Quite a high percentage of blog posts turn on the problems of parents – what sort of a childhood you had, did it undermine/ruin your self-confidence. And so, so many reflect on the sadness of a difficult adult relationship, even estrangement. Guilt often accompanies this, much more often with mother than father. My mother died 20 years ago, almost 100 – to the last she was criticising me – the care home staff said, after her death, they did not understand why I kept visiting her, she was so rude and unpleasant (on one visit I was going to her room, the cleaner came out ‘I could murder your mother’). I felt I was tough enough to keep visiting. Afterwards, staff said when we travelled I sent Faxes to the home and they read them to her, apparently she wanted them re-read. She would then talk of ‘my daughter who writes, who lives in France’ with pride.
I tried analysing the insurmountable problems. Towards the end she blamed me for the breakup of her marriage, my father preferred my company to hers. When he suggested an outing her reaction was it might rain, be windy or too hot. When he was making money he’d hire a chauffeur driven car before getting his own. She did suffer with terribly swollen legs. But she would do nothing to help herself – walk, keep them up as much as possible, exercise the ankles to improve circulation. And, of course, she felt she was always stared at. She was, people were sorry for her. I suggested she wore trousers, horrors. A younger sister with the same problem wore well cut trousers suits. So, Mummy would not go out – weather or being stared at. My father was very social so took me, till I was supplanted by a succession of mistresses.
The split up was very bitter – I stayed with my father (I was just 16) and did not speak to my mother for years, it was one camp or the other. When I married, and got more confident, I started to see her, I do not believe in depriving children of grand-parents. I visited her frequently, and she stayed with us often till her death. But she drove me bonkers – It was impossible to please her. She did not believe in sitting long at table, or meals being social, and would try and break up a party by jumping up to clear up. I would take her out for the day round all the prettiest villages in Hampshire, and she’d moan about the current warden of her flats the whole time. Fish and chip lunch in a nice pub. More scenery, cream tea in a hotel and home. Not a word of thanks, just ‘At least it didn’t rain’. She would never admire another woman – if I admired her ‘It’s alright for her, she’s slim, rich’. She was a terrible visitor, would do nothing for herself, had to be waited on.
Do you cope? Argue? Suffer in silence? And, in extremis ‘She’s my mother’.
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