January 30, 2001

Fifty?


I'm going to be 50 years old next fall.
That reality is slowly permeating into consciousness.

The same thing happened when I was 39 - I spent the year agonizing about the coming birthday. Once I hit 40 and the world didn't shatter, I was ok.

I don't feel 50. What does 50 feel like?

Fifty feels like my mother when I was a teenager. Fifty wears housedresses and curlers on her head. Fifty watches soap operas and doesn't leave the house for days, all the while attempting to teach me about life.

My mother must have been depressed. I know depression; I understand it; but I'm unable to muster any sympathy in this case because my mother refused.. actively refused.. help.

I don't remember the circumstances, but she once went to a psychiatrist. When she came home, my father and I asked how it went.. she said, "He told me I'm normal. I don't have to go back." And that was that.

And the house continued to have the atmosphere of a funeral parlour, with the implied guilt adding to the oppressive feeling. Did she want me to feel it was my fault that she was sad? I have to say I think so.

She was the same way with physical problems. One night she had some symptoms (I forget the details) that prompted us to take her to emergency. They wanted to admit her; they didn't like the look of her heart. They said she might need a bypass operation (which was then a fairly new procedure).

She walked out.

Never went back.

She died many years later at age 64.. of a type of skin cancer which is readily curable unless left neglected for many years.

I consider her death a form of suicide.

When going through her things I found some correspondence that made it clear (as if it wasn't already) that I was a disappointment to her. She wanted a daughter created in her image; someone she could turn into a lady and send out into the world but who would be her best friend and confidante.

I wasn't it.

I rebelled against everything she liked, which was normal, but I was made to feel inadequate for it. My taste in music, books, television, hobbies, friends and eventually men were all inferior to hers.

She wanted something to love and smother.. from an early age I had to draw back from this kind of "love" for fear of losing myself. When I finally left home she pulled away from me.. it was as if I wasn't her responsibility anymore, and her job was done.

I think I saw her exactly two times during my first pregnancy; by the time of my second pregnancy, she was dead.

I think if I had had daughters of my own, the weight of my own mother-daughter experience would have been disastrous.

Counselling? I've had counselling, several times. I was first treated for depression in my early 20's; later on, before I had children, I saw a psychologist weekly for a year or two. I think I had post-partum depression with my first child, but never sought help; in my 40's I was again diagnosed and put on prozac.

So I'm going to be 50, with all these unresolved issues. Is there any resolution? I think the best I can hope for is to be able to forgive her.

I'm not there yet.

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