The following is a beautifully written and very sad blog by Katie Naum. It was first published on her Archipelago blog, and later on The Huffington Post. It eerily encapsulates the reasoning behind my own separation from my father. I too have been told, “You’ll want to reconcile with him some day.” Sadly, I too doubt that day will ever come.
It’s been four years since I last spoke with my mother. I may never speak to her again.
There is no easy way to say, “I’m estranged from my mother.” It’s even harder to say, “I’ve cut my mother out of my life,” clarifying that you are the one who has severed the bond. Say it to anyone, friend or stranger, and a certain light you hadn’t even noticed fades from their eyes, every time. Smiles falter or grow forced. Mothers give so much to their children that a justification for estrangement must be staggering: some monstrous abuse that outweighs all the love and self-sacrifice inherent in parenting. Only someone selfish, heartless could cut off a mother who loved them — right?
When I was in high school, I slept most nights on the living room floor. I wanted to sleep in my bed, of course, but my mother had rules for us, rules we could not disobey without consequences. One rule was that she controlled who was allowed to enter which rooms, and when. For example, over time, the right to go upstairs — to enter our bedrooms for any reason, or to use the upstairs bathroom to bathe — became rarer and rarer. (Years earlier, my father had first been banished to the first floor, and then to the basement, before leaving our house altogether.) The spaces in which we were allowed to move slowly shrank.
As we entered our teens, home life got worse for my sister and me. Concerned, anonymous people began to place calls to social services. Each call meant disruption to our household, punctuated by unpredictable visits from a social worker named Sam, a tall, quietly friendly man with an unusually deep dimple in his chin. Into that dimple I poured all of my hatred and fear.
I don’t recall my mother ever saying that Sam, or those who had asked him to come, were wrong to worry about our welfare. Instead, her outbursts of gibbering rage focused on how hard she had it, how she worked like a n*gger every day, how the deck was stacked against her, and how we’d better not say anything to Sam that criticized her in the slightest. As flawed as she was, she said, she was our best shot for a happy life. “They’ll take you away and put you with some f*cking foster family who’ll leave you to rot,” she’d howl. One of her favored punishments was having us stand perfectly still in the middle of the kitchen floor for hours as she went about her day, bellowing at us like a wounded beast when her outrage bubbled over at having to load the washing machine or perform some other household chore. For me, she threw in an extra threat: “And no foster family is going to pay for you to go to college, so you can kiss that goodbye.”