When I was a child, my mother did not have a driver’s license. I don’t know if she drove before she came to Louisiana, but before that point, I’m not really sure who she was anyway.
So when my father was at work we had to depend on the kindness of friends to get us where we had to go. And once my father was home from work, unless he was in an especially good mood, that’s the way he stayed, at home. Except for once a week when he would head, alone, out to the bars in New Orleans.
My mother had told me once that she had married my father as an escape from her parents. But now, it always felt like, she was as trapped as ever. I don’t know why she didn’t drive, if it was fear, or just the my father wouldn’t allow it, but until I got into high school and took driver’s ed, my mother never drove.
It was not a “My daughter is giving me the courage to do this moment.” Unfortunately, it was a selfish, “I can’t feel good for my daughter moment because I ‘m too busy feeling sorry for myself that she’s learning how to drive and I don’t drive moment.” My parents tried to steal every single moment in my life that could bring me any joy, and if they couldn’t steal it, they would try to wreck it, because it was just another way of sucking it lifeless before I could feel it. It was supposed to be my moment as a teenager learning to drive, not hers, but you would not know that. My parents never had any plans of giving me a white wedding, but if they did, it would probably be my mother walking down the aisle in the wedding dress. That is what they did to all of the moments in my life that where supposed to mean something to me.
Before the birth of my first son, I asked my father if I could borrow his tape recorder so that I could have the baby’s first cries. I thought it would be something awesome that my family would cherish. Well, my father brought the recorder and put it right in my face as I was having hard labor. I wasn’t supposed to be having hard labor but I hadn’t received pain meds yet and I was nervous and my father kept up, on and on, laughing the whole time until I told him to stop, in unfortunate terms, because I was about ready to kill him, I was in so much pain and he was adding to it. He got angry and decided he was going to punish me by not letting my husband take the recorder into the delivery room. I was crushed and so was my husband. My father also had an axe to grind because I would not allow him into the delivery room to watch the birth. How gross would that be? So because I did not comply I was punished by not being able to have the keepsake of the beautiful first cry of my first born child. That was how they did it…
And my mother decided that if I was going to succeed, she was going to make sure that she did it first and better or not at all. Driving was one such example . Years later it was deemed that this may have not been such a great idea as she drove under an eighteen wheeler that was sitting in the middle of and industrial park road she had used to get to and from work every day. My husband was an officer (fire lieutenant) on the scene and stayed with her after the accident and in the hospital. Before he could reach me my father called me in hysterics telling me that my mother was going to die and now who would take care of him? He would be alone, with no one, what was he going to do now? He wanted me to tell him what he should do. I tried to be as comforting as I could under the situation. I told him that he needed to calm down, because my mom would need him to be strong for her and that I would call Woody and see if he had heard anything.
Woody was really angry when I spoke with him because he had already spoken with my father and told him not to call me. He had told my father that I was home alone, with no vehicle (in the shop) and two children and that he didn’t want me to know yet, until he knew for sure what her condition was. He said there was nothing I could do right now anyway because my mother was not in a situation where she could have visitors or talk to anyone. My husband had been with my mother throughout the whole situation, holding her hand and never letting go, but my father chooses not to remember that.
My mother went through a few rough months getting through all of it, but she perservered. But I have to wonder, just for a minute, how you don’t see a huge eighteen wheeler in front of you, sprawled out across the road. I think they did ask questions about that, but I never really thought about it before. There was never a time that my mother was not telling me how much pain she was in being controlled by my father, never being able to make any decisions for herself. Is it possible, that she did see the eighteen wheeler and went Thelma and Louise on it? That one moment of decision made, the quiet acceptance, never expecting to survive. She must have been quite suprised to come out of the other side whole. And then the next face she saw was that of my husband, who just happened to be on duty that day. It blows your mind just to think about it.
One day I called to wish my Mother a happy Mother’s Day. It was a few days late because torrent rains had caused flooding in my neighborhood and my internet and cable was down and I was lucky I had electricity. Kids were actually in pirogues canoeing down the otherwise dry road. So when I called my mother demanded to know why I had not sent her a card or called. I apologized and told her about what was going on and my father got on the phone and informed me that I had hurt my mother terribly and I was an incredibly selfish person. I will never forget how awful they made me feel. I hadn’t gotten anything for Woody’s mother either, but she understood completely. From previous blogs, you know she is no saint either, so you can see where I’m coming from here. Why did my parents always have to be so miserable?
You know, I am far from the perfect person, probably because of a whole lot of this, but my first rule is to first do no harm. If you know something is wrong and it is going to hurt someone else, then it is not worth it to you or them to do it. I still feel the sting of every blow. I wanted to ease that by making peace with my father, even after his constant strikes at me. But he is not alright with himself and so how can I expect him to be alright with me? I guess that was a good thing to write because it is so true. I can’t help him because he wants to see reality in the same terms he has always seen them. My mother’s doctor once asked my father if he would be interested in having the family go to family therapy and he became very angry and very violent emotionally.
Years later, I did seek therapy. My therapist told me that doing this, blogging, was the most effective way to cope with it all. He said that he thought I had to make a choice a long time ago, and I had apparently chosen survivial because here I was in front of him, still sane. I treated my husband and children with the respect they deserved and I was kind and giving to those around me. Whatever coping mechanism I had in place, was apparently working quite well. Then he taught me that there are many ways that people behave to try to meet the needs as explained by Maslow’s Pyramid. Aggresive= I take and I win (yep, my father) Passive or Passive Aggresive= I will take advantage of situations that will give me what I want and ultimately take from you (My mother) and me, who was pretty much just Passive, not being able to understand why I couldn’t accomplish many of the things I wanted too..But he told me there was one more way.
Assertive= you win and I win. Since then, many people tell me that you can’t make everyone happy, and I guess that is true. But I won’t use that as a reason not to try. It’s like giving cpr to a dying person. You know in most cases it may not work, but you still try it in every case because, ultimately you are going to save a life by doing it. You just have to have the patience and strength to let it make you a better person and not make you bitter and broken.
It’s a tough line to walk. But I want to move forward and please my creator. Not only has he seen fit to deliver me into a much better life, but he listens when I talk to him and helps me in my time of need. His will is the most important and you see he is the ultimate assertive being. He is not aggresive, he waits for you to come to him, and then he helps you get through the tough times. He laughs with you and cries with you. What he gets out of it is people who will be kind, comforting and giving people. It’s not the mistakes we make that he cares about, it is the lessons that we take away from them.
So writing this has helped. It’s really hard getting around the fact that I didn’t have a great childhood and that I have a father who I can’t help. He will just have to take all of the poison he’s got trapped inside of himself into his afterlife. My mother is already there, dealing with it. I stumbled on a web page that my father composed last year that he’s recently put up on his website.
He actually says that he wants to be cremated and have his ashes and my mothers ashes mixed. She was frightened enough when he told her once that he wanted to be freeze dried and placed back in his chair next to her. At that point she thought he would die first and then she would be free. She told me this in a conversation we had after he had spoken those words. And soon after, she broke, and became who she was until the day she died, And, as if to place a period at the end of a sentence he continued on and as always, even in death, he found a way, where no one could help her and she could not escape……..
My mother didn’t drive, until later in life. And when she did, I bet she was nervous, not because of the traffice, but because of the sense of freedom that a car gives and the guilty pleasure of thinking, “What if?”
After spending her whole life feeling trapped, I hope that now, where ever she is, she is free……