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August 5, 2009 / allyo

My adoption triad: My mother

I’m not sure how to approach this point on the triangle. I’ve written so much about my mom here. Just check out my archives from last July and August. It’s been almost a year since she died and I am in a completely different place now that started with me realizing (or re-remembering) that once upon a time, she was a confused 18 year old, probably suffering from postpartum depression and likely from generalized anxiety disorder or at least situational anxiety. Her relationship with my grandmother was very difficult, and she spent a few months in a foster home when she was a teenager. During my earlier years she demonized my grandma, told me all kinds of outrageous lies about how she forced my mom and my dad to get married because my mom was pregnant (lie – my grandma offered to get her an then-illegal ab0rtion), how she had no wedding or reception just a quickie at the justice of the peace (lie-their wedding cake came from an Italian bakery, the same one we ordered my 16th birthday cake from) and so on.

I realize now she was dealing with the fact that my grandparents took me away from her. They went to court and fought for guardianship of me, and my dad took their side.

Let me say that again – her mother and stepdad, with the support of her ex husband, declared her to be an unfit mother and took her child away.

I think she loved me at that time even though she couldn’t take care of me. Occasionally she’d mentioned being home with me when I was a baby and there was…affection in her voice. I’ll never know if she really got pregnant on accident or if it was a deliberate “oops” to get away from my grandma. But we never connected as mother and daughter. I know she felt guilty about me. I know she was both compelled to be near me and my grandma and to avoid us. But she never behaved like a mother.

One of my favorite memories was when she and her friend Ruthie took me and Ruthie’s two daughters to the fair. I was 10 maybe? We spent the entire day there, did everything, ate everything, rode everything. It was a wonderful day. Last year when Ruthie and I were talking about my mom and our relationship, she brought that day up. “Remember that time we took you and my girls to the fair?” We both smiled at the memory. She had prodded my mom to do more things with her and her daughters, repeatedly, but she always refused. And one of the pictures that was included in the slideshow at the funeral, there’s one of the two of us at the fair that day, one that I don’t remember seeing before. I’m smiling and she’s just looking at the camera, not really sure if she wants to be there.

So, when she and my grandma finally reconciled – I was 15ish – her anger was redirected towards me. I was an ungrateful snotty little bitch who didn’t deserve my grandma’s love, let alone all the material comforts she gave me. Then we were buddies, then we hated each other – oh my god, it never ended. And in the middle was my grandma. If it weren’t for her I would have cut my mother out of my life before I graduated high school.

She needed unconditional love and guidance from my grandma back when things fell apart for her. Space to figure things out, acceptance of who she was and what she needed. I know she thinks she got that in the end, but up until the last my grandma would talk about her with contempt. I think it was that need that made her demand love and obedience from me – she wanted me to treat her like a mother even though she never acted like one. I think perhaps this had something to do with never feeling like my grandmother’s daughter. Which is why when they finally reconciled, there was no space for me. We were moons, caught in my grandma’s orbit, and we couldn’t both be near her. One of us had to be out in the cold.



Leave a Comment
  1. LittleWit / Aug 6 2009 6:58 am


  2. dawn / Aug 6 2009 8:07 am

    You write so beautifully about this. It’s weird how the older we get the more we can understand why our parents made the choices they did (or why those “choices” were actually inevitable) but still it doesn’t make the hurt go away. It’s a very paradoxical way to feel.

  3. Thorn / Aug 6 2009 11:51 am

    I’m really impressed with how clearly and kindly you’re able to write this. I’d like my partner to read these. I still don’t think she’s sorted out most of the difficulties of her triad and I wish she could.

  4. Abby / Aug 6 2009 12:59 pm

    I agree, this is a beautiful post.

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