Arrivals and departures are the only times that my mother is affectionate. The fact that she did not want a hug or a kiss good-bye was a bad sign. As we were about to shut the front door, she called out that she would be sending me a letter. Letter writing is when my mother is at her most brutal.
She doesn’t believe in vaguely ending things and usually writes a letter informing the receiver on why she doesn’t want them in her life anymore. “Why do you always have to make such a big deal of it?” I often ask. She never has a good reason and letting things die quietly is not in her skill set.
Since most of her friends have passed away, she hasn’t had to end as many friendships lately. When you are 87 do you really have to formally announce that you are not talking to someone? It just seems to me to be unnecessarily mean and take way too much effort. Why she can’t just pretend that she didn’t hear the phone (which is a normal occurrence) or that she is too old to visit (also true)? But if my mother is finished with you, she wants you to know about it.
I knew at some point, she would try to cut me off. I guess that day has come. Unfortunately for her, blood is thicker than spite and I learned early on how to ignore her when she gets in “cutting people out of her life” mode.
If I weren’t my mother’s daughter and we met, we wouldn't become friends. We share no commonalities. She loves nature and long walks but hates having possessions. I enjoy all things pop culture and have a lot of stuff. If my mother saw all my crap, she'd pass out on the spot. Beyond that, I’m just not my mother’s type of person and she isn't mine. I hate the feeling that she dislikes me. No matter how hard I try to be good, respectful and patient, we just don’t get along. I don’t have to read the letter to know how she feels.
I will place the letter where I put all the letters I save--in an old rusty MTV lunch box. Most of the contents of my letter box are love letters--this will be my first “I don’t want to love you anymore” letter. I doubt I will ever pull it out when I am feeling adrift in the world. I want to forget that I received this letter but destroying it won't take away the sting of getting it in the first place.
Why is it that no matter how old we are, we still seek approval and love from our mothers and fathers? Some of my friends have horrible parents. Parents who did awful things to them and yet they move back home to care for them. As adults we continue to hold out hope that our parents will change for the better though what actually happens is that the worst of their personalities just intensifies as they age.
My mother is not the most maternal of mothers but I will always be grateful to her. We're the only two left of our immediate family. I find it so strange and hurtful that she doesn’t want to try and mend our relationship. She would rather write me a letter than work on our differences.
In most situations, it is the parent who desperately hangs on to the child, trying to insinuate themselves in some part of their child’s life. In my family, we've always got to flip the script and do it things completely differently than other people. I’m not clear on what I specifically did to inspire her desire to cut me out of her life.
We were up at her house in the Sacramento Delta visiting. Then after being joined by some other family members, we drove 90 miles north to Colusa. Colusa is not a tourist destination. I’m sure it’s a great place to grow up as it has beautiful neighborhoods filled with charming houses. However it could hardly be called a hot spot or even interesting. When we went it was a Sunday. Everything was closed and the weather was humid as we wandered up and down “closed-up shop” streets.
We went up to Colusa because it’s where my mother wants to buried. The main purpose for our one and only family day trip was to see where she will be laid to rest. My great-grandfather and grandfather are buried there, as well as some great-aunts and uncles. My grandmother’s grave is somewhere else but we didn’t make a pilgrimage to her final resting place. Generally we don’t travel to cemeteries for fun.
My mother didn’t grow up in Colusa and to my knowledge has only been there a couple of times. But the plot is paid for. She doesn’t even expect us to come up once a year and put flowers on her permanent address.
I think she is angry with me because I didn’t show the proper enthusiasm for her final resting place and because ultimately she’s going to die. Why can’t she take her fears out on Death instead of me? Death can handle it--he’s a big boy.
Perhaps if she causes strife in our relationship, she won’t be able to have closure. But she's mistaken if she thinks Death will wait around until she has settled her affairs.
Since I’m certain that my mother has sent me a “Dear Johnna” letter, I’m going to do what she should do when she wants to end a friendship; I’m going to ignore it. I’m going to act as if nothing has changed.
Who knows how much life she has left? And since she’s the only mother I have I’m not going anywhere. She better get used to the idea that she is stuck with me no matter how many poison pen letters she writes. The simple fact is you can’t break up with your family, no matter how much you might want to.