Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A monologue by my mother

I haven't been a good mother. I was a very immature 26-year-old when I had you – I never got any emotional support. I was a bad role model, I fostered a sense of dependency. I didn't have any skills. I had a very different outlook – I thought everything would be taken care of for me, I thought I shouldn't have to put the effort in. I was very ill-prepared. I didn't have the backbone of curiosity.

One of the positive things about Dad was that he swept me up into a world of culture and food that I hadn’t imagined. He paid for my analysis and my education – not willingly, but he paid. My education started with Dad, going to New York and learning about beer and wine, good food. I was 22 when I moved to New York, and Dad had no interest in getting married – he just wanted to drink and go to restaurants and hang out with his friends, and I told him I would leave the relationship if we didn't get married.

The first apartment he got for us – it was drug infested and the windows were smashed, they’d asked for three months down and I don't know what happened because you know how he was with money but I told him there was no way I would live there. Then we lived at the St. George Hotel and I would entertain with this little card table and as soon as we started eating, all the roaches would arrive. We would be in bed, and Dad’s parents would be waiting for us – I would say Bill, your parents are here, and he would say so what!

I didn't know how to cook and I was nervous Dad would find out, but I knew how to boil water and I knew how to time 3 minutes, so I made instant chicken noodle soup and tuna fish, and Dad loved it. All of the apartments we lived in were awful – we didn't have any life skills, we weren’t like you, you always find incredible places and we just had no idea. We lived in an apartment on the Upper East Side with four other people, Dad met them in medical school, and then we moved to Adams Street in Brooklyn because Bill was working in downstate King County and it was just so depressing, each apartment got worse – there was no light, we were totally primitive. We were totally ill-prepared to get married, to have children – neither one of us had a clue.

But I was so excited to marry a doctor who was handsome and brilliant, even though I always told him he wasn't. Dad always thought you were far smarter than he could ever dream to be, you were a true intellectual. You are a true intellectual. Your knowledge and interest in learning was apparent right away – the way you knew the names of all the composers, the geography and different countries. You started reading really early and your motivation and curiosity for learning was insatiable. Your teachers were saying that right away, even in Montessori you were making things with your hands that were remarkable.

Dad was so excited and so proud and so in awe. We both bonded in terms of our priorities – we decided both you and Allison would have the best possible education no matter what it took. I wanted that because of my own low self-esteem too. In New York, we didn't have a car, but we went out every night in the Village – Bill drank a lot, at least four or five beers every night. He tried pot once and had a homosexual panic with his friend Kurt, who was also in medical school, and also married. He became totally paranoid, he was afraid that he was attracted to Kurt or that Kurt was attracted to him, or both, and so he didn't try pot again. A few times he tried cigars, and he ended up on the floor in the bathroom; he couldn't breathe. Bill liked the excitement in the Village, but we weren't aware of counterculture at all. Bill was primarily interested in eating and drinking – I was very interested in the nightclubs and speaking engagements, we could have seen Woody Allen or Allen Ginsberg, but I would have had to say something, I would have had to say I was going to go without Bill, and I wasn't going to say anything. I was aware of zero. I was totally out of it. We were totally out of it.

I was aware of feminism, but only because Ray, who was married to Kurt, made a big deal about the roles between the two of them – she was an artist and a visionary and she didn't want to do the housework or the cooking, she identified as a feminist. I didn't know what gay was. I didn't know what anything was. I did know there was something wrong with the places we lived. I did know that Dad seemed demanding. Dad didn't want to get married, so afterwards he got very depressed. He didn't know how to be a good companion or father, he had no idea. I wanted so much to be successful as a wife, I was never successful with anything so I wanted to be successful with marriage. He gave me no support, he didn't know how.

Dad agreed to move to DC because I wanted to be near my mother. I was extremely lonely but I never said anything. The first decent place where we lived was the Forest Apartments in Rockville – it was more than decent, it was really attractive. I had moved right from Bethesda with my mother, to New York, right after my father died. I was totally out of it. Read a paper – are you kidding? I was scared to take the subway.

You were born when we lived at the Forest Apartments, and then after that we moved to Evelyn Drive where everything was broken and we didn't do a goddamn thing to it, Dad didn't want to spend the money and I didn't want to take the initiative. He did everything in the marriage and I was very passive. This was a hardship for him but also he wanted control.

Dad was very sensitive because you would not go to him for anything at 2 to 3 years old, you would scream and yell every time he was near you but that’s a typical reaction, that's something that goes on at that age. And I tried to do everything in my power to get you to go to him, but it was no use and Dad thought since I was the mother I was the most important person for your first five years. We had a lot of problems – both as a couple and as individuals. After a while I didn't understand why Dad didn't marry someone who could contribute financially, and someone more intellectual. He always told me he was in love with me and he couldn't picture himself with anyone else, but I didn't believe him. Unfortunately he found intellectual compatibility with you, which was a problem for me, and a problem for Allison, but he didn't see it that way.

Dad adored and idolized his father, and I could never understand why – after Bill went to college, his father totally left the relationship and that was an awful thing to do. I didn't realize until after Dad died what a horrible person his mother was. She was really sophisticated, and we all learned a tremendous amount from her, but she was really a despicable person. I truly believe she knew that. She was a manipulator – horrible as a mother – sadistic. It was all about herself, all about her artwork. The only way for Bill to please her was through his accomplishments. I remember when you were kids and we would go over their house, and she would say to me listen Karla, I don't have my eyes closed.

And it sounded like she was empathizing about Dad's anger, but then it would all come back to me – you're not doing something right in the relationship – he's not having the right foods, you're not giving him good meals. Dad was uncomfortable around successful men until much later in his life, and I never understood that. He always had a strong sense of feeling lonely, he never had intimate friends, he always felt deprived and angry that he hadn’t had a sibling, his mother always said they didn't have another child because they couldn't afford one.

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