It was late, and I was thinking of retiring. The phone rang. Specifically my cell phone. Who would call me on Christmas Eve? Ah, my mother. My grandma has lately been in denial, so probably just gave her the number. I let it ring through to voicemail, expecting the usual rambling drunk dial. This year was different, heartbreaking. I heard my sweet 11-year-old sister's voice saying, "my mom...wants you to know.. that she loves you...and you should call her." In the pauses I heard my mother's voice, prompting her. I admit that I let this upset me. I was not fully prepared for quite that level of emotional blackmail. I was momentarily surprised that she would drag an innocent child into her own psychodrama, and it cut me.
I left my mother's house ten and a half years ago, at her behest. She told me to pack my bags and get out, because her obligation as a parent was now over. I was prepared (and already packed) because this sentiment had been made clear to me for a few years prior. I moved to another state with my boyfriend, established residency, and put myself through college in three years, while working full time. (I was only eligible for a tiny amount of financial aid because my mother and stepfather had recently started making a lot of money.) I got married and moved to Arizona (where J. moved in with us). We bought our first house there while I was finishing up graduate school. Over time, I was diagnosed with chronic illnesses that had been neglected over the many years my mother had refused to take me to a doctor. I finally got treatment and was much better for it.
While I don't feel sad about my mother's abandonment (I know that in the long run that not being around her helped me), I did feel bad about leaving my siblings behind. I don't think that I can do anything for them, though. While I grew up with so little, they grow up with anything they could want that can be bought with money. With divorced parents, they get twice as much. (I used to send them books, but I visited three years ago and the books weren't anywhere in either house.) My mother used to be mostly harmless, and I would talk to her when she called. Then, filled with contempt for those of us who have found our way, she started down a new path of hatred and addiction. The event that precipitated cutting off contact for me was a year and a half ago when I'd just been diagnosed with diabetes, had a raging infection, and was about to break out in hives due to a new penicillin allergy. She called, and I unthinkingly took the phone. When I told her what had happened, she explained that I wasn't sick, or diabetic, or asthmatic, or anything. In fact, I was making it all up. What I really needed was to stop taking all my medications and try meditation. That, and the many reports from my family about her behavior (and arrests) are why I don't take her calls anymore.
I know that I have found my own way, and that despite what some people think, the family of my birth does not define me. I and everyone else have given my mother copious chances and tried to help her. She's been to rehab at least five times now, but just refuses to do the work that would make any lasting change. I am very thankful for my friends, and my chosen family. Other members of my family are supportive, too, but right now they're far away.
The phone rang again last night, 30 minutes later, and 5 minutes after that. I couldn't turn my phone off. Luckily a friend sent me a silent ringtone, so I could stop the ringing.