[Content Note: NSFW/explicit language used (one word), discussion of an abusive parent… let me know if I should’ve warned for something specifically but didn’t. I can add it up here.]
It has been 8 years and 9 months since one particular fateful evening, at the end of April 2007, when my younger brother and I decided to take our mother up on her ultimatum that if we left her house and went with our father on a Wednesday night, went with him to a get a doctor to look at my brother’s broken hand, well… the ultimatum said we wouldn’t be allowed back in the house. We would literally be kicked out. She told us if we went with him, we better pack our bags. And so… we did. Then she made us give back our keys to get into the house.
It has been approximately 5 hours less than that since she has been trying to get us back. Around midnight that night, she started pretending she never uttered that ultimatum in the first place. Or perhaps by then she had become deeply delusional and truly did not remember that she spoke those words. I tried to remind her. Tried to tell her to just look at the keys she now was in possession of as proof of what had happened. Regardless, she did deliver that ultimatum. Many times. That had just been the time we decided to take her up on it, because that time — with my brother’s hand’s well being being at stake — it was worth it. Clearly our mom never imagined we’d ever actually take the “leave the house” option.
I’ve written about my mother being abusive on a number of occasions, most notably in a 3-part series of posts that starts here: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/figuring-out-my-mother-was-an-abuser-part-1-of-3/
And you may want to read those to understand some of the context of what in the world I’m even talking about.
On my 18th birthday, in January 2008, almost exactly 8 years ago now, I cut my mother out of my life completely — putting all phone conversations and visits to an end — and I haven’t regretted it, not for one moment.
I had kept up visits and phone calls with her for the 7 or so months I had still been a legal minor, but when I was legally free from her, I made what was really one of the easiest choices I ever had to make. I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain by cutting off contact with her. I mean, nothing to lose except more opportunities for negative, traumatic experiences. And I was happy to lose those.
I did end up speaking to my mother a bit in a courthouse waiting room the summer of 2009, around June. I think I also saw her testify in December 2009 for a custody issue my younger brother had to deal with before he turned 18 the next month. (My brother turned 24 two days ago.) So it has been slightly over 6 years now since I’ve actually seen her face. Even in a photo. I have really had no contact.
“Going no contact” is terminology used in communities of people raised by toxic parents, often abbreviated “NC” (for “No Contact”).
When my mom strong-armed her boyfriend-at-the-time into falsely accusing my father of a serious crime — assault with a deadly weapon, the weapon being his car — she claimed it happened at a time and place where my brother was a witness. So my brother knew firsthand just how blatantly false it was. I recognized my mom’s handwriting instantly on the Application for Statement of Charges form she’d filed at the county commissioner’s office, even though her boyfriend had signed his name and was supposedly the accuser.
When that went through, and my dad was dragged off to jail for a night in June 2009, my brother cut off contact with her immediately. That was certainly the final straw for him. Her daily phone call to him resulted in him answering not with a “Hello?” but rather a “Fuck you”, and that was how my 17-year-old brother cut off contact with the woman whom I already, at that point, hadn’t been speaking to for a year-and-a-half.
But my mother doesn’t seem to understand what I’ve been doing. What we’ve been doing, my brother and I. After moving out of her house and into my grandmother’s for my senior year of high school, I finally got my first ever cell phone, and my mom did not have my personal cell phone number. I do not know how she acquired it, but one day near the beginning of my first semester of college, Freshman year, she started to call me. I got to the point of answering and hanging up without even saying hello, because it was annoying to just keep letting it ring.
That was in 2008. As I’ve said, it’s been a while. She… goes a few weeks without calling me or my brother sometimes. But then other times she’ll call every day in a row for a period of time. And at this point, we never answer. We first configured her ring tone when she calls to be “no ring”, and now, even better, “Automatically Reject the Call” when it’s from that number. Still, my android smartphone tells me she is the most “frequently contacted” person in my address book, other than the people I’ve specifically assigned as favorites, and that frustrates me. NO. She is not frequently contacted by me. She is a frequent contacter, and that difference matters.
I wish she’d just leave me alone.
A few months ago, she left me this voicemail message, which is slightly longer than her average message, but most of the sentiments she says as if from a script at this point. She knows I’m not going to pick up. She is aware of that. So here, I’ve transcribed it:
Hi, Emily. Look, I don’t know how to say it except the way I’ve always said it. If you can look yourself in the mirror, you can look others in the eye. And… anyone who is in the right… is not afraid to stand up… and face… the truth. So… I always say to you, you are stronger than you think. And don’t let other people bring you down. Okay? You are so much stronger than you think. And you’ll be so much happier when you deal with all this. Think of you always, and I love you, very much. Call me when you can. Bye.
Her message seems innocuous enough at a first glance, perhaps it even seems kind. You might feel bad for my mother. Poor woman. Hasn’t gotten to speak to her kids in 8-ish years. She claims to want what’s best for me. She particularly loves to repeat the aphorism “You’re stronger than you think” in almost all of her messages.
But… I hate hearing the words. I hate the reminder that she exists, and even more so, I hate the reminder that this woman truly believes she knows what I think, knows how strong I think I am? Whatever that’s supposed to mean. She thinks she knows me at all?? Woman, I started getting into fandom as an escape from you when I was 14 years old and completely hid that part of my life from you. You don’t know what field got my college degree in, you don’t know I’m an atheist, you don’t know I’m asexual. You know so little about me, and I don’t feel like you ever really knew me.
I’m lucky. It could be worse. I could still have her in my life.
But these messages also have a few other recurring themes, so much desperation for me to call her back. What does she think that would solve? What fantasy world is she living in where a phone conversation would actually satisfy her?
“If you can look yourself in the mirror, you can look others in the eye. And… anyone who is in the right… is not afraid to stand up… and face… the truth.”
What she’s actually saying to me, her daughter, is “Emily, you’re acting like you’re afraid to face me.” She’s taunting me! She’s being ridiculous. Heck yeah I’m afraid to face her. Afraid is only one of the many things I feel. She’s saying I’m being a coward and hiding, not looking her in the eye, not speaking to her on the phone, etc. And it’s kind of a really odd message to be leaving, but she’s been leaving it for years now.
Around the same time as this message was left, I’m not sure if it was before or after, she left me another message, where she said:
If you want to be dead to me, then you should look me in the eye, say it to my face.
That was an oddly specific message compared to most of hers. She made her thoughts more clear than ever. “If I want to be dead to her.” Hmm. Mom, when you “disowned” me multiple times growing up but didn’t really mean it, when you kicked me out of the house, you said the same things. You said “you better not do this or else you’ll be dead to me”, trying to wager that I’d choose you and you loving me over me and my own well being. Well sorry to break it to you, but I’m looking forward to when I can honestly say it’s been a whole decade I’ve been free from you, because you’re dead to me, and not the other way around. Who looks someone in the eye and says “I want to be dead to you.”?? But sure. I guess I want that too.
She’s cut out of my life, and I’d love to be cut out of hers, too. Because if I was dead to her, maybe the stupid voicemails would STOP.
The funny thing is that there are a few things she could’ve said in these 7-and-a-half years? worth of voicemails that might’ve, just maybe, made me consider letting her back into my life. Because unlike an abusive romantic partner, she is the only mother I’m ever going to have, and people expect you to try beyond reason to make it work. If my mother had said, “I’m sorry” about anything at all (and actually seemed to mean it), that would be an improvement. If she’d apologized for what she did to my dad instead of continuing to blame the man for me and my brother considering her abusive. If she’d admitted she had been abusive to us, if she said she was seeking anger management help — because yes, three completely unrelated psychologists at three completely different “Reunification therapy sessions” she and my brother attended together back in 2008 had concluded that reunification between the two of them seemed futile until and unless she dealt with her anger management issues….
If, if, if…
You know, it’s just so frustrating to me that she keeps leaving these voicemails, and this blog post doesn’t even really touch on much of what I’m thinking or feeling at all. I just had to get something out. Because god. Mom. Seriously. Why.