Last night I had a dream I drove by my old childhood house in a white 1966 Shelby GT350 and picked my mother up for lunch. We drove to a decrepit little mom-and-pop diner in my hometown and went inside together. She had been telling me a conversation she had with my aunt about the local high school women’s basketball team. I excused myself to the restroom before sitting down and told her to order me a coffee. I remember glancing at her and noticing the yellow florescent lights inside made her skin look sickly. Somehow she still had that youthful bright grin on her face she always had. When I came back from the restroom, she had ordered herself a Coke and me a coffee. I sat down across from her in the old metal chair with a cracked plastic seat. She said she thought that a few tables over was a girl she knew in high school, but it wasn’t her. I asked her if she ordered food and she said she was waiting on me. I told her I wanted the hamburger, it probably was like a good home-cooked one. She agreed, and then said she would probably get the tuna salad.
At some point after we ordered our lunches a man with a grey baseball cap, blue jeans and t-shirt with no sleeves walked in. I heard the bell ding as he walked in and I had glanced up. I don’t remember looking back at mother but I must have because I saw her flinch when he hit her in the head with the ax. I felt an unbearable force push me from my chair onto the floor by the table. I looked over at her face as she hit the floor, and she still had her eyes open. She looked exactly the same as she had just the few minutes before the man came in. I crawled over to her and was trying to cover the hole in her head that the ax had left with a napkin but my hands just slipped inside of her head. I could feel the bits of skull and soft flesh between my fingers. I just kept looking at her face to make sure she wasn’t crying or in pain. But she looked the same as before it happened. She just had a gentle grin on her face. I thought I heard her say that she would like the tuna salad and I just said “I know, Mom, I know.”
It isn’t necessarily abnormal for me to have a nightmare like this one. However, I do happen to believe that we go through seasons mentally in our lives. For some reason, these last few weeks have been particularly cumulative in thoughts about my mother. There is something that I need to know or learn about mother(s) right now and if I am honest, I am struggling to figure out what that is. I do know that I have been in this term of migration, not only physically, but mentally for over a year now. The relationship with my mother being one that is taking a huge hit. This past week I watched Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter” on Netflix, which brought me to deep sorrowful tears. I also have just recently set the date for my civil ceremony to my partner. Upon trying to call my mother to tell her of the news, I wasn’t able to reach her. Just about twelve hours later, my sister texted that my mother was admitted to the hospital. Apparently she had been having chest pains and went to the hospital in case she was having a heart attack. So far, the doctors have found some blockages in her heart and some signs of ischemia (damage caused by lack of oxygen to the muscle). Now she will be transferred to another hospital that is capable of doing a cardiac catheterization so that they can see just how bad her heart is and if she will need open heart surgery in the weeks to come.
I am angry with her. She doesn’t take care of herself. In the last few years, she has reverted back into a self-solitude and self-sabotage that is noticeable to everyone in the family. It feels to me like she has given up on being a mother and grandmother and has decided she will die just as fast as she can. My brothers keep their lives separated from her and it feels like she decided she has no purpose. I am caught in an dilemma mentally because I want her to live her life comfortably, but I also want her to care about herself more. This world, this society that we live in has a way of tearing us down to our core weaknesses and letting them bare every single day. On a day to day basis, the hardest thing we must do is fight down these darknesses that lie within us. What makes me so angry about my mother is that I am helpless to let her succumb to her darkness. In someways I feel like I don’t even know her. What trauma is she carrying in her day to day step that I am not aware of or cannot understand? Why does she not realize that if she can’t be the best version of herself for her, that she can be the best mother for these people she created? If you knew my mother you would know just how stubborn she is in her ways. You cannot just say to her that she must change. You cannot say she must consider the four lives she created as well as her own. She will argue she did the best she could have and should have. How can you make someone want to live?
My mother is the reason I consider antinatalism. She is the reason I question my own drive to be a mother. There have been studies of women all over the world and the presence of their ‘maternal altruism’. Not only is maternal altruism the leading cause of women around the globe giving every last drop of living action to provide a better life for their children and family, but it is also the leading cause of women murdering their children. Regret. Ultimate Love. Contempt. Protection. Despite all the anger that I have for my mom’s giving up on herself, I still love her deeply and truly. She is the one person that was there for me in many of my hardest trials. And more than that, there is not one woman alive like my mother. She is important beyond being a mother. How do I come to terms with her leaving me alone? Just like in my dream, there is this twisted distorted view of my mother hidden deep in my psyche and trying to interpret it is one of the hardest challenges I face today. In “The Lost Daughter”, the protagonist goes through what many mothers have gone through, as well as my own. What is the identity of the person who birthed another if not that of a mother? How can you reason that you have, or are doing enough? All of the standards that mothers are held to are different across the world, but they are just the same as well. I have met good mothers and I have met bad mothers; but who am I to judge? Maybe the reckoning I need to come to accept is that a mother is just a person and not this elevated creature whose only purpose is to be loving and to be loved. As easy as it is to say that, I still long to discover that a mother is one of the only identities out there that hold an altruistic purpose. After all, it is difficult for me to say that I believe there is a purpose for anyone of us.