My Mom

If I had to end up with a Leifheit, I’m SO thankful I got the one who married my dad.   My mom was raised in a cold, uncaring household, by an emotionally frozen mother.  Her mom had been orphaned  by the flu of 1918 (her mom died), and was sent to the States from Canada, to live with family friends who adopted her at age six, after the death of her father.   Her mom told me that she built walls to keep from getting hurt.  She extended that to her first born, and was easily manipulated by the other three.

My mom had a good heart.  She cared about other people.  When a church friend had a very ill newborn, she took that friend to see the baby at the hospital daily, even after losing TWO of her own newborns just 1 and 3 years earlier.  My mom’s mom didn’t ever go to the hospital to see my mom after the births of those two babies.  She said it would make her “sick at her stomach” (same phrase she used for special needs kids, or those with physical deformities, being a good Baptist and all).   I can’t imagine having a mom who put her own emotional weakness over the life-altering tragedy of having to bury two babies two years apart.  That is just cold.  Spineless and cold.  My mom’s mom also used to tell me which grandkids she liked, which great-grandkids she didn’t like, and other things that make me wonder what kind of monster she turned me into in her feeble mind.

My mom was disciplined by being forced to memorize chapters of the Bible.  The Bible was used as a weapon to punish.  Not for instruction or spiritual growth.  But as something that was done punitively.   With years of that as a kid, it’s amazing she didn’t turn her back on God, but she didn’t.  Her faith sustained her  (her family surely didn’t).  She was a member of the church I grew up in, and very active in a lot of things that went on there.  She enjoyed helping others.  She believed in a just and loving God.   She taught for about 15 years at Rockford Christian Elementary School (Mrs. Johnson- 2nd grade, 4th grade, and the Resource Center).  When she was diagnosed with breast cancer (then lung and brain), she started a cancer support group at church.

I always knew my mom loved me, but I never knew if she liked me.  I was a little kid (3) when she went to the local community college as she started her education to become a teacher.  She graduated with honors from the local CC, then the local 4 year college where she finished her Bachelor’s degree.   I would be sent to my playroom while she studied, and to a 3 year old, that just felt like mom didn’t want me around.  Of course, when I got older, I understood why she sent me to play.  But as a little kid, I wondered.  She was terrified of something happening to me as well, which didn’t help with feeling connected.  I knew she wanted me… I just didn’t know wny.

On the other hand, my mom took me skating to outdoor ponds and lagoons when it was crazy cold outside.   She took me to all sorts of lessons.  She was my chauffeur to figure skating lessons from the time I was 4-5, and again from 11-14.  For my birthdays, she’d organize parties with puppet shows and cake and ice cream at the local Women’s Club. Or she’d take one of the party napkins to the “cake lady” so she could make the cake match the napkins.  She sewed a lot of my clothing as a kid (and what she didn’t do, my paternal grandma did).  Mom dressed me in Marshall Field’s clothing, which I hated (dresses and ‘girly girl’ stuff when I’d rather be in a tree or hanging from the monkey bars).  She made sure I was involved in a lot of social and sport activities.   She never complained about taking me places.

She wasn’t perfect, and did some things that hurt me.  But she had no example to follow.  Her mom was weak and broken.  My mom was very strong… and broken by the loss of those two babies she never even got to see.  She couldn’t turn to her younger siblings (all of whom were members of the speedy wedding club) as they were dealing with their own families, or one who was too young to be useful for anything at that time.  My mom did her best with what she had to work with.  Her heart was in the right place, even if some actions were confusing.  We never got to talk about any of this as she ended up with dementia from brain radiation.  It was the price she paid to stay alive.  My dad took exemplary care of her (and mom’s family always found fault with him- but never offered to help give him a day off now and then, as he was determined to never put her in a nursing home).   One of them commented after mom’s death about how dad cared for her so well- but that was almost shocking to hear something positive from people who told ME they wanted my dad nowhere near them.  My dad was loyal… something they didn’t understand.

My mom and dad adopted me.  It became very obvious that the rest of her family did not, though one still sends very unwanted cards that I throw away.  Can’t have it both ways- kick to the curb = end of relationship… and that is the biggest gift I could have gotten from my mom’s mom’s death.  I won the lottery by not having to fake it any longer (they are masters of defining their own logic and ‘truth’).  As a kid, I had a great time with my cousins.  As an adult, I wanted nothing to do with my aunt and uncles, but “played nice” for mom’s mom’s sake.  I don’t know why I protected her.  I knew before my mom’s body was cold that mom’s mom had been taken to the attorney to have me ‘eliminated’ from the family trust signed by my mom’s mom AND dad.   And I didn’t care.  I didn’t want anything to make me beholding to any of them- and the crap they sent in a box after mom’s mom died was sent to the auction house with my dad’s stuff after he died.  I only kept the story mom wrote for the church magazine.   THAT meant something to me.  Being essentially slandered in the trust was my ticket out of that cluster.  The porcelain doll was given to another cousin (porcelain is good for one thing to me, and it flushes).

One of the great parts of being adopted is not having to claim anybody who isn’t an asset to my existence, on the wimpy family tree.  I’m sure my cousins have been told nasty things about me- that’s the Leifheit way.   And I’m so glad I’m not a Leifheit.  I have six other cousins who were also kicked to the curb, and I love them.  But as of now, I need to keep distance from anybody who has contact with the evil siblings who profited from their sister’s and brother’s deaths.  I’m just so thankful I’m not related to those siblings.   I wish them well… just well away from me.  You know, an honest representation of our lack of relationship.

“Not my circus, not my monkeys”  (author unknown).