Just got off the phone with Mom and once again today she was hysterical. See, she came out to dinner here at my sister's last night, and though I sat beside her for almost two hours beforehand, drinking our glasses of wine, chatting about puppies, the election, the small things of her life, once the house filled, she was mostly alone in a chair. Now she feels none spoke to her the entire night, and she was only happy for the five minutes she held a squirming puppy in her arms.
Now I know, I KNOW, that isn't true. But I also know it's easy to overlook her in a crowded room. The banter flies at a rapid pace, and she can't keep up. But what am I saying? We've had the propensity of ignoring her for much longer than she's been in the grip of this disease. She's difficult and abrasive and, for years, whatever we gave her wasn't enough, didn't fill her up. She was always on the lookout for the more we gave someone else, the slights she perceived, and what it said about her worthiness.
And the more she required and demanded, the more I resisted. I admit this. There was NEVER a way to satisfy, so why try? This morning the petulance was just what it's always been, exactly that offended, that hurt, that lost. Even now, it seems, she only holds in her brain what hasn't been done for her, not what has. The truth is, I don't know how to please my mother. I've never know. I can spend hour upon hour with her and that doesn't do it. I call her daily and that can't help. I sit quietly besider her as she watches a program on TV because she simply has to watch it, and when I leave or hang up the phone, she says, "You never talk to me, you didn't hug me enough, you don't love me..." The scales never balance, let alone tip toward good.
In King Lear, when the king asks his daughters how much they love him, Regan and Goneril exaggerate with overwrought, flowery phrases that simply can't be true. They aim to be first, the heir, gain the riches, so their loving words have motive. But Lear's favorite, Cornelia, tells him, "I love you as is your due." Just that--she gives him the love that is due a father, but not the love due a lover. All she has for him, but not what she keeps for loving others--this is the love Cornelia has for her father. And in his great, gaping need, it's not enough, so she is cast out.
Mom is King Lear, and I am only Cornelia. As is her due...and she'll never know, can't possibly understand, what it's cost to get me to this place.