In July 2002 Mum flew to the UK to spend time with us. Brady had just turned 7 and Ola was 2 years and 4 months old. It was a fraught and emotional visit. Mum has slid into what seemed like a deep, nasty hole, she was so angry, bitter, visceral. My mother has never been a kind, gentle, hugs and kisses type of person, she spent my whole life telling me and anyone who would listen, “I love you S, but I don’t like you”. I was used to it but this time it was also directed at my girls. Something had changed, the bitterness had ramped way up. The following is an exchange between Mum’s friend Pam and I as she advised me how to tackle it.
From: S Date: Friday, August 09, 2002 11:41PM To: Pam Subject: Looking for some advice.
Mum has asked me to send you her flight details, they are:
Dep LHR 15/8 22:35 Arr HK 16/8 17:30
Dep HK 21/8 23:40 Arr MELB 22/8 10:45
I think Mum is looking forward to leaving, unfortunately I have had to work most of the time that she has been here and so she has been spending time with Brady (I wouldn’t dare leave Ola with her – she is too much of a handful for me let alone Mum).
Pam I don’t want to put you in an awkward position so please just bin this if you feel I’m pushing things. I have written a letter (below) to Mum but am swaying as to give it to her or not. I just don’t feel brave enough and think that being as negative as she is she won’t see what I am trying to say, she will just feel like it is an attack. Mum has been so nasty and at times twisted whilst she is here, EVEN Barry has commented (and that is saying something). She has not had a nice word to say about anyone or anything (even the girls!) I sort of thought (or maybe just hoped) that beating cancer may have lifted/changed her outlook just a little, but if anything she seems worse – maybe J coming out has affected her more than I realised.
Anyway family stuff aside, the photos of your apartment are stunning, you a very lucky person to wake up that view every morning. Are you enjoying life in Hong Kong (it sounds so glamorous) “Poo Town” must seem a life time ago.
Take care and thanks for reading this. I’d really appreciate your thoughts.
I love you so much, but it is so difficult to talk to you face to face. The time never seems right. But there are some things that I do need you to hear and maybe this letter will let you take it in quietly.
You have a lot to be proud of. You have a lot of people who care for you, they value you as part of their lives, for the love and friendship you give, and hopefully you feel that this is returned to you. The courage you showed in beating cancer makes us all so proud of you.
I am so concerned though that you are terribly unhappy. You seem not to have anything positive to say about anything or anyone including yourself. I am not even sure that you know you are doing this. You comment on Dee and I know that she has disappointed you – but I don’t know if you appreciate that at times you could have been describing yourself when you spoke to me.
I think it is important that you know that I have laid things to rest with Dad. I don’t have the time or energy to continue with my anger, bitterness or resentment. It has done me no good at all so I have let it go and moved on. I will concentrate on the few good times I had with Dad as a child and have decided I will allow him the opportunity to be a good grandfather to Brady and Ola. And Mum, I want you to do the same. Please let go of your anger and bitterness. Please do not use me as an excuse to continue your own bad feelings towards Dad. It all happened a long time ago – please for your own sake move on. I just know that it is making you so unhappy and you are the one who is suffering.
I appreciate that different generations do things differently but I am trying very hard to be the best mum albeit a very tired working one. You might not always agree with what I do, but please try not to criticise me so much. It breaks my heart that Brady has noticed that you’ve been unhappy during your visit. She has made comments to me and this just adds to my concern for you.
Mum, the girls and I were so excited that you were coming; there was the Nana dance and the big countdown but this time there seemed to be so few laughs, hugs and kisses.
I don’t know the answers, but you need to have a good think and search within yourself as to why you seem so unhappy and at times so angry about the most inconsequential things. You only appear happy when complaining about someone or something.
I can imagine your dismay right now as you read this and am almost positive that you will have turned this around saying to yourself ‘I’m a bad, terrible mother’, ‘I never do anything right’, ‘I am this I am that.’ You are none of those things. What I am saying is that you appear to be a very unhappy and bitter person. You, better than I would now appreciate the fragility of life and that you have to make the most of what you have whilst you have it.
This is the most difficult letter I have ever had to write. Please Mum, I love you desperately, please find out what is making you so very, very unhappy and deal with it because I am terrified of the consequences.
From: Pam Date: 12 August 2002 03:53AM To: S Subject: RE: Looking for some advice.
Let me absorb all this and we’ll talk on how to handle it. Your Mum definitely needs to hear some of this so we need to approach it, as you say, without it looking like a personal attack. I don’t think what you’ve written is an attack but it is a matter of perception. I’ll get back to you.
From: Pam Date: 13 August 2002 08:32AM To: S Subject: RE: Looking for some advice.
Your observations are very interesting. I’ve re-written a few things jut to make it a bit softer. I left out the bits on Brady’s comments. If she asks then you can tell her. I pasted the part about your Dad nearer the top, because from my observations over the years, this is almost the crux of the whole thing.
Sit on it for a while. I know it is hard to confront this sort of thing (been there, done that) and sometimes we don’t. But if you get the chance between now and when she leaves maybe just say to her what you want to say about your Dad, you might find that this will go a long way to solving the problems. Or maybe wait and mail it to her so that she can sit quietly when she gets home and take it all in.
Love from Pam
I never found the courage to send this letter to my Mother or to discuss it’s contents. My Mother has gotten progressively worse over the years (I would not have thought this possible in 2002) but with J’s suicide her bitterness and vitriol found a willing partner in bone grinding grief to facilitate a reinvigorated hatred of absolutely everything.