“I Never Liked You” and Other Revelations from My Mother Before She Died
“Just once before I die, I’d like to sit you in a chair so you could tell me why you were such a lousy daughter from the day you were born.”
With those words, my mother sealed her vaunted place in history as a truly narcissistic woman who lived her days casting aspersions on others’ character, but who never once looked in the mirror and asked herself what her part was in the unraveling of family relationships, her friendships and her life.
She kept her face in a Bible for most of her adult life. I don’t know what she hoped to gain from that exercise in futility because she never learned anything from it. This was the woman who would attend a prayer meeting service at her church and then drive home and call the preacher to correct him on the merits of his sermon.
I knew her as the mother with fists of fury, pounding the life out of me until I turned 27 when I finally fought back, hitting her so hard she landed on the floor. She looked up at me and said, “You hit me, you hit me!” This from a woman who spent her life slamming my head into the tile wall in the kitchen or straddling me on the floor as she beat me mercilessly and banged my head on the floor. She never laid another hand on me after that — the brutish bully had been physically overcome by her eldest daughter. Finally!
She had her moments of equilibrium and humanity — so few that I can count them on the fingers of my hands — less than 10 but more than 4.
She made herself feel better by tearing other people apart with her vitriol and meanness, harping on my father: berating him at every turn; embarrassing him at every opportunity — her shrill, gravelly voice screaming at him in the house, in public or on the phone. She was the most critical person I’ve ever known. From the moment my Dad walked into the hallway from the garage, after working the night shift at the local steel mill, she’d greet him by yelling at him over whatever she could manufacture that he had done wrong, or merely done. He found a way to ignore her. Her screaming was my 7 AM wake-up call. No need to set the alarm; the ugly that was her voice jolted me out of a sound sleep without fail…