May 18, 2013


Mother all dressed up about 1910.

There was a young newcomer at last night’s AA meeting who talked about forgiving her mother.  She got me thinking about my own mother.

My mother was a little woman, only 5’ 4”, but she had a strong personality.  Nothing wishy washy about her.  She grew up in an engineering family and followed the bent of her electrical engineer father and naval engineer brother into engineering.  Graduating as the first woman architectural engineer from the University of Michigan, she also followed the expectations of society and married right out of college.  She wanted children; he didn’t want children.  Didn’t they talk about this before the wedding?  I have a photograph of her wearing riding gear while waiting for her Reno divorce to become final.

The depression slowed her down but didn’t stop her dreaming.  She sold encyclopedias door to door from a model T until her mother died in 1928.  Moving to California with her father in the 1930’s, she found a job as a draftsman in an architectural office.  She was always annoyed that they would only hire her as a draftsman.

With her daughter and father about 1952.

She met and married what looked like a good prospect in 1939.  Gunny, as he was called, had a LLD and wanted children.  She got pregnant that very first year, but pregnancy was tough on her 40 year old body.  Her well educated husband went away to WWII and came back an alcoholic.
Once, as I ate lunch sitting in a cool, safe booth at the Silver Dollar Cafe, I counted their lunch drinks.  Eleven martinis that day.  Then they went back to work at the little print shop mother had started in our basement so they would have income coming in.  Mother was one of those responsible, mean, in control drunks.
“Why do you drink with him,” I asked her many years later.
“So he wouldn’t drink alone.”  She told me.  She became an alcoholic too.
She had family that cared, a brother and father.  She had a daughter, only one,  with severe learning disabilities that no one understood in the 1940’s.  Also in the 40’s, she had colon cancer and was told she was going to die.
“I was hard on you because I had to make you self-sufficient,” she told me years later.
Her father died in the early sixties.  


In 1966 Gunny’s pipe smoking metastasized into a cancer that killed him in a particularly awful death.  The doctor’s dripped scotch into an IV so he wouldn’t have the DT's as he died.  Just about the same time, his mother also died, and my overweight, very unhappy mother was left rattling around in a large house with no friends to call her own.  She went on a diet, switched from martini’s to scotch, bought a new custom sewn wardrobe, sold the house, and drank herself happier on an around the world cruise.  Or two.  She loved cruising.  Loved taking her hotel with her.  She had so isolated herself that she had no friends left.

Mother on a golf cruise, perhaps 1971.

She found an apartment near the bay in San Diego, and she drove to a favorite near-by bar to write letters and schmoose over scotch in the afternoons.  She met a charming charter boat captain there, and not long afterward they moved in together.  She was twelve years older than he.  He drank just as much as she did though.  He had a yacht.  He was gay….but that didn’t matter to mother.  He bought a bigger yacht to make her happy.  I’m sure she paid for it.  They cruised the coast of the California’s in company with many of his friends.

On board the Meg-A-Bob, 1984.

She didn’t change a lot.  Once two miles off the coast, her eldest granddaughter dropped a piece of chewing gum on the deck.  My angry mother tried to kick her granddaughter overboard.  She gave her daughter a car then took it back.  She said she would pay college tuition but tried to back out.  She was good in the mornings, and mean at night.  She was always mean and cruel in every phone call. 
She faded away her way with diabetes caused renal failure.  Her husband had her cremated.  For a year or more, there her ashes sat in a box in her chair.  One day the box was gone.  Where?  We don’t know for sure.  My husband thinks she is in the landfill.  I think she was thrown overboard at the dock. 
I spent years working through her meanness with therapists and other caring experts.  I grew to forgive her and realize she did the best she could with who she was.  I was freed when I realized I didn’t have to like her or love her…and I was able to let her go at last.

  • Keeping those on the east coast in my thoughts.

  • Himself:  Found new BBQ for the Friday meeting that folds.  Perfection.  Computer games, Ross Dress for Less, the Automotive Museum.  Maybe dinner out.

  • Herself:  Write, Ross, paint, dinner.  My children have a lot to forgive in me also.

  • Reading:  ”My War,” Andy Rooney.

  • Balance:  Life is pretty darned good right now.

    1. I feel the same way about my mother. Hard to forgive the abuse.

    2. A powerful post Mage. It's very hard work forgiving. I'm still working on mom stuff, seems like it weasels into my brain when I'm not tired or stressed. I just burned my breakfast thinking about what to say here. Dang.

    3. My mother was not mean but she was difficult. She never understood me and never told me I was good enough, but my younger sister was so much better. I never hated my younger sister for being the favorite but I shrugged my shoulder at my mother's crazy behavior and left home as soon as I could. I forgave her and even loved her a little now and again always waiting for the same in return, which never came, because we are what we are.

    4. Forgiveness is a powerful tool in your own healing. I'm glad for you that you're there. A very touching post, Mage. Hugs to you.

    5. Our parents were nothing if not interesting.

      I felt a great deal of sympathy for your Mom. I know it was hard for you, and hard for her too. Hopefully, your daughter and granddaughter will have an easier time from here on.

      Connie has finally forgiven me for being such a "hardass" as her alcoholic father calls me.

      Hey, somebody's got to do it. :~))


      PS I had too much birthday last week. Gained a pound. Bought a new scale. Still gained a pound. Back to preparing meals.

      Eggplant parmesan (WW recipe) today. Have a good one you beautiful gal.

      PPS Rooney better be nice about Patton. He was a hardasst too.


    6. I'm sorry about your experiences with your mother. She certainly had a different kind of life especially as a woman in a man's world of engineering. Sounds like she drank because she thought that would make the men accept her.....I'm sure it was very difficult to grow up with her moods and anger.

    7. This one made me cry.....for a number of reasons. Thank you so much for posting this. I have missed you, my friend. Let's have dinner soon!

    8. What a history.
      How marvellous that you can rise above it.xoxo

    9. bless you for being able to let it go.

    10. As a daughter, and a mother, I am still learning about the complexity of this relationship, still learning how to manage it. Like you, I came to the conclusion that we all do the best we can, given who we are, our circumstances and where we are in our journey.

      I have forgiven my mother. I hope my children can forgive me my failings in their turn.

      A thought provoking post!

    11. A very powerful post. With forgiveness, comes freedom for oneself...

    12. Clear-eyed, unsentimental and unafraid. This piece is more moving because of the detachment with which it is written.

      I have yet to forgive my mother. My daughter has yet to forgive me. And so it goes . . . .

    13. I'm here from Hilary's. I'm glad she awarded you this POTW.

      Today is my mother's 80th birthday. It hasn't always been smooth, but no forgiveness is necessary. After reading your story and some of the comments, I feel fortunate. I'm happy that my Mom is still here.

      Your mother was quite a colorful character and quite the "I am Woman" woman; that part being not so bad.

      I hope she loved you, in spite of it all. I'm sure she did.

      I have 3 teenaged daughters. Wish me luck.

      ps. I don't drink; that might be a plus. :)

    14. Hi Mage, No email on your profile so I hope you don't mind me responding here to your comment on my blog. I just want to say that your personality really shines and that while I am not a daily blogger, I will definitely visit you again!

      I'm glad things have improved with your daughters and your relationship with them.

      Thanks for adding a different dimension to my post topic.

    15. It's too bad your mother succumbed to alcohol. She probably would have been an amazing human being if that stuff didn't mess her up.


    What a delight to get a note from you. Thanks for leaving one.


    Peter in front of a wall sculpture. We were invited up to Peter Knego’s home to see the latest installation.   Abstract flat ...