Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pins and Needling

Today I wore a dress I have not worn since my father's funeral in July 2013. It's a very classic black jersey knit shirt dress-wrap-style, long skirt, 3/4 sleeves. I wear black tights and black boots under it. Very funeral appropriate, except the neckline is a tad too revealing without a pin.

I found a pin, but getting it situated without puckering and pulling the dress was arduous.

I flashed back to my teenage years when my mom would help me pin the necklines or straps out of the way. Even then with her help, it took a while to get it just right. We (or I should say "she") would work and work on it to make it the least noticeable as possible. It was a labor of Mom love.

I expect that I'll always remember little moments like that; at least I hope I do, and I hope my children have their own incidental memories for their middle years and beyond.

Mom is beyond helping me with anything now; I do all of the helping. Sometimes that makes me want to weep. Not because it's such hard work but because it's the necessity, the practical reality. And that's sad. I want her to be who she used to be.

Or do I?

You'll notice the second word of my title: needling. I meant that word to represent all of the times I struggled with my mom emotionally. She was pretty controlling and opinionated, determined to get her way, especially when it came to me and my appearance. My appearance was singularly important to her because her own was to her, and I was an extension of her.

When other mothers were trying to tone down their daughters, mine was trying to make me more attractive to the opposite sex.

It was weird.

First of all, it was like having a stage mom, but I was no starlet. Just average. I did not garner compliments every time I left the house like she always had growing up. To this day, she receives compliments when we're out, and she eats it up. I cringe. She had no career or anything besides her good looks and clean house on which to base her significance-very much a Mrs. Cleaver without the pearls. And so she passed her priorities on to me, only I resented them, most often. Occasionally it was ok with me because that meant I got new clothes, etc.

But I could not walk across the room without her telling me to straighten my shoulders. If I dropped something and picked it up, I had to bend my knees a certain way. If I carried a sweater or coat, it had to be draped across my arm, no bunching allowed. The rules were many, and she was like a giant eye, ever-watching.

One of the most irritating things she did was barge in on me in the bathroom. She had no idea we were two separate entities, no longer tied by the umbilical cord, even when I was older. If I locked the door, she tried to get in and ridiculed me for locking it. I wasn't doing anything sketchy, just PEEING, which I was not allowed to say, by the way.

This week I was in her bathroom, and in a split second, I had the most negative, ugly thought: "If she dares barge in here, I'm giving her what-for." It was like I was already angry, and she had not done a thing!

She cannot read her own mail now because she can't understand the difference between junk and legit mail. Plus she can't comprehend what she reads. So yesterday I came in with her mail, junk sorted. I was on my way to the trash when she stopped me: "What is that?"

"It's junk mail."
"Well, here, let me see it."

Ten minutes later: "I guess this is all junk mail. I should've let you take it when you were on your way with it." And she tossed it on the floor beside her chair.

I was STEAMING. What's with the control??

And then I thought, "She's 89 and very weak. She does not have much control over anything in her life. Can you not let her pretend to read her stupid mail without getting upset?! GROW UP."

What is my problem? I've got issues. Being around her is causing me to face buried resentment alongside growing compassion.

So often I waffle between deep sadness, pity and compassion and then irritation when the more frustrating parts of who she was arise.

Is she a child or an adult? It fluctuates by the minute.

I am working on this internally and working on it externally by my responses.

Some mothers never noticed their daughters were around. Mine lived through me. Both methods breed contempt. But when she's needling, I'll try to remember the pins.  Because they are both a part of who she was and is, and she is my mother.


m said...

Well, of course you already know how I feel about these things. Thank you so very much for writing this in "public." I think if more of us did, it might help others. I know hearing the honesty helpf me. Here's why: Caring for our parents is HONESTLY confusing because of the "pins and needling" and because of the fluctuating child/adult mind thing they face and so we must figure out how to face it as well. Just yesterday I was considering another blog post I would entitle, "The Man Across the Hall" because even though he's my often just feels like some strange man that can't possibly be my DNA donor. Ugh. Sigh. Light. Dark. Help. Anyway, thank you.

Kelli said...

I need to call and say Thank you while she still remembers me. And tell John the same, while I still remember him. Thank you for both reminders. ��

Mocha with Linda said...

Third try at leaving a comment. LOL

Love this. So many similarities with the needling and the control. Even in her last hours my mom wouldn't go because I said it was okay and time to go. LOL Love how you simultaneously honor her yet are authentic in your struggles.

Love you sweet friend!

Dianne said...

I understand where you are coming from,, My heart goes out to you,,it is so hard when our roles change with our parents,,hurts and frustrations creep in,,and they are very real,,and sometimes painful,,you are doing the best that you can and unfortunately it looks like your Mom is too,,Hang in there Linda,,this is precious time and i am sure you all ready know that,,sending love,,Dianne

Darla said...

I'm so glad that you shared this. It explains so much of why Moms who do this, do this. You are very wise to recognize and deal with it openly. Ageing parents is a difficult thing. We are there too.

Joyce said...

Hugs to you Linda. I think most women in the throes of mid-life can relate to this on some level. I know when I feel a level of impatience with my mom, afterwards I feel so sad and annoyed with myself. My mom loves to tell me how to drive. It makes me crazy. She never wants to be on a highway so she wants me to make a billion turns to go three blocks. Once my daughter was in the car, and I whispered to her, 'Why does she care so much about which road I take??? She's not driving!' And my daughter very gently said, 'Why don't you just do what she wants mom? That's what you tell us.' Ouch.

Melanie Dorsey said...

I noticed you deactivated from fb. I'll check in here from time to time. I don't want to lose contact with you.

Susanne said...

Linda I too can relate in many ways to this post. My mom's in her 80's too and though still independent, we can see more and more little areas that are coming up with her. But she is stubborn and holding on with all she's worth to every bit of control and independence. It's sad to see our parents age and frustrating all at the same time. Thanks for being honest and sharing. It lets us know none of us in this situation are alone.

Shawna said...

You are such a fantastic writer. From what you did with the clever title to the closing line, this is a perfectly stitched post.

I was reading through my archives yesterday and came across those written to/for you (remember Jack Tripper?). Anyway, I'm sure this means nothing to you, but I remembered how much I loved your writing and had to come see what you were up to.

1) I have seen your pictures and have never thought you average looking; you are GORGEOUS and super sexy.

2) Mother issues run deep, and when you begin to lose them everything you've attempted to repress bubbles to the surface. All you can do (in any relationship) is wake up every morning, pray, and make every effort to be kind. It's the seconds that count. Maybe even the minutes. Only this very moment; that's all you have control over.

3) I look forward to reading more of you.

P.S. ...

Claudia said...

Love this, Linda. Thank you for writing it.

Jean | said...

Linda, this was outstanding. Should be in a magazine. That's all I can say for the moment.

Nita Watson said...

Interesting idea, with the songs of your era and life. I like it, keep up the good work.

Elizabeth said...

Glad I found you again after 5 years. Was reading through some old Random Dozens. Sorry to see you haven't blogged since 2015. Hope you make it back again someday.