Life Called On Account of Cruelty

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I’ve noticed that several people have tried to find my blog by looking up “weekend trip to the Texas Hill Country by Laurie Kendrick”.

Now, this concerns me because I actually went to the Hill Country to see family, but very few people knew about it…save for family.  

My mother turned 80 several days ago and celebrated it at my sister’s palatial estate this weekend.  Interesting weekend.   I have never felt more distant from my mother.  Why the chasm?   I’m single and an easy target for a mother who is a bitter, angry woman.  A midlife divorce left her reeling and she hasn’t been the same since.  My father was henpecked and nagged.   He only grew a spine long enough for the time it would take to avoid her while running to the back door to get into his truck to go play golf, or hunt…I even think he took up bowling….maybe even competitive midget tossing…ANYTHING that would get him out of the house and away from her.  He ruled the Kingdom of Avoidance.

My two sisters and I weren’t so lucky.   We couldn’t flee her dungeon of dysfunction and that meant  she had three prime scapegoats in the form of little girls who after a while,  believed that we were in fact, the worthless, lazy sloths who would never amount to anything, that she said we were.   That insertion of her reality was usually punctuated with something physical.    And when you’re told you’re an idiot with a slap,  after a while it’s hard to separate the two different kinds of pain created.

Children can’t sit there and rationalize an insane situation.  We don’t determine culprit and victim.  We didn’tunderstand the pathology of a narcissist.   Or what makes a sociopath, a sociopath.   We just heard what our mother called us, accused us of, condemned us to.   And we bought it.  I mean, it was our mother was telling us these things.  We were taught to believe what she told us.

And as in years passed, my mother said some extremely cruel things to me this weekend, but this time, they were extreme.  She said things about me, within ear shot that devastated me; things that struck my core.   Painful things.   To the general public, I’m a crusty old broad who like the Moorish “El Degüello” that Santa Ana made famous by having a bugler play before decimating the Alamo, I never take quarter.   But to me, I am nothing but this mad woman’s youngest daughter who after a weekend with her, feels emotionally drawn and quartered.   

You have to understand that the hardest thing I have ever done (and trust me,  I have lived a life rife with difficult endeavors) is to be her daughter.   This weekend, it was difficult simply co-existing with her on the same acreage.

Everyone who knows her and can see through the facade and acknowledge the abject lunacy that’s pervasive, will tell me to consider the source.  She nuts…leave it at that.  Then, there are those that go the ecclesiastical route and say forgive her.  She’s your mother and deserves your honor, love and respect. It’s written on The Tablets.

Nah…..

Hers is a world molded by economic depression, World War II, post war nuclear families, early marriage, and basic education for women who have always known their place…whatever that is..   

My world wasn’t like that at all.  My hardships were her residual ones, the ones she refused to let go of and could only be happy if she could make someone else unhappy. 

And like her, I am full of self-doubt and conflict.   Insecurity.   It’s a Kendrick woman’s kryptonite.      

At the party, I looked at my mother and had no idea who she was.  I was looking at a virtual stranger.  This woman is a joy to others.  They see that persona;  the outward one that’s lovable and funny…that gives a damn about public image.   When people make that comment to me–that she’s adorable and such a riot,  I have no clue who they’re talking about.    I only knew a woman who was mean and petty; abusive and intentional with her inflictions.    And that woman who both scared me and scarred me is now  old and tottering.    She looked faded; like this human sepia toned photograph taken by Matthew Brady and one that was tattered by time with its edges crinkled and curled up.  Her skin looked  opaque and thin; like rice paper;  the kind you see encasing a PF Chang Spring Role.   Her eyes were very much alive at times, then completely vapid at others.    She was so old.  Even beyond her 80 years.  

What time hath wrought.

Then I looked behind the withered skin.  I realized that my mother doesn’t like me and then I realized that I didn’t like my mother.  We haven’t liked each other for a long time.  I don’t know if we ever liked each other.   We went through perfunctory motions that were true to our roles–as my mother, she fed me and made sure I was clothed.   As her child,  I spray painted elbow macaroni gold and made her a necklace, but it never really got beyond that.    I am sure she had it tough growing up too.  her mother comes from a family of well….whackos.  

By the time I was in high school, her illness was getting more obvious and more sinister as symptoms go.  I fought this admission for the longest time and instead of confronting her issues and understanding them (true, I was young at the time, but old enough to grasp human frailties and their symptoms)  I allowed it make me feel lesser as a person because like my friends and then later, my suitemates in college, I didn’t have a kind, loving mother who hugged instead of found fault.  Our dynamic was so different.  Cold and aloof.

She in turn raised a daughter that  really doesn’t know love…not the way she should. 

Love.  Seeking it has been a vision quest of mine for as long as I can remember.   I must have always been keenly aware of its absence in my life; even before I was cognizant of the fact.    And in this search for it, I’ve made plenty of mistakes.  I accept responsibility for those, but if I’m to be honest, what’s the source of this desperate need? 

This void, I suppose,   is common among children of children of the Depression.   The Greatest Generation?  According to Brokaw, yes.   Hardly the greatest parents.  Perhaps they had no choice.   They lived through hardships and global conflicts that resulted in unspeakable horrors and change.  After that, they lived in an iconic post-war America that was more surreal and scripted than anything else.  They had the Hays Commission and social mores that were imposed and so often, these were in direct conflict with their very own, very real human need and desires.    How conflicted they must have felt.

And how restrictive their lives were.  They had traditional roles and the stress to maintain them was ubiquitous.  s.  Dads were the bread winners and the masters of their domains–smart, brilliant problem solvers, while women were mothers  who gave birth and nurtured.  They were homemakers, who cooked, cleaned, kissed our booboos and referred everything else to dear old dad.   Women in the 50’s and 60’s were even more restricted.   From their  girdles, to their housedresses to their weekly Beauty Parlor’d coifs.   I could never have lived like that…even if living like that were the norm. 

It is said the parents whose procreation gave rise to the boomers and hippies,  in general wanted more for their kids.

More of what, then?   My father isn’t in my life.  He lost his mind and his family during their nasty divorce and had to be tragically extricated from my life,  for both of our sakes.  His absence and her pervasive, relentless presence in my life, has made me who and what I am.  But I assure you,  I’ve not been perfect and I know my attitude and distance (even if both have been a direct response to the abuse I endured) have helped contribute to my laundry list of paternal relationship problems.  I made horrific choices.   I reacted instead of acted. I shouted back when I should have allowed a cooler head to prevail.   But here’s the deal:  In spite of everything, I’ve never stolen anything when I had the cash.   I’ve never just decided to be angry out of boredom and sadly, I don’t think I ever drank because I liked the taste.  

Why then?  How?

These admissions aren’t poster children of blame.  They’re simply explanations; my way of seeking an explanation, anyway.     And in that process of taking inventory in my warehouse of gray matter, I have discovered that I’m a by-product of the worst kind of complex, carbon-based “creationism”.   I guess in the grand scheme of things; Frankenstein had his monster, Henry Higgins his Pygmalion and Mama Kendrick has Laurie. 

I wish things were different.

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2 comments

  1. I enjoyed your writing, lots of things I could relate to.

    In response, I wonder sometimes if our parents ever spent a tenth of the time thinking about their parents the way our generation has…probing and analyzing the twisted family dynamics and culture that produced the likes of them and consequently us.

    Or did they just get drunk?

    I really doubt it, so why do we do it? another cultural phenomenon?

    see, I’m doing it now…I can’t help myself!

    goodnight!

  2. My parents drove me crazy, too. Neuroses, hubris… The whole world is crazy and sad, and hostile.

    I never married. Good thing too.

    If you want a friend get a dog.

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