the long walk home 01
My mother is a loon. And that’s the last time I’m going to refer to her as mine.
I’m referring to her in that way so you’re clear on who this person is. I’m going to call her Livia, because she might still be alive, and because I like my life without her in it.
The problem isn’t that she’s a loon. The problem isn’t even that she seems to be unaware that she’s a loon. The problem is that I’m now used to loons, so much so that I accept and tolerate loons and loony behavior a lot more than is healthy.
“We were looking for a psychiatrist for you.”
That’s what she told me, crying crocodile tears, in one of the last conversations I had with her.
Even now, my first response is speechlessness. Words simply fail me. It’s one of those lies that’s so . . . unbelievable that first my mind just goes blank.
My second response is memory. If she had found a psychiatrist for me when I was living with her, then I would have seen a psychiatrist. That never happened. There were some rare occasions when she would drag herself or the whole family to see a therapist. She seemed to make it a point to end the therapy before the second or third session.
My third response is correlation. In the conversation previous to this, Livia and I had talked about how, when I was a young child, she set fire to the apartment we were living in. When the whole building burned down, she told different stories to different people about how the fire started. She did that, she told me, because she didn’t want to go to jail.
She set the fire years before searching for a psychiatrist for me. Did she forget, while searching for a psychiatrist, that a psychiatrist was going to delve into what was going on in the home, and what had gone on before? How was she going to explain lighting a match, then taking that match to a dried-out Christmas tree in January in the living room of a wooden apartment in a wooden four-family flat, while her children played a few feet away, to the psychiatrist? Did she think that the psychiatrist wasn’t going to have some questions for her after talking to me?
At least the fire was in the past. She could at least point out that no one had seen her do any arson in recent years. But, how was she going to explain the months without any food in fridge while she was working a full-time job, paying rent in the projects, and living a few blocks away from the largest open market in the Michigan? (And if this sounds crazy to you, remember what I said at the beginning.)
My fourth response is verbal. Almost. In the three seconds that passed after she said that, I was about to open my mouth and talk when I discovered something.
You know, it’s funny. When you leave home, you think you’re leaving all the craziness and dysfunction, and then something happens. For a lot of people, that something is probably Thanksgiving or Christmas, a death in the family, or a family reunion. An event occurs, and you’re traveling back into the madness, surrounded by relatives again, and you find that you haven’t left that craziness behind. You still remember all of it — what they do and what you do in response. In fact, it can take a conscious effort not to do what you usually do with them.
My usual response is that I point out that what someone has said is untrue and how it’s untrue. That time, however, as I opened my mouth to deconstruct what she said, something feels … off. In the past, the usual outcome was that she would get mad.
Some time before talking with her, I had promised myself quality conversation. And here I am, listening to Livia and about to choose my future.
Except there wasn’t a choice any more. I guess there is a point where you do finally leave that craziness behind. I was in the moment and the only possible life was the life without the crazy conversation. And I chose that road.
(This is part one of a series.)