5 min read



My first memory of my mother is one of light -- yellow, green, and white -- and terror. The image is so blurry that I'm not sure that I was able to see at that time. My memory is of breastfeeding -- safe and warm with this beautiful light.

Then, I pulled back in absolutely terror.

According to my father, I breastfeed until suddenly, one day I wouldn't take a drop. They did everything they could to get me to breastfeed, including cutting the ligament under my tongue to "encourage breast feeding."

I never took another drop.

Because of this, again according to my father, my parents conceived my little sister. I would have been between four and five months old when she was conceived.

Now, I know what you're going to say -- there's no way I could remember being this young.

But I remember.

I will tell you that this experience saved my life.

I always knew that she was crazy.

The mother that raised me had long brown hair. She hated plastic surgery and makeup. She was a natural 1970s woman.

When I was in forth grade, she started teaching school to pay for my eldest sister's college.

This mother wore high heels and red lipstick. Her closet was filled with had hundreds of boxes of shoes.

She'd get dressed up to teach high school English.

She was so beautiful.

The boys in her English classes had crushes on her. The girls hung around her like she was a rock star.

More than one girl told me that I was lucky to have a mother like her.

How could they know that when the attention was off, she went insane.

She co-wrote a book with two of her fellow teachers until they were out to get her. They wanted to steal the rights of the book from her. She was going to sue them. She had written the best English book in the entire universe and these women were going to steal it from her.

She wanted them fired. She wanted them to pay for their imaginary transgressions. She complained to her department head over the summer. She had him so wound up that he had decided to fire the other two. Then, he was replaced. The new department head investigated and determined that nothing had happened.

The book could be used in my mother's classroom but that was it.

The teachers weren't fired or reprimanded or had their wages docked or whatever other thing my mother thought they deserved.

She vented her fury at home.

My little sister took her complaints very seriously and refused to take classes from these other traitorous teachers. My oldest sister was at college and could only take my mother's side of the story.

I knew she'd made the entire thing up. I knew that she'd only kept her job because my father had gone to the school to talk to the department head.

That's a concrete example.

I could tell you about the time she stabbed me or how I'd find her screaming at the walls and waiting for the walls to respond or when she traded me for her father's affection or myriad of horrible stories including disowning me when I was 17 years old and telling everyone who knew her that I was an ungrateful child who she'd supported 100% before I "turned on" her.

How about the time she wanted a television show and the director wanted access to me? She traded me into violence and rape in a heartbeat. But hey, she got her television show, right?

I could tell you that she called me a "whore" from the time I was ten years old. She said that I had "given myself over to the devil." Or when working 3 jobs and going full time to UC Berkeley, I had literally gone weeks without food, that I was simply "not managing my money correctly."

How about the time she told me that I would "go to hell for what I had done." What had I done? "You know what you've done."

I could tell you how she had breast cancer when she was 55 years old which she later decided was just because the doctor didn't want to miss his golf tee time. (Did the doctor play golf? Who knows?)

How about when she stopped buying food for the family? I started cleaning houses when I was 11 years old. She saw that I had money so she decided that I could feed the family. I gave the money I earned to her so that she looked like she bought the food. I bought all of my own clothing from that point onward.

I could tell you about how she told everyone that she had to get a cyst removed from her "womb" (she had a total hysterectomy in 1968) and came out of the hospital with a facelift.

Lies? Denial? To me, it was just more of her insanity.

The last time I saw her, she'd invited me to her therapist's office. There she wept with sorrow at the way she'd treated me. She begged me for my forgiveness. She told me that she knew about all of the things my grandfather did to me. She said that she felt such desperate shame that she'd lied about everything.

Could I ever forgive her?

Who was I not to act out my part? I accepted her apology and told her that I understood.

She promised to help me pay for my therapy at $100 a month.

She send 3 checks before she decided that I had tricked her in some way.

Cue the lies.

That was nearly 30 years ago. I haven't heard from her since then.

These lies made my father's sisters hate me. When I tried to protest, they would say -- "Why would she lie about something like that?"

They had no idea what she was. They died believing the things she'd told them about me. I never saw any of them again.

Her lies cleaved me from my father's family.

Her sister told me that she finally decided that having family was worth more than having to fight the lies. She decided to apologize for all of the grievances my mother had made up about her.  She said it took her months of "You're right. I apologize." to fantastic accusations for my mother to "forgive her" but she never knew when something else would come up and she's once again have to apologize.

Most recently, she's been telling people that she had only one child.

You see, she gave birth to four children.

She told everyone that my eldest sister was her only child. You see, she's a doctor. And her beautiful children all went to namebrand colleges back east.

No one knows about the child with schizophrenia, the brilliant child who teaches teachers and has a gorgeous daughter and handsome son, or even her asshole, ungrateful daughter (me) who writes fiction. We haven't existed in her life story for the last 10 years or so.

Have you met her doctor daughter? Seen her gorgeous grandchildren? Why would she lie about something like that?

You're probably wondering if I am angry with her.

You have to have a relationship with someone to be angry with them. From that early moment to this day, we never had a relationship. She was an evil spirit who did horrible things to me, but not one I knew or understood. She wasn't anything to me more than someone I knew.

There's simply nothing there.

She died yesterday. Cancer,of all things.