Day 4. I started this letter intending to tell my little girl’s view of our life together. I thought that maybe if you had that window in, you might see that your adult understanding at the time was likely very different from mine. I thought that your decades-old disgust and rage might be soothed because you’d see they are fueled by miscommunication and misunderstanding.
But then I remembered how many times I’d tried that very gambit and how each time it failed.
We’re both adults and adults already know that children see and experience things through their own lenses. This is not news.
So is there anything at all to gain by looking backwards?
I’ve certainly done my share. It turned out that my continuing to live depended on my looking back. And now? Now I’m at last able to look forward. To look ahead and imagine — to dream, not just to plan — is a luxury earned.
So let’s look forward instead. Let’s talk about what’s left because you’re in your eighties now and, if it isn’t too late already, there may or may not be time left.
By now you’re probably reading this fourth letter of seven, looking for apologies. You’re probably waiting for the sign that I will finally take your advice and turn my back on the life I’ve built to return and be part of yours. You may be looking for an invitation to share the home and the life that I’ve created, like some inter-generational fantasy. You may even be hoping for an indication of some renewed connection beyond seven public letters posted on the Internet.
I cannot offer any of that.
Distance is what I need to continue to rise. That is selfish, yes. It’s self-preservation. I know you don’t see it that way and I understand that point of view. Regardless, you have one power no one else alive or dead will ever have: a maternal connection. Ours may not be an attachment but it is a bond. It’s biology woven with twenty-ish years of formative proximity. You have influence over me, my state of being, my wellness. In your words, you own me. As you’ve also said, it doesn’t matter what I want, this is what I get. In this case, you are correct. I’m only speaking on your behalf using words you’ve already spoken.
Luckily, and because of many years of dedicated effort, I have developed the skills and tools needed to survive and, believe it, thrive. I’d always secretly hoped that would be something you’d want for me but again, selfish. One of those tools I’ve gained is to maintain distance from sources of trauma. Some would say face one’s demons and work through them! I say it’s all a cost-benefit analysis not to mention that I’ve faced you many times already. Here I am, doing it again, sort of. It’s a coward’s way out. Or is it courageous to lay bare at last? I know which I choose.
How I’ve dreamed the collective dream of best-friend sister-motherhood! How idyllic to go on giggly outings together, bake cookies, and laugh at the same idiotic overblown reality show! Oh! The irritating weekly phone calls where you’d nag about my choices in footwear and I’d nag about your choices in lipstick! We’d plan upcoming holiday events with the family. Should we invite the clan to your house or mine? We’d reminisce about times gone by and how the good old days are surely behind us. We’d care deeply deeply deeply for each other like no one else can. I think they call that love.
But that’s not what we get.
We get whatever this is and the pain that goes with it. Sure, it’s changeable. Everything is. But nothing changes if it stays the same.