5 min read

My mother is dead; long live my mother.

I have a picture of her somewhere.

I think.

Here's the truth: I have not seen nor heard from my mother in nearly 30 years.

That's a fact.

Of course, it's a little more complicated than that.

We always had a horrible relationship. Always.

There's this family story about how I refused to breast feed and my mother became pregnant with my little sister. While I was born a month early, my little sister was nearly two months late. My mother's uterus prolapsed with the weight of her. After my little sister was born, my mother had a full hysterectomy.

So follow this logic -- if I had been a better breast feeder, my mother wouldn't have become pregnant with my little sister. If she hadn't become pregnant with my little sister, she never would have prolapsed and had to have a full hysterectomy.

My father wanted a larger family which he couldn't because...

My mother told anyone who listened that I "destroyed her body" by causing her to prolapse. When she got breast cancer, she told me that it was my fault because she had to take hormone replacement therapy if she hadn't had a full hysterectomy and she had the full hysterectomy...

My point here is that when I say always, I mean quite literally always.

There's so much here that I could likely write an entire book about everything that happened and still not get everything said that needed to saying.

Here are the cliff notes:

  1. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia more than once. As was her mother. Her grasp on reality was tenuous at best.
  2. She decided that I had "ruined her life" and this became a family theme. To this day, my sisters say: "Everything was fine until you came along."
  3. She was neglectful, violent, drunken, abusive, insane, and exceedingly cruel.
  4. One of her favorite things to do was to wind up my father and watch him vent his rage on me. .

And no one knew or they knew and simply did not care.

The day I was to go to college, my mother insisted on driving the car with me alone.

Now, you can trust me when I say that I could not remember the last time I had been alone with my mother. But who was I to argue? She bought me a full tank of gas -- something she never did -- and we took off.  My father and little sister followed behind in his car.

Let me tell you, we had a great time. She was nearly giddy. She laughed and chatted the entire ride.

When we got to the dorm, she talked to other people and helped me pack.

I knew that something was going on, I just had no idea what.

My father insisted on taking us out to lunch. After lunch, my mother told him that she would drive home in the car he'd given me. When he refused, she simply smiled and asked if she could have another chance to say good-bye.

We walked to my door room together. My roommate and her mother were gone.

My mother walked to the door of my dorm room and turned.

She asked for the check she'd given me to "help" with tuition back. Unsure of why she wanted it, I gave it back to her. She looked at the check and sighed.

"You're here now," I remember her saying. "I don't ever want to see you again. Don't come back. Don't you dare come back. There is no place for you."

She gave me a big and beautiful smile, spun in place, and was gone.

I stood there until my roommate came back.

I know. It sounds like words. Poor baby Claudia, all alone at college.

But that's what it was -- I was all alone.

17 years of living in a family and now I was completely alone.

I had to figure out a way to pay for school. I had to figure out a way to take care of myself. I had to figure out how to take a breath.

I couldn't get tuition assistance because my parents had claimed me on their taxes for the last two years.

So I worked. I got a job at food service. When I found out that I could only work there 20 hours a week, I got another job in town selling microwaves. I sold microwaves for 40 hours a week, worked in food service for 20 hours a week, took out student loans, and went to school full time.

I stopped eating. My hair fell out. It wasn't until I was throwing up blood that I realized that I needed to do something, and fast.

My roommate was gone, so I spent a weekend alone in our dorm room trying to figure out what was next.

Before I could get there, I was informed by my little sister that my mother's society friends had asked about me. That she was embarrassed that I wouldn't be there for Christmas.

Would I come home?

I jumped at the chance. Maybe this would be redemption. Maybe she was just a little crazy that day.

Nope. She wanted me out of there and fast.

The same thing happened in the summer. My mother's society friends as where I was and when was I going to be home.

One summer and that was it.

My mother decided she'd had enough of my father so filed for divorce. She determined that I was "on my father's side" so phoned me screaming with rage every single day. My little sister told me that she didn't want to have anything to do with me because I was "mean to mom." My eldest sister would call to tell me that I was selfish and cruel. My other sister began the fast slide into chronic, debilitating schizophrenia.

I would like to tell you that I was strong and independent so I never saw them again.

That's not true.

My father dragged me out for Christmas that year. We went through the ritual like monkey's winding an organ.

I was accepted at UC Berkeley. After a summer in town taking classes at UCLA, I drove to Berkeley and never returned to the family home.

I saw her twice when I went to school there. Once, she had a conference in Oakland. Another time, she needed a place to stay for some reason or another. I gave her my bed in the near cave I was living in. She complained bitterly about being bitten by spiders.

She refused to come to my graduation because my father was there.

But she invited me on a trip she'd won to Switzerland. Once again, I packaged up my hope and longing for some connection and went. What happened was so horrible that I won't go into it. Suffice it to say, she made absolutely certain that I knew how much she loathed me. She even cancelled the credit card she'd given me to travel on -- while I was 3000 miles from home and depending on the credit.

That was it for me. I swore that I would never see her again.

So you can imagine how I felt when she asked me to join her in a therapy session. Scared? Sure.

Does the longing for a mother ever go away?

Oh my God, you would not believe the performance she put on.

She was sorry. She was so so so sorry.

Yes, she'd lied and told anyone who could listen that she'd paid for all of my schooling.

Yes, she'd said and done all of those horrible things and more.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

She wept.

She made promises.

She begged for my forgiveness on literal bended knee.

I told her that I would give her a chance to prove herself.

Three months later, she rescinded everything. It was my fault. She hadn't lied. She hadn't done those horrible things, and if she had it was my fault.

So that was it.

I never saw her again.

But here's the thing -- she's lived inside me every single day since the day I was born.

I hear her voice in everything I do.

I hear her voice when I stand in the mirror.

I hear her voice when I write every word.

I've gotten so very used to hearing her voice that it doesn't stop me from doing anything.

Now she's dead. Gone. Finito.

For me, she died a long time ago.

She only lives in the dark deep recesses of my mind where she reminds me that I should never have been born.

Long live my mother.