It Started Hopeful

It’s been four years, but I can still hear the moment she turned on me. The moment I knew I couldn’t do this anymore.

This was the last conversation I would have with my mother. 

It started hopeful. 

Even though this was the middle of a family crisis, I had found out four days prior that my mother’s husband was entering my twenty year old sister’s bedroom without invitation, while she slept. He had been cornering, intimidating her, forcing physical contact on her, and then repeatedly telling her she is worthless. 

She needed to get out of that house and our mother needed to understand how fucked up her husband is. 

It started hopeful. 

I had emailed my mother, expressing my concern. Emphasizing the importance of safety and distance from a man who is no friend to women. 

For the first time in ten years of him being in our life, she agreed with me. A single text message that read, “everything you wrote is true.”

Everything. I am right. I’m no long being hung out to dry with claims that I am too sensitive or man-hating. I am right. Everything is true. 

It started hopeful because I thought we were on equal footing. I thought we were working together. I thought I could finally save my sister and my family from years of disconnection. 

But by the time I got a phone call from my mother, I wasn’t right anymore. She explained to me that her husband just didn’t understand that he isn’t suppose to do all the things he had been doing to my sister. She explained that in fact, he was in danger from my sister and needed protection. Her voice encouraged me to stop fighting and give in to her reality. It encouraged me to accept this truth – the one that isn’t mine. The one that keeps my sister victimized. The one that allows abuse to keep going, and going, and going like it always had. I was suppose to shut up. 

Instead, I spoke. I told her this was wrong. I told her he was wrong. I told her I wanted my sister safe. 

Then she turned and sunk her teeth. 

“What did you think I was going to do,” she snapped, “leave him?”

My answer was and still is yes. 

Another bite, “you just don’t understand what it means to be a wife.”

“You don’t understand what it means to be a Christian.”

“I need harmony in my house. This is how I’m getting it. Your sister isn’t stable. If you want to whisper in her ear and stir the pot, then whatever she does is on you.”

Each phrase stabs into me then rips chunks away. I don’t even know how to escape. Instead I am stunned silent, save for the gasping tears I am holding back from her. She can never see or hear me cry – she enjoys too much satisfaction from my pain and apparent weakness. 

“Listen, you claim to want to talk about these things but you aren’t even talking. You just have to have things your way all the time.”

I knew for sometime that my mother is manipulative, abusive, and has little interest in protecting her children – even as adults. But I had never experienced her viciousness so clearly. She had kept me in line with years of put downs and deniable manipulation. But this was different. She needed to get me back in line or emotionally bleed to death on my own. 

My chest tightened as I managed to gasp a coherent, “I have to go” before I hung up and broke into pieces. I curled up on the study futon and sobbed. My heart was broken. She may have left me mangled with scars I carry all this time later, but I think the thing she tore from me that day was the last shred of trust and hope that I had a mother who loves me. I’ve begged for that love my whole life. I twisted myself into someone I thought she wanted in the hope I could finally be enough. 

Instead, I never was. Instead I was too whiny, lazy, wrong, angry, emotional. I questioned too much. I wasn’t feminine enough. I was too stupid. Too unmotivated. Too liberal. Too feminist. Too queer. Too radical. Too fat. Too out of shape. Drank too much. Liked to talk about sex and sexuality too much. I just needed to do as she said not as she did. I wasn’t suppose to ask why. 

I tried. I did. But I kept coming out. Who I am refused to be silenced. She screamed inside me, beating against her cage, demanding to be free. To be enough. 

So, that day four years ago, I let her. My mother broke me but not in the way she intended. She finally broke all trust and all hope that I could change her from the abuser she had always been. 

I then I would never talk to her again. I was finally free to say that I don’t need abuse in my life. I am happy for this freedom. What I wasn’t expecting was how much it all still follows me around. 

So, on this four year anniverary, I can still hear the moment she turned on me. The moment I knew I couldn’t do it anymore.