stepping up

I have to step up to a higher level of moral conduct. 

I don't want to, but I know it's right....or I really want to but I don't know if I can. 

My family is telling me that I'm not handling the situation with my mother well enough. 

They are seeing up close because five of us in one house with only two bedrooms and one bathroom is up close. 

I hold a grudge against my mother and it's a deep one. 

I distinctly remember the day the grudge began. 

I was very young, like maybe seven or eight years old. 

I was cuddled up to my mother on our sofa while everyone was watching the television together and she was knitting. 

I remember that I suddenly had a thought and I jerked up my head. 

I suddenly realized this was the same person who had done so many mean things. 

Hit me with the dog's leather leash, washed my mouth out with soap, made me sit at the breakfast table until one in the afternoon for not liking to eat eggs. 

I sat straight up and I tried to tell my little self that I had to be strong and not give in to cuddling up to my mom any more because she was actually the enemy. 

So here I am at sixty, bumming out my whole family over this decision I made at six or seven or eight. 

Everyone telling me that I'm the one who looks bad here, not my mother who is telling madly delusional stories. 

Not my mother who talks about me as "Courtney", saying "Courtney was screaming down in the parking garage 'I want my mother' and everyone could hear her". 

That's one of her delusions. 

That I'm screaming that I want my mother. 

Well, you know what, I do. 

I want a nice mother. 

I want a mother who would have done right by me all these years. 

I want a mother who can hug you and you can believe it. 

I don't want the fake-hug mother I have. 

Where's my real mother? 

Did she ever hug me with real love and appreciation ever once in my life? 

I certainly don't remember it. 

But okay. 

Today's the day. 

I thought I was showing my dedication to my brother by staying angry. 

My brother who became a madman, who lived on the streets, who ran from our mother when she went out to Colorado to save him from his wandering homelessness. 

He took one look at our mother and he ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction. 

How am I supposed to be the one to forgive her now? 

Why do I have to be the one, on top of everything else, to forgive her now? 

What about how I never saw my Dad again because she cheated on him with his best friend? 

How do I forget all of this? 

Everyone in my family is saying that I have to forget all of these stories, forget them and drop them. 

My man Rob and my son Jordan are both saying that I'm making everything worse, ruining my mother's chances for any kind of good life going forward. 

They say I can't see her for who she is now. 

She's a frail eighty-five year old woman who is very frightened and knows something's wrong with her mind. 

She's a proud and intelligent and elegant lady. 

She's a gentle and creative soul who can show her grandson how to do many things in the kitchen, can talk knowledgeably about world finance with Rob. 

 She cares so much what her daughter thinks of her. 

Yesterday she worked for a very long time cleaning the dripped wax from my candles off of Rob's wonderful old dining room table. 

My mother loves the story that Rob's mother asked him what he wanted from their house, he one of seven children, and he asked for the dining room table. 

My mother carefully removed all the dripped candle wax, then she scrubbed and polished the whole table yesterday. 

I came in and brushed past her, wanting to avoid her, hoping she wouldn't say anything to me. 

She spoke several times about the dining room table. 

She talks about me as if I'm not really there. 

She was saying, "She didn't even notice that I cleaned the table. She wouldn't even look at it." 

"I worked so hard on it and she doesn't even acknowledge it, can't even thank her mother." 

All of that, old memories, "Say 'thank you, Mother'" let me hear you say, "Yes, thank you Mother".  

My reaction is to want to do something violent. 

Truth. 

Violent and terrible. 

Clearly, I am not getting this right. 

Today is the day. 

This morning is the morning. 

I'm going to ride my bicycle to the store and buy real maple syrup and blueberries and breakfast sausages. 

I'm going to make blueberry pancakes for the five of us. 

But I can't ruin the breakfast like I've ruined so many meals for my children by being mean to my mother. 

If I'm mean the food tastes like sawdust to me and to everyone at the table. 

I'm a hypocrite. 

I'm the righteous artist and songwriter with a mean streak that renders all the rest of it total bullshit. 

If I can't be nice and kind and truly loving to my mother then I'm not who I want to be, who I strive to be, who I profess to be. 

My son last night said, "Mom, you put me through some bad stuff when I was growing up too." 

He meant that he could hold a grudge against me and treat me the way I treat my mother. 

Truly, I was a better mother, and we all think that's true. 

But if we believe that everyone is just doing the best they can, then he's right. 

He could say I didn't do well enough by him. 

And he could hold my mistakes against me. 

He could. 

Anybody could hold the bad things I've done against me. 

Some people probably do. 

Undoubtably, some people hold the things I've done against me, people I know well, people I hardly know at all. 

My treatment of my mother opens up the Karma can of worms. 

Who am I to treat someone badly for their past transgressions? 

Who am I to try to even God's score? 

And isn't she suffering enough with what she described herself as a fight against evil in her mind? 

Last night my mother did a brave and difficult thing. 

At around ten at night, when we were all getting into beds hoping for a good night's sleep, she told my son that she was hearing a lot of bad things. 

He recommended she try calling the COPE hotline that is a County service 24/7 recommended by her doctor. 

She called and someone answered right away. 

She bravely told the person all about her life, all about how she was a radiology tech and did mammograms for women for twenty years. 

She told about how she drives very well and what kind of nice car she has..she really likes her car...it's a Lexus. 

She told about how she belonged to a book club, a church gardening club, an art group, a yoga class, all before The Virus set in and took all that away. 

She told of how she's been cooped up alone in her apartment for so many weeks. 

She told about hearing voices, hearing screaming, hearing someone breaking in. 

I was in my bed, in the room next to hers when she was talking. 

I got up to go to the bathroom and stopped in the doorway of the little guest room. 

The white twin beds, my very tall son sitting up in the one, smiling and nodding, encouraging his grandmother with every word. 

My son's face aglow in the light of the lamp between the beds, but more alight with the glow of his love for his grandmother. 

My mother, sitting with her pretty slender feet down on the wool flowered rug, seated on her bed, wearing her peach silk pajamas and robe, a pearl barrette in her hair. 

My mother's slender shoulders, the tilt of her pretty head. 

My mother's chin length "page boy" haircut. 

She is lovable. 

She is special and great. 

I have to get this right for my son. 

I have to get this right so Rob can feel good about who I am. 

I have to get this right so my daughter Nina can see that a woman can rise above her hurt and be strong and rational and benevolent and kind. 

Nina has to see that Glinda the Good Witch is the only role to play. 

I have to get out my magic wand and my fairy dust and bestow my blessings upon the heads of all I encounter. 

I must bestow my blessings upon the heads of all I encounter, for we are all sinners of equal value in the eyes of the Creator. 

Do you think the war criminals from WWII were rightly put to death even when some of them were now frail old men in their declining years? 

It's not for me to say, but I don't want that kind of judgement in my life now. 

I'm going to get up and ride to the store and get the blueberries. 

But more importantly I'm going to get me head on straight. 

My Mom just got up and passed our open door...it's 7a.m. here. 

I whispered to her that I'm going to make blueberry pancakes for everyone this morning. 

Her face lit up and she gave me a thumb's up. 

She asked me how my screenwriting class went last night. 

I said it went great. 

I guess if she can forgive me then I can forgive her too. 

Okay, wish me luck. 

I don't know how to be a good person, but at least I know I want to try. 

Have a beautiful day.

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