Sometimes, when I look in the mirror I see her. Her. It’s not just my own reflection staring back at me anymore, but hers as well now. It turns my otherwise innocuous bathroom mirror into the equivalent of one you would find in a so-called funhouse. It warps, it bends, it is anything but “fun”.
I hear her in my voice sometimes, too. In a laugh, an expression I say, in the intonation or cadence of how I speak – and a shiver instantly goes through me when I recognize it. When I hear her coming out of me. It is upsetting to recoil at the sound of your own voice.
There are gestures I made, stories I tell, the how chubby my hands are – so many parts of me that remind me of her. And it is difficult to separate the resentment, and anger, and pain I feel towards her and make sure not to turn it on myself – to stop myself from shining a spotlight of self-loathing on these things that she has that I now have, too.
I share with her DNA, genetics, molecules – life at its most base level. I share with her history, memories – things I have no control over. I share the reflection in the mirror with her – but that is only glass. It is only one dimension of who I am and that is all. I need to remind myself of that. I need to remember that the sound of my voice and my handwriting and the cellulite on my thighs are as much a part of who I am as they are who she is.
And I need to remind myself that these are the only things I share with her now. I don’t share my life, or my marriage, or my children, or my accomplishments, or my setbacks, or my fears, or my dreams with her.
I don’t share her perspectives on how to treat people. I don’t share her outlook on what love is and how to show it. I don’t share holidays or birthdays or anniversaries with her. It was their anniversary this weekend and I had forgotten until the very end of the day – and that was an accomplishment for me. It was so freeing in a strange way. So many people in the world strive to remember things – as do I – but this, her, I want to forget.
She hasn’t seen her grandchildren in over two years.
They don’t remember her anymore. They don’t remember either of them. Last month I was at a gas station and a man was at the pump across the way and Parker pointed to him and said “That looks like your dad.” And he did. And I asked her how she knew, and she said “From the pictures on the computer.”
That’s who they are now. People they see in pictures on the computer. “Your mom.” “Your dad.” Not Grandma, or Grandpa, or Nana, or Poppie. They are “those people.”
And I think that it is better this way. I know it is.
I wrote her a letter in April of 2012 telling her that I was walking away. That it wasn’t healthy to be around her, that it wasn’t safe for me or for my family anymore. I asked her to respect my wishes – not to call, or email, or show up at the door as she had in the past.
And she didn’t do any of those things. She didn’t call, or email, or show up at my door when my grandmother passed away six months later – I found out from my cousin. She didn’t call, or email, or show up at my door when Owen had that horrible diagnosis a month after that. She didn’t contact me, or anyone else, to find out if he was okay. If we were all okay after another bomb had been dropped yet again. She didn’t call, or email, or show up at my door for any of the four birthdays that her grandchildren have had since then.
For the first time in my life, she has listened to me. She has respected my wishes.
And this brings me great relief. And at the same time it brings me great sadness for my children that she didn’t fight for them. And I realize that those are mutually exclusive, and unfair to ask for from the same person, but I have earned that. She took her pride and her martyr complex and chose them above all else – as she always does.
And all of this mirrors what I feel when I look in the mirror. I see someone I despise, that I fear. And I see someone that I am getting to know, and trying to love. And while my exterior may reflect hers back in the mirror, I take comfort in knowing that our interiors could not be more different.