I can hear the air escaping from your mouth as you sit aghast after reading that heading.
Making an effort? To be a good daughter? It shouldn’t be effort. It should be easy. That’s your mum!
That’s right. That’s MY mum!
And MY mum is special. MY mum is challenging. MY mum is not the same as most people’s Mum.
She is undiagnosed with whatever she has. I don’t know what it is but I need to remember. She is special, she is MY mum.
We have never had the best of relationships, not that I’m sure she knows that? She always did the absolute best she could for us and tried to never leave us wanting for anything. I know a lot of who I am is because of our relationship but I also know a lot is in spite of our relationship. I am forever grateful for who I have become. I have to remind myself of this everyday.
My heart fills with sadness when I think of my childhood. My memories are not what they should be. They are not filled with the joy and happiness that comes with innocence, imagination and exploration. I mourn for all the things I didn’t get to experience.
Don’t get me wrong, there was joy and happiness and mischief but these memories are so often overshadowed by the ‘other stuff’.
In my junior years. Whilst my friends were out playing I was at home being the good daughter, comforting my mum with whatever drama was unfolding before her, convincing her it would all be okay. I was distracting my sister through play and checking on my crying infant brother as my parents argued downstairs. I got caught once (the shouting stopping, hearing footsteps, I hid in a wardrobe) I got a smack for waking him up, despite the fact he had been crying for a good few minutes and I had actually stopped him crying by the time the parent arrived!
As I got older things got worse. My mother became increasingly insecure in the relationship. I believe this was triggered by several miscarriages. Each one sent her spiraling into a pit of depression. Unable to do what all women should be able to do, have a child, perhaps she felt less like a woman, a failure? (I know some will argue about my right to make that statement and I’ve considered it very carefully; but I have every right, more so even that my mother, which I will talk about in another post, another day.)
My father tried so hard to support my mother. He tried to get her to have counseling. She insisted she didn’t need it. For some reason there was a stigma attached to this is her mind. It was a dirty word.
Slowly, my mother pushed my father away, consistently berating him, convinced he was having an affair, about to run off with some other woman. She sent me out at all hours to check his car was where he said he was or to look in the pub window to make sure he was there. What would I say the day he wasn’t?
I remember wondering what would happen when my parents broke up, wishing they would break up. Planning to live with my father, not realising I would never get a choice.
Of course he did end up having an affair. And I understand why. There’s only so many years of being accused of something before you think “To hell with it, I might as well do it then!”
I remember the day he left. I was thirteen I think. I woke up to them arguing again. I remember hearing the front door slam. My mother crying. I got up and got dressed. There was a phone call. I remember the words “How old is it?” She still wanted them to be together. She would help raise it. We could be a family. I cannot believe she still wanted to be with him! She would have said anything. But it was the circle. Her self prescribed fate. If you believe in something enough it will happen. Good or bad. Her nightmare came true, and worse still, there was a baby involved. A baby she was denied so many times.
Upon going downstairs I was promptly sent to find my father. A 12 year old girl, with no idea where to start to look, to find a young man with a car who could cover more miles in a few minutes than her two little feet in a day. But I had to do it. It was what a good daughter would do.
But I wasn’t going to do it alone. So I called for my friend but she was at her dads. That’s okay. I thought. It’s on the way. On the way to where? I didn’t know. I decided to stick to the main road, he might drive past after all. I checked the shops as I walked to meet my friend (he wasn’t there), right past my grandparents house (he wasn’t there either). My friend’s dad lived next to the town centre and less than an hour later I was outside her house explaining our mission. So we went to look in town (we didn’t find him there of course) and stopped in the park to regroup. It was passed lunchtime so we decided to head back to her dad’s house to refuel.
Once we were full we went back out again. I couldn’t say where, I don’t recall, I just remember the overwhelming fear of going home, of telling my mother I couldn’t find him. I was a bad daughter.
I didn’t have a chance! After going to my maternal grandmothers house (about a 45mins walk in the other direction) to complete some chores he had visited his parents, for advice I guess. I had been and gone by that point. Then he had gone to ‘hers’, to be with his new family. She didn’t even live in the same part of the town as us. It was a part that at that age, I didn’t even know existed. But I had searched my whole world, and I had failed. I was a bad daughter.
I don’t know what my brother and sister went through that day. We’ve never spoken of it. I expect my sister was the one left comforting my mother. My brother, so very young, probably hid in his room, playing computer games in fictional worlds, places in which he would hide for many years to come.
I vaguely remember getting home at tea time and informing my mother of my failure. I was informed that I clearly “hadn’t looked hard enough” and if I had ran out of places to look “I should have come home sooner,” to be given more places to look I assume. I was a bad daughter.
Part of me wishes it happened sooner. Staying together for your children not only makes the grown ups unhappy, it makes the children unhappy too. It makes for an unhappy home and an unhappy childhood, but at least my father can say he tried. He gave it everything, until he had no more to give.
I know why he left but he will never know that he took what was left of my childhood with him.
And ever since? I’ve just been trying to be a good daughter.