It’s been six and a half weeks since I fired my first and best round, declaring my freedom from the abuse that has held me captive for almost 30 years. After my mother’s childish behavior at our daughter’s wedding, I had to take a stand. You can mess with me all you want (and they did) but you CANNOT and WILL NOT mess with my children. She crossed that line, and I decided was done. Here is what I sent.
I have been looking at this sealed envelope for 19 days now trying to figure out how I feel about it. On the one hand, it is kind of you to acknowledge our anniversary, however, on the other hand, I am still trying to wrap my head around your behavior at [our daughter]’s wedding and your emails since then. I’m having a great deal of difficulty reconciling the concepts of you giving us a card for our anniversary when you want me to divorce [my husband] because you think he is not pulling his weight, of you being so selfish that you would put your own desire to say something publicly ahead of your granddaughter’s wishes and of you telling me so often how much you love me and then telling me that your behavior at the wedding is somehow my fault.
Mom, I have been getting mixed messages from you for years. You (and your husband) tell me often how much you love me while still criticizing my hairstyle, my hair color, my opinions, my weight and my children. I have to ask you a very painful question: if you love me so much, why did you put up with [your husband] abusing both you and me? I tried talking with the two of you together about my adolescence over 20 years ago, and you both denied that anything ever happened. I should think you would still have a scar on your thigh from the time the zipper on the back pocket of my jeans badly cut your leg while I was lying on top of you trying to protect you from his fists.
Do you really not remember any of the times he beat me or touched me inappropriately? Because I do, and my friends do as well. They saw the bruises, they knew something was wrong, but back then, people just didn’t talk about things like that. When you told me that you would help me financially if I divorced [my husband], did you really think I would not tell him? Did you really think I would just shrug it off? He is my husband, Mom, the center of my world. Regardless of what you think of him, he DOES carry his share of the burdens here, perhaps more than his share because he takes care of me when the fears and anxieties that were caused by the 10 years of abuse I suffered at the hands of your husband. Being told how much you are hated and how great it will be when you are gone does not garner great self-esteem in a child. Being beaten by a man in a drunken rage does not make a person feel safe in her world. And I don’t understand why you allowed it to happen.
Not that he ever would, but the minute my husband raised a hand to our children or to me in anger, that would have been the minute I left and never came back. What happened to you, Mom, that while you have always been so successful and so confident in your professional and public life, yet so weak and unable to assert yourself in your personal life? Why did you not walk out when he started hitting us? Does he still hit you? Is that why you retreat to bourbon every night? To escape that? I worry about you, Mom. Neither one of us is getting any younger, but I after what you did at [our daughter]s wedding and the childish, selfish responses you sent me afterwards, I am not yet able to forgive you. Not for what you did to me, but for what you did to [our daughter], and what you did to yourself. You had one chance to celebrate and dance at your eldest grandchild’s wedding and you blew it, just because your wishes were not allowed to supersede those of the bride.
Yes, the sentiments you wanted to express were lovely, but after 7 planned toasts, more would have been superfluous, and [our daughter & son-in-law] did not want an open microphone. Had you spoken, then the opportunity would have needed to be afforded to the three other sets of grandparents in the room. None of them left in anger because they weren’t given a chance to speak. For you to storm out because you were not one of those asked to speak and then blame me for your actions is ridiculous. I’m really not sure what is going on with you and your husband but in the past couple of years you have publicly disapproved of [our married children]’s choices of spouse, you have expressed your disdain for mine, and you have even managed to hurt [our youngest]. Your husband did not even acknowledge her existence when she came to say hello and talk to him at the family birthday party back in March. At the wedding he did nothing but glare at me.
Do you know that he sent me the email he sent you talking about how much I am like the people that supposed 21-year-old ranter in Texas wrote about? He probably didn’t tell you; he told me to keep it “personal, just between us”. Well, I am tired of the lies and the secrets. I am tired of asking my family to do things just the way you two want them, just to keep the peace. I’m tired of not knowing whom you will pounce on next, and I am tired of your disapproval. Yes, I have made a lot of bad choices financially. You know why? You and your husband both said you were excellent financial role models for me, but really, you weren’t. I always thought we were too broke to do any of the fun things my friends got to do, too broke to get clothing that wasn’t from Sears, too broke for you to take an interest in or support the things I was really interested in. I thought you wrote my allowance in a steno pad and only allowed me to save up and buy things you approved of because you really couldn’t afford to actually give me spending money. When I was really, really good, I was allowed to have the same “good” cut of meat that you guys ate. Most of the time, I got the cheaper cut. I thought it was because we could not afford for us all to have the same good cuts all the time. I also thought I was not worthy of spending money on. What I learned was that if you really loved someone, you spent money on that person.
I am very happy for you that you two have amassed so much wealth. I hope it makes you very happy as well. As for me, I am very happy that we were able to take the children to Disneyworld, that the children were supported and encouraged to get involved in hobbies that interested them, that no one ever laughed at them for their unfashionable clothing. You’re 100% right, we should have been planning all along for a rainy day, which we did not. Yes we are facing complete and utter financial ruin, but to me it is not the worst thing that could happen. Our children had happy childhoods and knew we supported them in all that they did. If the price of that is our financial security, then so be it.Ideally, none of this would ever have happened, or if it did, not until [our youngest] was in college, but that is not how it played out. But she is learning that whether we have money or not, how much we love her is not tied to how much we spend on her.
All that being said, Mom, I am returning this envelope to you unopened, because I just cannot open it. Until you figure out why you are so quick to judge my family, so quick to insult my choice of spouse and the choices of my children, until you acknowledge that your marriage is as dysfunctional as my adolescence was, I am not sure what kind of relationship I want to have with you. I love you very much, Mom, but I cannot stand the way you treat my husband and my children. And for your husband to kick me when I’m down by sending his hateful email and then do nothing but glare at me at the wedding, that was just too much.
You need help, Mom. You drink too much and it changes how you act. Generally I know not to read emails from you sent after 6:30 PM because you might get nasty. It’s always after a lot of bourbon that your husband calls me because you’ve gotten into a ridiculous argument and he wants me to help calm you down. Given your mother’s history, this worries me a great deal. I have no idea what demons are in your past, Mom, but you need to come to grips with them. Therapy has given me great strength to deal with mine; it can do the same for you. I urge you to find help and soon, before it is too late. I am very sorry to be sending this back, because I know it will hurt you, but it is the right thing for me to do, as accepting it would be hypocritical and the contents may even upset me. I’ve worked way too hard to get to the level of mental health I have achieved; I don’t want to slide back down a slippery slope.
When you’ve gotten help, when you are on your way to recovery, when you are ready to talk about what is really going on in your life, let me know. But until you can accept my family and me unconditionally, I need to put some distance between us. I am here for you, Mom, when you have gotten the help you so badly need. If there is anything I can do to assist you in getting that help, please let me know. I will do whatever I can to help you get better. I do love you, but our relationship has changed irrevocably, and now it is up to you to decide what happens next.
This was the hardest letter I have ever written, yet in some ways it was the easiest, as the words poured out of my fingers and onto the paper. I finally said so many of the things I have always wanted to say, exposed my feelings honestly, and really allowed myself to feel the hurt, pain and betrayal that have been part of my life for so very long.