It was a couple of years ago. I’d already had a falling out with her when I said I didn’t want to hear her moan about my father any more. Either deal with him or accept him (I mentioned this briefly in Shush Don’t Tell). She didn’t like that but I just felt sorry for her weakness.
However I remember the moment I just lost any faith and trust in her altogether. It was when she still visited me occasionally and we had gone out to lunch in a local Italian restaurant. I faced towards the river. I can point out the table if you like.
We were talking about the teenage suicides in Bridgend, so it was probably 2009. If you remember a teenager committed suicide and several other followed suit, as if it was contagious.
My mother said something like “I don’t know why I’m surprised, after all two of my daughters tried suicide” clearly thinking there was no logic to it and certainly not thinking that it was anything more than coincidence.
I did once, when I was 15, swallow a bottle of pills. It wasn’t serious and I just had a very good night’s sleep. I was hurt when I later found out that my mother knew about it but had never mentioned it but I just simply put it to one side. I didn’t know of a second attempt though.
“What do you mean, two of us?” said I.
“Oh, didn’t you know”, titter. I can hear that titter now.
My big sister was in London when we were abroad. She took an overdose. Her friend took her to hospital where it was serious enough to have her stomach pumped. He looked after her and took her home with him. My mother rang her up.
“What’s this nonsense I hear?” she said. So 1sis told me, because if my mother had told me while I was still shocked that she’d said something so unbearably insensitive I would have hit the roof.
But note, she said this over the phone. She didn’t go to my sister’s bedside to be there for her. “Why not”, I asked. “Because she didn’t need me.” Right, of course not. Your daughter tries and commits suicide and doesn’t need her parents, either of them.
I had worked out several years ago that my mother doesn’t do big emotions. Cuddles yes, commiserations yes. But deal with big things, no. She can’t.
I asked my sister about it and she told me her side of it.
I tried putting it all to one side but it comes back to haunt me. Firstly what an absolutely stupid thing to say. But secondly,
HER DAUGHTER ATTEMPTS SUICIDE AND SHE DIDN’T GO TO HER BEDSIDE
(I abhor shouting, but that deserves it, don’t you think?)
I mean, if all you can do is kiss someone better or send them a card then you do it don’t you? The more you love them the more intimately you show your support but you show you care. Even if you can’t do anything. Especially if you can’t do anything.
The idea that my mother was incapable of doing that made me start to wonder what sort of mother ignores a child’s pain so much?
I understand that a lot of my own feelings of inadequacies, both as an individual and as a parent, stem from so many mixed messages from my parents. I doubt every decision I make as a parent and wonder on the long term impact of all of them.
But the idea that I could ignore their pain, whether physical or emotional, is just unthinkable.
Much as I know that my mother has her own stuff which she’s never dealt with, I have to say something I find difficult.
The mother who ignores her child’s extreme pain, is a shit mother.