What can you say about someone who gives you love on the one hand, and pain on the other? Teaches you to open your eyes to the magnificence of the world, imparts a lifetime love of learning, yet on the other hand insults and demeans you??
She was someone I knew I could bring my troubles to, someone who would answer my questions, who could talk intelligently about almost any subject under the sun. My friends loved her. Her colleagues loved her, and I loved her dearly. I knew she loved me too. AND, if it's true that "We pick our parents before we are born, to learn a particular life lesson or two"' then perhaps there was a reason and a method to all of this. Whatever, I will always love my Mom, who could be my best buddy at times -- but the tears and the pain she caused me will never fully leave me.
Mom was my blessing and my curse; my best friend and my worst abuser. She started beating me when I was 11 months old. I know, because she told me many times, proud of the fact that she didn't spare the rod to raise the child -- her idea of discipline. I truly belive that my Mom thought she was doing the right thing. The first beating that I remember was when I was 2 years old. She knew I had been throwing up, but she put my little green velvet shoes on my feet anyway and told me - "Now if you feel like you're going to throw up -- TELL ME!!" Of course I threw up, standing there in my crib, looking down at my new green velvet shoes. And the next thing I remember was seeing her storm into the room with anger and determination. I knew I could not escape this beating. It was senseless and I was terrified. (As someone who loves animals, and works hard to alert people about animal abuse, I understand first-hand what a loving helpless innocent creature feels when it is about to be brutalized. My screams were eventually heard -- their screams..sometimes never....).
I also remember going out of my body to watch this sad and terrified little 2 year old (me) being beaten.
But she was my mom, and oh, this little tiny kid loved her so much!! And I know she loved ME very much and always wanted the best for me and my sister.......But......
Imagine, if you will a little 5 year old kid, crying and wishing she was 4 years old again -- because things were a little easier back then. What a way to grow up. How much I missed out on. I remember "adopting" my best friend Rita's mother -- Ruth was so kind, so patient, and so sweet! People like her were my "anchors" that helped me go forward. Ruth never knew this until recently (50 years later!) and how she cried when I told her!! I was ever grateful for her presence back then.
I remember going to the 5&10 with Mom and Sis (a year younger than me). We could not afford the electric trains but we were so happy to have a train set --and we happily made do with a train that we had to push around the tracks, It was fun - UNTIL the metal train wheels met the metal of the track and produced a screech, "That noise is setting my teeth on edge!" screamed Mom -- "If you do that again I will break your train set!" Well HOW could we AVOID doing that? We had to veery gently push that train around the track -- and what kid wants to play like that???!! Even our gentleset efforts produced a SCREECH. ANd Mom, true to her word, got up from the sofa, and destroyed the train set while Sis and I cried our hearts out and Nonna Lucia protested in vain, So what did Mom do next? SHe bought us ANOTHER non-electric train set and,,, as we gently tried to play with it (sheesh!!) we produced some screeches and,,, Mom got up and -- you know what happened.. And we cied and cried. After doing that she had the nerve to ask us "Do you want me to buy you another set?!" "NO!!!!!" we both said in unison-- and even though we were about 4 and 5 yrs old, Sis and I BOTH knew that Mom had spent enough money already, to buy us an ELECTRIC train set in the first place!!!!
Yet, there WERE so many good times with Mom -- trips to Macy's, to Santa, to the zoo, to the beach, hugs, gifts, laughter, the thrill of being taught the classics, Aesop's Fables, Music, Latin, and Italian -- even BEFORE starting kindergarten. The way I could talk to her about ANYTHING and confide in her, and be comforted. But even in those moments, I could never tell when something would set her off, and the screaming or beatings would once again commence. So the axe was always ready to fall, and Sis and I were always aware of that fact.
After a beating, I would sometimes sit alone in a corner, crying my eyes out, feeling SO, SO alone in this world. How old was I -- 8? 9? I remember once, Mom washing some clothes in the sink, and, furious at my crying, asked me how I would enjoy sticking my hands in the hot water instead of crying. I just kept crying. The next thing I knew, my hands were grabbed and pushed into the sink -- well folks, do you know that ice cold water feels just like boiling hot water??!! I screamed bloody murder, thinking I was being scalded. But no... she had filled the sink with cold water so I could wash my face. To this day -- almost 50 years later, I still remember that day, and the feel of that water on my hands.
The beatings, screaming and other types of verbal and physical abuse continued for the next 11 years until one day when Mom raised her hand to wipe her brow, I put my hands up in front of my face to protect myself. I guess she realized (finally) what the beatings were doing to me and my sister. By then it was too late! The beatings stopped (for the most part) but the verbal and emotional abuse never did.
Mom I am sure, had two personalities at odds with each other. In particular, there was one senseless episode where she bought some rock and roll records for me and Sis -- we had said something to her that she didn't like and she snapped the records in two. Then she said "OK -- I'll buy you new records tomorrow", and she left the room. Sis and I stood there crying, dumbfounded. Sis looked at me and said, in a whisper so Mom could not hear us - "Is she crazy?" I looked at her astounded (was it possible that my very own mother who was so proud of her intellgence, could be unstable??) and I said "Sssh!" Don't let her hear you say that!!" If Mom had heard us she would have stormed into the room furious -- and probably would have beaten us and broken God knows what else......
Sis and I were brought up hearing Mom's dual refrains that we were 1) worthless and stupid ("You would be NOTHING, without me!" "I taught you EVERYTHING you know!"), and 2) that we were intelligent and could be whatever we wanted to be. How confusing!! One minute -- beatings and screams. The next minute, hugs and kisses. One minute, our toys were being smashed because we had done something "wrong" -- the next day she would go out and buy new toys for us.. My Nonna (grandmother) Lucia, my dad and my aunt and uncle were helpless in the face of mom's wrath. They comforted me as best as they could, and I'm thankful that we lived with Nonna who was a great comfort to me (I think she still watches over me....). She would tell mom -- "One minute you beat them, the next minute you kiss them -- you are confusing them!!" Mom would say "I have to be both Mother AND Father to them -- their father won't discipline (i.e. - beat) them!" Poor gentle Dad -- he was just as terrified of mom as everyone else was.
Dad was gentle and kind. Mom would sometimes scream at him and throw things at him. She would mock him and make fun of him in front of us. Dad would stay out late sometimes with his buddies and Mom was furious with him the next day. I am surprised he stuck around as long as he did!! He was basically a good and gentle person, who tried to keep us from getting beaten (unsucessfully) who loved to sing songs in his native language (Farsi), who helped us catch fireflies (Lightning bugs) at dusk in front of our apartment at 815 Pelham Parkway in the Bronx, and who hated to see us kids squash ants and other bugs. A very patient person, he took us fishing and to the ball games, played catch with me, taught me how to chew bubble-gum and blow bubbles. Sis and I would go WILD whenever we went out with him, because we knew he was so tolerant!! He would gently chide us if we did something wrong, but he would NEVER tell on us to Mom - for which we were very grateful !!! Mom left him a few times, taking us kids in tow. Very confusing, to say the least. She had so much anger within her......I am now on very good terms with my Dad and consider him my best buddy. He is so sad when he thinks of the time we lost together, and so am I. But we have the present now, and we remember all the good times.
It took me many years to realize that the pain and confusion I went through because of Mom was not normal! And oh, what opportunities I missed out on when I was growing up!! I was NEVER prepared for much of life -- never encouraged to do anything, never guided to be the best I could be. Thank God I always had a very independent streak, and a love of life. It kept me going. After recognizing the abuse for what it was, and going through therapy, I met many people who had gone through more personal hell than I had, and whom I considered champions for having endured and now faced their personal pain and then the healing process.. In some ways it took the edge off some of my own pain -- but every single one of us had to deal with our pain, which was very very real.
What was the pain?? Not just physical -- It was primal anger when I first realized what Mom had done to me. I was so enraged that I screamed at the top of my lungs for about 5 minutes -- shouting at her (in absentia -- she was out at the time!), and saying things like "How DARE you do this to me!!"" believe it or not, Mom, who had gone out shopping was now in the apartment building's hallway, and had heard me through the door -- she did not dare go in!!! When she came in, a few minutes after I "calmed down" she said "I am sorry for anything I did to you in the past!" I was a bit shocked, but knew for sure then that she had been outside the door while I was screaming.
Did this end things? Unfortunately, no. I saw the pastor of my church and talked to him. He suggested I go to, of all things, Al Anon meetings, because Mom, who did not drink, still fit the profile of the Alcoholic Parent. Hesitant at first, I finally took the plunge, and oh, the long long healing process began. At the first meeting, I was shocked when people cried when I talked. I felt so strange when they hugged me -- I also felt that I was violating my mother's privacy ("Don't you DARE tell people what I do to you!") Well, that feeling wore off eventually, when I started to realize the gravity of what had been done to me as a child. I welcomed the hugs, and I truly bless those individuals at those first Al Anon meetings (1984) who were there to support me - I found out later that they too had their own personal hells, and I remember them in my prayers even to this day.
When Mom found out where I had been going (she was an invalid and was living with me), she ridiculed me. When she discovered that I had been talking to our pastor, she shook her head and walked away, saying "Now the priest knows all about me!". I soon stopped telling her what I was doing -- and so the healing process continued.
And yes, I still loved her dearly. While growing up in the midst of all this turmoil, I felt very responsible for keeping the family together as best I could, and for looking after my Mom. And in all fairness to her, she grew up with her own violence. Her father, whom she adored, and who loved her dearly too, would beat her with his belt. Sometimes the buckle would hit her as well. The sins of the father are visited upon their children...........
Many times while she was beating me, I'd cry and plead with her - "instead of beating me, why don't you tell me what it was that I did wrong-- then I wouldn't do it again!" My pleas fell on deaf ears.......she would just scream at me and continue to hit me.
Four books in particular, helped save my life --
The first book, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale was such a joy to read!! After years of fear and sadness, I discovered that yes -- it's OK for me to think positive thoughts! It was a joy to discover the real power for good that I had inside of me! That book helped me make tremendous progress.
The second book -- You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay was like an intimate friend. I got alot of good out of that book, and wrote Ms Hay to thank her "for being there" when I needed her.
The third book was a terrible catharsis - Toxic Parents. I saw a woman reading it at a local fair, and she grimly told me that I should prepare myself for what I'd find in that book. She was right. It took me 2 months to go through that book. I was shocked when I read what other abusive parents had told their children. What they said to these children was verbatim, exactly what Mom had said to me. It was surreal, almost scary. I was not easy to be with for those 2 months while I ead that book -- this was a catharsis for my soul and psyche, and altough I still have that book I sometimes recoil when I see it there on my bookshelf.
On the Day You Were Born -- what a beautiful book! A simple child's book with vivid illustrations -- I picked it up at a book store run by a friend of mine and instantly started crying tears of joy and astonishment as I read its all-embracing words. It made me realize with a shock that Pure LOVE was always there for me, right from the moment I was born -- and it still is there for me. My friend saw my tears and very kindly just smiled at me. I bought the book -- I still cry every time I read it.
I noted wryly that these books came to me one at a time, almost falling into my hands from the bookshelf -- and each one built on the other -- I feel that if I had read them "out of order", the healing would not have been as progressive and logical as it was, but regardless, the healing would have happened anyway -- our books are sometimes our treasures and angels.
When Mom became quite ill and I became her primary caretaker (my sister refused to have anything to do with Mom), it was not easy at all. We would have our good moments, and then things would get pretty sour. I would hire people to shop for Mom while I was at work -- she would dismiss them. I would have to cajole her to go to Social Services with me, so she could pay for her medication (I did not have the funds to pay for all her medicine or hospital bills), and she would resist it ("we will NOT depend on welfare!", she'd yell)-- but fortunately, she went with me, and so the medical bills were paid for. I would leave for work in the morning (and the people I worked for were very unkind, so my job was like hell too!!), and Mom would get angry and threaten to trash the apartment. I'd had enough by that time, so I'd tell her -- "I pay half the rent -- if you trash the apartment I'll have to call the police" to which she'd say "I'll tell them YOU did it!" So with her parting words, I would then have to go to work - out of the frying pan and into the fire.......
I was still going to group therapy sessions, which were on a pay-what-you-can basis, and am grateful that this was available to me. This was a great comfort to me. We all leaned on each other there, but these sessions were not without joy.
My health suffered because of all the errands I willingly ran for Mom. Eventually Mom's health became so bad, she stayed in the hospital, on dialysis, until she died. I would visit, and before I left, we would always say to each other "I love you". (She loved me -- I know she did. And yes, I loved her, even after all this time.) The atmosphere at my job was not getting any better, and I was almost beside myself. I was so stressed & tired that I wrecked my car, luckily avoiding injury (Someone was watching out for me).
Mom called me up one day at work to tell me that they had done some tests at the hospital, and had discovered cancer -- she was told she had about 1 month to live. The forecast proved to be true. She went downhill from then on, sometimes calling me at midnight to talk, mostly in a delirious fashion. Then came the day when the hospital called to say that Mom was not responding. I needed permission from my job to leave for the hospital. When I got there, Mom was delirious and screaming from intense pain, She called for me - I held her hand, and reassured her that I was there. The cancer was spreading, and there was just so much that could be done in the way of painkillers, because she was on dialysis. Soon Mom slipped into a coma. I left after 5 hours. The next morning, she was in a deep coma. The nurse told me that mom had briefly come out of the coma, asked for me, and then looked at the nurse and said "Am I dying?" Everyone was crying.
Mom lived for another 2 weeks, but never came out of her coma. I would visit every evening after work (by bus -- my car was totalled), bring flowers, and talk to her - hoping that what was said about comatose individuals was true ("they can hear you"). After a week of being in the coma, Mom's doctor called and said "There is nothing more we can do for her -- even dialysis will not help any more -- but we need your permission to take her off dialysis." A tough decision for me to make, but knowing that mom had specifically said "When I'm on my way out -- I don't want any life-support" -- I told the doctor - "Please put her on dialysis one more time, and then you have my permission to take her off." The doctor reassuringly told me "If that had been my mother, I would have made the same decision." This was somewhat comforting.
The days went by in a blur - hospital visits after work -- returning home so exhausted that I would lie on the sofa in my work clothes and fall into a fitful sleep until the next morning..
The night before Mom was due to be transferred (by the hospital) to Hospice, I again took the bus and visited her. There had been tremendous thunderstorms all week, and knowing Mom Sylvia's love for these violent storms, I figured she would go out in one. I was not mistaken, That night, as I looked at her emaciated form, breathing shallowly on her bed, I realized that here was someone who had caused SO many people so much grief with the violent side of her personality, but here was also a person who was dearly loved because of the beautiful side of her (other?) personality. I wondered how much she had to "atone" for, and realized that she had suffered so much that perhaps her suffering on his earth was God's way of letting her pay her dues before she died. I was saddened to think that maybe she had to carry some of this with her to the next world. So I told her "Mom, we both know that you're on your way to the next world. I don't know when you are going to leave, but I want to give you a goodbye gift-- I release you from anything you may owe me." It was getting dark and I needed to catch the bus home before it got too late (I had no money for cab fare). I told her before I left -- "If I don't see you in this world, I will see you in the next". Mom died that night. She came to visit me at the time she died - I was eating supper, sitting on the sofa, and suddenly I knew she was in the room - I have written about this on another part of this website, and you can go there (there is a link at the bottom of this page) to read more.
The healing will never end. But I knew things were getting better when one day I began having a series of flashbacks that left me furious and in great pain -- a long-forgotten memory (such as my night terrors, and specific episodes of maternal violence) suddenly flared up and the pain was so intense I likened it to Schrapnel coming to the surface. I acknowledged the pain and the agony, and then I mentally "pulled out the schrapnel" -- I could feel the healing begin to take place. These flashbacks ocurred several times, then these episodes ended.
Am I totally healed? No -- this healing process follows the law of diminishing returns -- there will always be scars, and there will always be new things to learn and to discover about myself and life. But I am so proud of my friends and relatives who have helped me return to the human race. God bless them all.
Do I hate my Mom for what she did? No, but forgiveness is a VERY difficult word for me to understand. But time and the healing process have mellowed much. I still love her and remember the good times fondly -- and I hope wherever she is, that she is happy.
On her gravesite is a marker that reads "Best friend, and Mom." I think that says enough.......May she rest in peace.
I was always sad when people cried when, in my group therapy sessions and the Al Anon meetings I would talk about those painful parts of my childhood -- I felt like I was causing them needless sorrow. But I guess we can't help but empathize. So if you are sad, I am so sorry.... Perhaps reading this may enable you to see the pain in someone's eyes and realize why it's there.
I truly believe we have to heal ourselves, and are the only ones who have that final say about our decision -- in a way, what the Devil said in "Damn Yankees" - "Never feel sorry for anyone" -- has a certain ring of truth to it when it means: "You cannot shoulder another person's burden, no matter how sorry you feel for them, or how much you love them -- they may drag you under if you are not careful". Selfish advice ?? No -- cautious self-preservation, perhaps.
And it's ironic perhaps, that the very person who abused me for many years, was the same person who said "Always be kind to others-- you NEVER know what that person you just passed on the street is going through -- and a smile may mean all the difference in the world!" Although the dark side of her personality was sometimes terrifying to a little child, when she was good she was truly a good and wonderful person. And I loved her dearly. And I know she loved me too.
It has been proven that those who are abused sometimes take out that abuse on persons even more helpless than they are -- i.e., the animals -- I have a very soft spot in my heart for these innocent little ones of God - the animals, and I have alot to say about them on other pages of my web site. I remember the sheer terror I felt, as a two year old child, as my mother bore down on me with the intent to cause pain. How helpless and terified I was!! I can only imagine how terrified and confused a helpless little loving and lovable animal feels when it sees a human being bearing down on it in the same manner, with the same (and worse) intentions to hurt, maim, brutalize, kill it -- and usually no one hears it or heeds its screams of terror -- no one comes to its aid......They die alone, with no one to cry for them........WHY this senseless brutality...???? Why must we continue to hurt each other when there is a world of exquisite beauty that we could spend a whole lifetime sharing with one-anothe - learning about it and glorying in it, discovering the natural beauty out there that can fill us with wonder and joy?
God bless us all.
Parents -- love your children -- they are precious. Discipline them with firmness but with love. Any abuse directed towards any living being will not only affect that individual (and you) but will BOOMERANG back to the rest of society.
Please visit other pages about Mom on this web site :
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