My dad was part of the Cuban Blockade. My dad was an avid letter-writer. For over a week during the crisis, the daily letters of his shipboard life stopped coming. Stateside, there was a blackout and nobody knew the status of his or her military loved ones.
When my dad left us some years later, Mom gave him nearly all the photos of our family that he was in, and burned every last letter and note he had given her – from their courtship to the ones when he served with the Navy and every letter thereafter.
After my dad left, he would call from time to time to talk to me. Mom didn’t want to speak to him, and in his letters to me he would tell me when he would be calling so I could tell her not to answer the phone. Here is one of the notes I left her, circa 1980-1982. I know this note wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t tucked it away in my own squirrel’s nest of memorabilia.
After my first hoarding blog, the one where I mentioned my triggers about Mom going through the house with trash bags for any uncleanly areas, I received a response from a friend I really care about. She said “You know, I’m glad you called her out on that. My mom is to blame for my hoarding too.”
I was crushed. It hadn’t been my intention to say that Mom was to blame for my hoarding. While I can’t speak for anyone else, I don’t believe anyone is to “blame” for why I’m OCD or why I’m a hoarder. My mom, the daughter of a dysfunctional family herself, the daughter of a family-breaking alcoholic, was in her own life of reacting to her childhood and to trying to cope with heartbreak from the love of her life.
And it wasn’t grandpa’s fault, either. Grandpa, one of three alcoholic sons of a Presbyterian Minister, was reacting to his own demons – both pre and post-World War II.
And when does it end? His father, the Presbyterian Minister, was not spared the rod as a child. His mother died when he was young and his father, unable to cope with a house full of children while he dealt with his own loss, spit-shot a half-dozen children to various relatives throughout the county. That boy who would become the Presbyterian minister ended up with an aunt whose husband was brutally fundamental in his child-rearing strategy. Who knows that man’s story? It doesn’t matter, because it never ends, and the only person really in charge of my behavior is me. I know I can’t control everything, but I also know I can’t function under the umbrella of victim, blaming anyone in my past for who or how I am now.
Really, it’s more like the perfect storm. It’s that combination of brain chemistry and DNA, combined with upbringing, plus unique life events that give the world my neurotic self.
So when I blog anecdotally about Mom throwing out dad’s letters or people squirreling away dad’s journals or wood carvings or any number of things that I reflect on while trying to lift the burden of hoarding from myself, they are stories to engage you, to help you see my thought process and to hopefully connect and relate to some of the things we all share to some degree or another.
No. There is no “blame-game” in my mind, on the page or in my life. There are stories, there may be trigger moments which are there to help me understand and move beyond, but no one thing is the how or why. I believe defining moments are for those who want to be defined by one moment. I choose to remain fluid and changing for a lifetime.
I tried to create an aphorism for today’s blog but realized it would defy the shades of gray I’m trying to emphasize.
So. Enjoy. Comment at will. Blast me if you will. Any comment is worthy if it gets us to think more, talk more, share these crazy-ass moments of self-reflection.
4 thoughts on “Hoardzilla vs. the ‘rents, vs. the grand’rents, vs. the great grand’rents, vs…Hoardzilla”
good post Marla. I’m enjoying your blog. Very thought provoking.
Thanks, Michelle. I’m so glad people are reading it. Thanks for posting to let me know. I get excited sometimes when I see 50 or 60 hits on the traffic stats, but there are no comments and I’m like “yikes – does that mean they don’t like it?” Hahaha – I am always paranoid.
I enjoy your photos of the girls and the house renovation updates – nice new flooring!
Great post. I have a number of personal issues that I can definitely trace to some poor decision my mother made (and continues to make). On one hand, I understand she was and is not perfect, that she carried her own burdens, and that she did and does love me. And I love her. On the other hand, when I’m wrapped up sweating in one of those issues I want very much to ask her “Why on *earth” did you do that? What were you *thinking?*” I only want to ask because an answer might go some way to help me release the issue and get away from it. I’ve tried twice to broach some subjects and it ended with her assumption that it is only blame, that it is meant to hurt, that I think she’s a terrible mother, when none of those things are true. *Because* I can’t address these things with her–we can’t get past her imperfection, her burdens, her issues–we can’t address mine. Honestly, to even have her acknowledge that things could have been much better for me had she just thought, would make a huge difference. But my pain is forever trumped by hers. Her eventual passing won’t erase that; it will, in fact, have made it indelible. And it makes me wonder if the benefit of the doubt I’ve given Past Mother for her decisions is actually just a nostalgic crock stewed out of love, and, in fact, all of the decisions she’s ever made have been made in the light that she addresses *my* issues, which is to not address them at all and instead focus only on herself. This, I find, moves me past the point of understanding to anger (which clearly rises out of hurt). Despite that, I keep telling myself that it doesn’t matter and that I just need to “let stuff go” and appreciate that she’s still around (my father is not), but I don’t know how realistic (1) that letting stuff go is that easy, or 2) that letting stuff go will make anything better for *me*) that is.
Thanks for this post–I was good to articulate that.
Mothers and daughters are, in my opinion, the most difficult relationship of any. And even though the relationship problems seem to be *universal* nobody can really understand the intricacies of another mother-daughter relationship based on her own. We just all are bringing so many complexities to the table, don’t you think?
So in that light, obviously I can only talk about the struggle with my own, as you do with your own. One thing I will say, hoping it might make you less hard on yourself in this struggle to “let go.” That’s a great goal and ideal to have, but forgive yourself and love yourself if you can’t do it in her lifetime. I was not able to make that kind of peace with my mom in life, and even as she was dying I found my resentment actually increasing over all the problems in our relationship. I was angry with her for dying, angry with her for being so controlling, for all the left-handed “compliments” and so many issues that had nothing to do with me.
So for me, I was never able to let go while she was alive. I think it’s sometimes normal that the turning point in the way we see ourselves or others comes from the loss of that other person. This sounds awful, and I have heard of women able to break that pattern, but that’s really rare.
I don’t think parents should raise children as *friends* but the ones I’ve seen work well as adult relationships have been the ones that the mother and daughter have been able to basically “reset” their relationship to friends instead of parent-child. It’s not easy, but it starts by making a contract that each treats the other EXACTLY as she would a friend. Mom and I never were able to do that, but we also never really tried it.
No advice here. Just more rambling. I am always interested in these relationships, good and bad.
You are awesome, Kris. I think you should start copying and pasting your responses to me and making your own blog. Seriously…
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