Its been about three and a half years since I wrote this post, which included some of my birthfamily history and my thoughts about finally putting the past behind me and reaching out to speak to my birthmother.
I never got as far as picking up the phone. I did make contact via Facebook, and we exchanged a few PM's. It never got beyond that. I decided that I didn't want it to.
I thought about going to visit her. I thought about introducing her to my kids. I thought long and hard, considered my feelings, motivations, intuition and, mostly I just asked myself the question "Why? Why would I do this?" I felt that if I was considering introducing my children to someone I had previously considered so emotionally toxic that I wanted nothing to do with her, I would have to come up with some sort of logical reason that it made sense to do so. Know what? It didn't. Not whatsoever. Even if I wasn't going to involve my children, I still couldn't manage to fan the flames of any desire to spend the time and money to make the trip. I never went. I don't regret it.
Thinking about my birthmother and her relatively recent admission regarding her part in the systematic abuse of her children in the context of my very normal human pondering about my existence and purpose, I realized that forgiving was not the same thing as wanting to have a relationship. There were so very few potential good things that could come from opening that door, and quite a lot of potentially not-good things.
I started to write "It's not her fault," but then I had to take that back. It is not entirely her fault. She wasn't the only abuser of the children she kept, but she did abuse them and she sat back and let others abuse them in especially horrific ways while she spent her time getting drunk and high. When my older sister left home at the age of fourteen, she was a child who had experienced things most adults have never experienced. She left to save herself, but in doing so she had to leave behind her four other siblings. We've had so many long, tortuous conversations about the knife's edge she walked. She was homeless, she was just a kid, and she could barely take care of herself much less four children between the ages of five and twelve. But she was, in many respects, the only mother they'd really had. When their mom was absent or too busy drinking and drugging, my sister fed them and changed their diapers, tried as best she could to protect them, though she couldn't, not really, nor could she protect herself. She left. She had to.
She ended up as far away as she could have gotten geographically and still be on the same continent. She spent 24 years on the opposite coastline, trying to heal, trying to both distance herself from the situation and at the same time trying to figure out how to get her family to be normal.
Normal they have never been, and the resulting fractures from so much dysfunction have created a situation so toxic, so filled with narcissistic, passive-agressive, unrealistic drama that I've made the conscious decision to just not be a part of it. Periodic exposure has done nothing but solidify that resolve.
I think it is normal for most families to experience a fair bit of sturm und drang when a family member passes, even when they have functional, healthy relationships. Our ties with those we love get interwoven with material things, and unless someone has made a very complete and detailed will (and sometimes even when they have), relationships are strained when two or more people have a strong emotional attachment to a particular item, or when children feel they are competing for their fair share of what is left behind. When the family is deeply dysfunctional to begin with, these situations quickly begin to make even characters in shows like Dallas look benign.
I saw a bit of this when my grandmother passed. I had no attachment nor sense of entitlement to anything; I was beyond grateful when I found out that she had left a little bit of something for me and also for my children in her will. My birthmother and the rest of her grandchildren most certainly did feel they had a stake in who got what, and there are those who still speak to certain others with barely repressed rage over certain prized items that ended up in one or the other's possession.
Now, sadly, my birthmother is dying. She has been given a very short window of time and will be entering hospice care. I feel bad for her, of course. No matter how awful a person has been, no matter what they've done, I would never want them to have to suffer through what will most likely be a pretty horrific end-of-life experience. I even thought, for a brief moment, that it would probably be a good thing to make a short visit to make peace with her. It felt like it might be the right thing to do, for her, for me. Almost before that impulse could begin to take shape, however, the infighting and absolute dumbfuckery of this extraordinarily damaged family made it completely out of the question.
I'm not angry, I'm not hurt. But my sister surely is, and although I'm here for her and she has my shoulder and my ears and my heart, nothing can take away the sting of being unable to go say her last goodbyes to the woman who, while not a mother, was certainly the crucible that shaped the woman she eventually became. If I didn't love my sister I'd be content to just wish them all well from a distance and let them tear one another apart, piece by piece. You'd think a dying parent wouldn't be the source of so much angst, but somehow they manage to make this an opportunity to draw lines in the sand, to knock each others' chess pieces off the board, to try and get something, though I'm not sure they even know what it is they want. I believe, watching them, that the prospect of watching a pit full of hyenas tearing apart a screaming antelope would be more peaceful.
Distance is a thing of beauty, no doubt about it.
If you need me, I'll be with my mom, hugging her so tightly she can't breathe, thanking her repeatedly for just being my mom. I'm only sorry Dad's not here so I can thank him too. There's no substitute for them. As mildly dysfunctional as we might have been, they were in all the ways that count exactly the kind of parents a person should have.
Without them? I'd just be another hyena picking antelope carcass out of my teeth.