Sunday, March 30, 2008

there and back again

my mother, in her own way, goddess bless, is as hale and hearty as anyone in their 70's with as many problems as she has, could possibly be. i was astounded to see how well she's moving around, how fast and light on her feet. allergic to most pain medications, she has somehow gotten through hip replacement surgery and recuperation on one percoset a day.

my mother regaled me with tales of her convalescence, extolling repeatedly the virtues of her friends, and my little brother, david, who despite his downs syndrome, stepped up to the plate and has been tending my mother with devotion.

as i listened to my mother talk, i remembered her stories about my great-grandmother, her grandmother, who had repeatedly hurt her feelings unintentionally by continously calling her ugly. quande se' brut'! my mother would quote, and explain to me that in it-lee, or the Old Country, it was considered bad luck to tell a child he or she was beautiful. it would either summon demons or have a bad effect on their heads, i can't remember which - probably both. but the upshot, my mother would gravely say, is that she learned not to tell a child he or she was ugly.

my mother has never told me i am ugly. however, if i had a nickel for every time this weekend my mother said "my genius children are worthless to me; it's the retarded one who's added value to my life," i could've paid my way across the tappan zee bridge.

it's not the first time i've heard this, of course. once i said in response, so the grandchildren, the great-grandchildren, the books, the degrees, the accomplishments in business and politics and the arts that john and sheila and i have achieved - they don't count?

my mother looked at me and said, nope.

i wondered how this woman of so many years and miles and experiences could miss that telling a child he or she is worthless could be just as hurtful as telling one he or she is ugly.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

1 comment:

Stacie said...

wow, that sucks... it blows my mind the power that parents have over the emotional well-being of their children. even when we are adults. even when we tell ourselves they can no longer hurt us. they can.