When I wake up in the morning, I look at the wedding photo of me and my husband. Sometimes, when I don’t have to get up in a hurry, woken up by my children, I think of who I really am?! What is the point of my existence? Where am I from and where do I go? Constantly, for years, I have had the feeling that quite recently I have woken up from a lifelong coma and a dream I dreamt was only a nightmare that has finally come to an end. But, except for this nightmare, I can’t remember anything else.
There was always my drunk father, who, ironically, gave me more warmth and dedicated more time than my mother who, in turn, was cold and absent. I’m thinking of, how on earth, did I marry anyone? I didn’t dream, like an average little girl, of a white wedding dress, a prince from a fairytale and all this girlish stuff. In fact, I didn’t have any dreams, although my mother used to say that a man should have some, otherwise he is going to go insane.
My father used to shape pink pigs and green crocodiles from play-doh for me. I can still remember them by now and I can recreate them quite faithfully. I hold on to these pigs and crocodiles because they are one of the few, valuable memories and “treasures” of my childhood. My mom was at work at that time. My father used to take me for walks, we picked flowers and hugged trees. Every Easter we picked catkins, we painted eggs and for Christmas we decorated the Christmas tree and built a snowman. During these shared moments, my father happened to be sober, but all too often he was drunk.
It happened sometimes that I was looking for a bottle that my father had hiding carefully, but I had no idea what I would do with it if I found it. My mother was absent, busy with something all the time. Only once in my lifetime I stood by my father’s side, expressing my own opinion. I was taught back then how ungrateful I am… It happened that I got a bad mark at school and my mother looked at me so icily that I would prefer to be hit in the face than look in these cold eyes.
My parents always created the atmosphere of love in our home. If someone had asked me 20 years ago what my family was like, I would have replied with certainty that it was loving and joyful… There were moments that I felt homeless, orphaned, belonging to no one in a psychological way. Worthless, little pug-ugly girl…But not stupid, merry “the life of the party”. So many contradictions in one body, an angel and a vixen, an altruist and egoist, a little educated girl or incurable silly. Until now every objective success generates the feeling of sickness in me, where joy fights against uncertainty and fear that I am limitlessly proud.
I wasn’t taught to enjoy. I smile, I don’t laugh, indistinctly, like Mona Lisa or as if someone had glued my lips. There is a constant fight of desire to be beautiful and elegant like at the party, with the feeling of being invisible, transparent and unnoticed. I am never good enough, pretty enough or smart enough… My father assumed that children shouldn’t be praised because they can grow too big for their boots. My mother was able to argue about chipped pot or not well cleaned room. She had no time to find out how to take care of herself, how to dress, but she could point out the hairstyle she didn’t like, too short skirt or too bright colours of clothes.
I don’t quite like looking at myself in the mirror, not because I don’t like myself. When I look in the mirror, I can see the mosaic of my parents. As I grow older, I become more and more similar to them, although I could inherit my bone structure from some other relative whom, in fact, I didn’t know but at least, I would have some pleasurable association and I could make up a nice story about my ancestor who was a traveler or discoverer. But, instead, in the moments of fatigue I can see the face of my drunk father, and in the moments of anger, I can see the cold and dark eyes of my mother.
I often think how much God loves me (and for what?) as he called me to his mind and blesses me every day. My husband, a sensitive man, who understands me more than I understand myself; children who are my obvious blessing although they uncovered the darkest face of my character- boisterousness, impatience, egoism; my husband’s family that induces and notices in me all the good things, makes me feel freely and I can feel that I anchored in their hearts.
Luckily, God is never tired, overwhelmed with work, busy or petty. Luckily, he takes care, stays awake, supports and consoles. The feeling that I am transparent to God brings me a great relief, He can see who I am. It prevents me from ingratiating myself with God, showing myself as better than I really am, and what is the most important, I can feel that unconditional love exists.
I think to myself that, in fact, I don’t know how it is to have parents. I don’t remember much from my early childhood, only kindergarten and school. I can remember my older sister who was my real mother, our trips, but also great longing when she had to take care of her business.
My mother did always the same. She promised me something and then she was never true to her word. Therefore, when my sister promised me a trip, I squeezed the snippet of her pajamas in fear for her going without me. And my mother couldn’t understand the problem. It was a dirty trick ! I shun such empty words and empty promises when it comes to my children.
Sometimes I think of how our family life would have looked like if my father hadn’t drunk. Now, when he is sober (he has been a teetotaler for 12 years) he can be frugal, generous, but never reflective. He pretends that nothing happened. There is no past. In his opinion, criticizing others, moralizing, giving advice and indignation is ok. However, he can curse and swear on my mother in public in such a manner that I feel sick. The worst thing is that she grins and bears it.
I realized quite late that marital matter is an “internal” matter, known only to a married couple and you cannot see the holistic picture of a given couple from the outside position. My mother complained to me about my father because she had the need to. She cluttered my mind with slogans about roguery of the men’s world, about the necessity for woman to become self-reliant etc. She never dedicated her time to teach me anything useful, well, maybe except for cooking or something we could do together. In my family there was no TOGETHER.
I always had to take somebody’s side and it was always my mother’s. Strange enough, I was never scared of my father. Even when I was a child, when my father started a domestic scene, I found it right to put in my pennyworth. Father reproached me that I always had my own opinion to express. I had a feeling that I had to save my mother, to guard her so that my father wouldn’t execute one of his threats on her. Well, it must have been a nice view, I was so little, I hardly got up from the ground, with clenched fists, with verve on my face…Pathetic! If only I had known that it was just a game between two adults, immature people who cannot cope with their life on their own.
Although we didn’t choose our parents, I have an irresistible feeling that we must pay morally, psychologically or physically. I don’t have the slightest idea why, but I feel so. Of course, it is a very subjective thought, but it has been with me for some time. What hurts me most is my mother’s attitude. Along with my father’s sobriety, my mother lost the position of a disadvantaged sufferer, she had to define her way of action and, surprisingly, she did it. Now she manipulates father basing on his little knowledge of reality, lifelong amnesia stemming from his intoxication and satisfying his silliest caprices and desires. I have a feeling that such deals in a marriage with alcoholic problems never come to an end and even being sober, take on various sophisticated forms of co-addiction.
It is sad but in my adult life I am overwhelmed with new, unexpected burden which is the “whole truth about my mother.”
As time is slipping through my fingers, I find unwanted and painful pieces of the puzzle which create my mother’s picture. The woman whom I idolized, I trusted and, who, how awful! Was my role model. This picture no longer exists. I don’t know if this is her conscious action. I am under the delusion that it could be some kind of mental perturbation.
The woman, in my opinion, honest through and through, is indebted now, along with the father. It is not the end of shame and humiliation because in the street people, neighbours, friends and family catch on me to ask: “when is your mother going to pay back?” How sad and painful was the discovery that my mother borrows money from the sister and me, presenting us some made up reasons. For years, saying that me and my sister should stay together, she built a wall of distrust, jealousy and grief, but who should we trust if not a MOTHER?
Nowadays I am a mother myself and I can see how much time and dedication it takes to care for and bring up children. It is also a GREAT responsibility. I must admit, with a painful heart, that beside ensuring the maintenance, my mother didn’t take care of me properly. What I remember is a bedtime story and work my mom had to take me to when no one could stay with me. I remember also our Saturday’s cleaning which helped my mom to relief tension connected with the situation at home.
The worst was the fact that my mother thought she could freely have my things at her disposal, she distributed my toys among other children not asking me for permission, she threw away anything that, in her opinion, was useless: notebooks, clothes, hairpins, ribbons, dolls, teddy bears, etc… Once she threw away my beloved socks, she didn’t understand my protest that these socks, although with holes, I wanted to throw away myself. Korczak was right saying that we take away children the right to have their own opinion, their own things… A child is little, vulnerable and weak to resist our egoism, impatience or impulsiveness. And one more thing, it happened that my father while being drunk, took me to a car. When I think about it, I try to find out if my mother knew about it, or she didn’t care at all?
I have been on the way for 15 years, I have the past behind that I understand more and more understand now. I have no need, as many other people, to come back to the past or change it.
I am glad it is already behind me and I don’t have to relive it. I had to, or in fact, I really wanted to turn this evil and suffering of my family into something good, something that would let me live wisely, honestly and with love. I manage to do that only thanks to God. From the human perspective, I grew out of a pathological family that hurt me emotionally and didn’t allow me to mature in many, important spheres that are needed in life to be successful and happy. But through the God’s prism I am the one who found her place in life; who better understands other people, who works with people who need empathy, understanding or consolation; who loves her children, without desire to grab them for herself; who trusts God whose love can move mountains.
Translated by Justyna Gałuch