I wonder, what did she tell you about me?
Did you hear that we were estranged?
Did she tell you it was because I didn’t get along with the second husband?
I’m not a fan of the word estranged. It implies that at one time we were close, an affection previously experienced.
It’s true that I didn’t get along with the second husband. She married him when I was about 6 years old.
Yeah, I didn’t get along with him too well.
Have you ever read about attachment styles?
I learned about them in undergrad – fascinating stuff.
I learned to self-soothe at an early age.
Yeah, I was a thumb-sucker until 8 or 9. I gave up my blanket around 6 or 7.
I was a lip-picker too, always my top lip, until about 5.
I remember her coming home from nursing school and showing me pictures of little girls with lips missing. I remember being terrified.
I quit picking my lip and sucked my thumb harder. Pushed those front teeth right out of place.
I never told her this, but I was molested by a group of boys in my first/second grade class, a combination classroom. It was every day at nap-time, like clock-work. She never noticed.
Years later she and husband #2 bought their second home on a quiet street in a small town. On those really hard days when I wished she was there, I would go into the bathroom where her bathrobe hung. I cried into her bathrobe and found comfort of the scent of her that lingered on the soft fabric.
I heard that your mom left you when you were younger.
Mine left the state when I was about 14/15. I had been living with my father for a few years. She packed up her house, sold it, and moved the remaining family to Virginia.
I always wondered if it was hard for her to leave a child behind.
I went to visit her for Easter one year. I was 17. I made some poor choices on that trip. I showed up at her door about 6 in the morning. I was covered in bruises.
She grabbed me by my hair and screamed that she was late for work. I never told her what happened that night.
She visited New York many years later. I was a grown woman with children of my own. We were sitting in the living room, her and me.
“Do you remember that night I came home at 6 am?”
She knew what night I was referencing. I got out the words, “I want to tell you what happened that night. I was raped…”
She cut me off, stood up, and left the room saying, “I can’t handle this.”
I have four children, did you know that?
She never made it to a single birth.
You may have seen pictures of them at her house. They’ve been there a couple of times.
Does she ever ask about you?
Does she ask what’s going on in your life?
Does she know when you are sad or happy?
Does she know your story or where you’re at?
Does she know your dreams?
Does she know your fears?
Does she reciprocate?
I remember a phone call once. I tried to tell her what was going on in my life. It was a rough time. She yelled at me to shut up and let her talk.
I didn’t attempt that again. I let her talk.
When she calls now, she runs the conversation.
I admit, I don’t always answer.
I have tried for many years to understand her. When I became a mother, I understood less.
You remember that thing I mentioned about attachment styles?
If you’ve ever read about them, perhaps you’ve read that they last for a lifetime and they affect all relationships from there on out. Most articles don’t mention substitutes. Substitutes can alter these attachment styles – at least other relationships that one forms. I know because I had a substitute mother.
I don’t really know what happened to her in her life. I’ve tried to ask. I’ve tried to understand. Whatever it is, I suspect it happened long before I arrived in the picture. I will probably always wonder.
I honestly hope that she finds what she wants and perhaps you can help her with that. I don’t think I can give her what she wants because she never gave me what I needed so long ago. Maybe she can give you what she wasn’t able to give me. Maybe you can provide that for her too…what she needs. I hope so.
I am not angry that you are my substitute. I honestly hope that you both find what you need. I was blessed to have that in my life and without that, I’m not sure I would be where I am today. I know that was a good thing for me – a needed thing for me. And truthfully, we all have needs. A wise woman once told me that we all find what we need …when we need it…
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