Sunday, May 09, 2010

Too much

I’ll have to tell you more of this conversation later on, the one that starts at my grandmother’s art exhibit, the permanent collection at the University of Maryland and the artwork looks beautiful, even if it’s housed in such a weird space, a conference center with a gallery kind of in the basement really, a few galleries in spaces that feel like hallways, I mean they are hallways but wider, track lighting that makes the artwork look good but a drop ceiling and shiny white basement floors, except the area that houses my grandmother’s work, which has a red carpet, but that’s because it’s right outside the conference rooms.

But anyway, afterwards we’re outside in front on these Southern-style lawn chairs in the brick median between conference center and hotel and I’m trying to tell my mother why it’s upset me so much that Rose died, because my mother says Rose had a full life, of course I know that, but what’s hard for me is what she meant to me as a kid, I’m mourning that loss now. I mean she hasn’t been supportive at all for 15 years, but I didn’t realize what that meant, and I start to cry when I’m about to say that I wish we could have talked about my art, I mean that she wouldn’t have refused to see me, to understand, because she was the one person in the family who could have, and I didn’t realize what that would have meant me, so that’s what I’m mourning now.

But I don’t get to say that, because our taxi arrives, so then it’s a few hours later and we’re at my mother’s apartment, and somehow it goes from my grandmother to my father, and my mother is saying: it was a huge mistake to stay in the house with Dad. I didn’t protect you and Allison, I didn’t protect myself – I didn’t feel competent. It would have been excruciatingly painful to leave him, I wouldn’t have been able to support you – I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the loneliness. It would have been a bloodbath between Dad and I, and I was always worried that he would get custody, and that I would be left with nothing. I always thought he would change – and he didn’t. I wish I could’ve been strong enough and resourceful enough, but I wasn’t.

When my mother says she should have left, she’s saying she should have left because of my father’s anger; she’s not acknowledging the rest, but still. But still I can’t believe she’s saying it was a mistake to stay; she’s never said that before. I always wanted her to leave. Now she says: I always felt that it was a mistake to stay.

Later, my mother says something about how my father was never affectionate, and I say that wasn’t the problem, the problem was that he sexually abused me, I mean that was the core, that he raped and molested and sexually abused me, and then I start to talk more, just a little bit, but my mother stops me and says something about how I told her she doesn’t have good boundaries, and she says: maybe you don’t realize this, but I’m a very good listener. Like she’s letting me talk too much. And then: something about how she would like to see me in therapy. As if I’m telling her because I think she’s my therapist. Something about how she doesn’t want to be the receptor for all of this. But I’m talking about incest because it’s about you, I say – I don’t have to talk about it right now, but I need you to know that it isn’t just about his anger, or his lack of affection, I can’t just let you leave it there without at least bringing up the sexual abuse, because otherwise I feel like I’m being silenced.

Before, my mother was encouraging me to cry, to cry about my grandmother, to let some of the sadness out – she was telling me she really respected me because I could show my emotions. But now, talking about incest I’m stuck again and she’s no longer encouraging me, I mean she wants me to stop, it’s too much for her to hear about, as if it wasn’t too much for me to endure. As if it still isn’t too much for me to endure.

But still I can hardly believe that she said she should have left. That was always my hope, my hope as a kid – I wanted to rescue her, even if she would never rescue me.


kayti said...

i am glad you got to see so much of your grandmother's art work

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Yes, that was definitely good :)