I’m Winging It Here

by cathrynbauer

This is my lucky beach, Waddell Beach, just inside the northern Border of Santa Cruz County.  I would be there today if Ted and I weren’t going to check out the newish Fort Ord Dunes State Park tomorrow.  It is lucky because I always discover something new about it when I go there, or I feel much better, or something good happens to me in the following week.

It is my slightly neurotic, annual habit to Google the names of estranged relatives.  I did so this past Thursday and learned that my mother died on February 3 of this year.  All I’ve been able to find is a minimalist obituary.

I know that she always provided well for her old age, and I doubt she died alone.  I checked U.S. Identity, and her longtime paramour is still alive.  She was close to my brother’s wife, at least when I knew her, and his two sons.  She was 83 at the time of her death.  That and the date are the only solid facts I have. I haven’t seen her since about 1981 because of issues relating to abuse and alcoholism.

This is just strange.  There’s no blueprint.  There’s no obligation, nothing I have to do.  I had plenty of models and plenty of practice in handling relatives’ deaths.  I know the etiquette and the logistics of it all; I would probably be a sharp consumer of funeral services if need be.  There was a period in my early teens when it happened all the time.  It was always sad, but it was okay.  People died and we remembered them, and we saw them in ourselves and each other.  But this isn’t the same thing.  This is someone who was very troubled and had her own grief but never managed it in any way I would care to emulate.  One of the great gifts of the Internet is that I learned how many people are like me: treated badly when young, we chose to be decent human beings and have good lives.  Second, I read everything I could find on the problems of adult adoptees, which she was, back in the age of great secrecy and shame about such things.   I didn’t even know she was adopted until a cousin let it slip when I was well into adulthood.  My mother was typical.  The fear of abandonment is so great that they constantly tear others down in an effort to make them dependent so they’ll never leave.  She didn’t protect me from my father, and both of them pathologically favored my younger brother who milked the situation to his advantage.  And I have buried them all, figuratively, if not literally.

For the past 15 or so years, I have focused both publicly and personally on the many advantages I had growing up, the good education, the travel, the exposure to lots of different interests.  It’s a healthier way to go, at least after a certain point in the recovery process.  That was around the time I decided that I was not going to spend the rest of my life wringing my hands over my beginnings, that I was going to go with what I had and not miss anything I wanted to do.   There was a lot of good in my life, and I could make it even better if I turned my attention to the present and future.  The dark side of that is that a lot of what was painful is now coming back to me: whop, whop, whop, like the sound of a tennis ball hitting the racket or court surface.  There was serious stuff and also just a lot of petty cruelty nearly every day of my life when I was young.

There was a time when I would have believed it unwise to write about this publicly.   There are those who regard people who have experienced parental abuse as somehow damaged and therefore not to be taken quite as seriously.  If that’s your view of me, just go away and think what you will.  There is such a thing as stronger at the broken places.

Onward, ever onward.

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