My mother had “given” me a morning dove when I was young and struggling with scarlet fever. I’d heard it singing from a tree on top of the sand dune behind our house. I never saw it, but she said that it was singing for me to get well, and it became known as my dove. I would lie in my bed and be calmed by its constant rhythm. It was soft and steady, and I could hear it when the sounds of the waves of the lake were covered by the noises of the day. When I was better and had returned to outdoor play, I would stop to listen when I heard it call. I climbed the dune several times to try to find it, yet it remained mysteriously hidden to me. It was another unseen thing that had become an important part of my life.
It became a constant in my other-wise changing world. Throughout the years, every morning dove I have heard has connected me to the first one, forming a thread of soft, longing notes that connect me to the innocence of my youth and to the mother that I would lose through time and circumstance.
I think it was my knowing that drove her away from me. I must have been too much of a mirror for her, beyond the liaison with the real estate man when I was young and the naming of her pregnancy with my sister before she knew, was the visit to my aunt’s New York City apartment. Another man’s voice, another kitchen, and another scene I didn’t want to see. This time, I made sure my older sister saw it too so that would be forever more vindicated.
After that, she began to do things to try to destroy my inner nature and drive. It was amazing what she perpetrated against me, all the while professing her love. I was full of hope and dreams, and a love for life and spirit, and throughout my childhood and adolescence she consistently tried to bury it all with her negation and emotional attacks. It began with her over-use of the enema bottle on me when I was very young, and continued to grow and wind its insidious way through my life. Never once did I hear words of appreciation or encouragement from her; always there were the comments that negated any hope or dream for me that I expressed out loud.
It was exciting to raise Kyle and create the atmosphere for him that all things are possible, and that the unseen forces and messages that we receive are as important, if not more, than any learning through books or school-prompted repetition. I encouraged him through example, through discussion in tones of wonderment at the Universe, through well-chosen books that told simple messages of hope and caring for All Our Relations. Mostly, I encouraged him through listening to what was going on for him. My mother gave me my first lesson in good parenting: do not so what she did.
We moved back to the Midwest when I was in high school, taking me away from my Buttermilk Falls and the live, open fields to a small, closed town where there was nowhere for me to escape. There was no place for me to wander and sort through my inner self, and I spent most of my time in my room, alone. I began to teach myself to meditate and in meditation I began to find my empowerment. She began to barge in on me and accuse me of doing horrible things behind closed doors. I don’t think she could stand to see me grow in to myself and out of her immediate control. The words between us were filled with disdain as I came to see her as someone who was determined to prevent me from finding any peace.
It continued through my teen-age years, I really knew we were forever lost to each other when she took me down to the county mental health clinic when I was seventeen and sought shock treatments for me. In the course of my few visits there, because they were so incredulous at her request, I was told what my diagnosis was: I had a mother who did not love, nor even like me. My prescription was to move forward and ignore her.
I went through years of anger and would often let it show its full force. I was something to behold. I raged as though I were a trapped animal. And in many respects I was. The reality of my day-to-day life completely interfered with the beauty and the spirit of what I could know when I was alone and able to feel my spirit teachers around me. The more I tried to prove myself, the more I was ridiculed. The more I sought my solitude, the more she barged in to my room and found something for me to do that would take me away from the quiet I craved. All I wanted was to be seen for whom I was and to be able to share the beauty of what I saw.
Bequeathed with a patch of cannabis that my older sister had planted over the summer while home from college, I lived behind a haze of marijuana and I retreated as deep in to the world of books and writing as I could. After graduation, I could not get away fast enough. I would go away for periods of time, and when I needed to return I was always hopeful that it would be different. My need to have my mother’s love created an underlying bond between us that kept me coming back. Although the bond was covered in anger and distrust, we’d come out of ourselves and move toward each other every once in a while. We’d spend time together like a sunny picnic between storms. Or, like the soft, sweet song of the morning dove breaking the stillness. Throughout it all, my father remained stoic and silent. Something had happened to bring a wedge between our closeness. It would only be after my mother’s death that I would find out what it was.
I came home from two years in Canada when I was twenty, suffering from my first broken heart and languished through the days as I healed. Playing the role of the caring mother, she offered to pay for counseling for me. I accepted, only to find out that she had once again requested that I receive shock treatments. Once again, I was counseled to keep myself safe and away from her. I was off and away to California as soon as I could gather the funds to make the trip. I had a wonderful year in Mendocino living the hippie life with a musician. Imagine my dismay when a year later, I returned again, with no money and no other place to go but back.
I settled in to working and studying adolescent psychology at a university on the Northwest side of Chicago. I began to build a life for myself, and started to, as most twenty-three years olds do, feel that I was an adult. By that time, I had been in love twice and had two broken hearts; so, when I met a guy who seemed to be likable enough, and we were together for a year or so, I said “yes” to his marriage proposal.
It did not last long. We were married in June and by December he started showing aggression and anger. We did not know about PTSD then, and there was never any way that I could know that the night terrors he had were related to his time in the Vietnam War. All I knew was that I needed to move out of his way and stay away until he calmed down. I sought help from our parents. His were in complete denial; mine were no help. Mom compounded the problem by favoring his company and his story, all the while intimating that I was over-reactive and antagonistic to him. Somehow she felt she could do this as long as she kept proclaiming her love for me while she was doing it.
During one conversation, she made an off-hand comment about a very specific detail of my husband’s genitalia and acted as though she had simply guessed it. I was in shock as I sat dumbfounded by the realization that my mother and he had had sex at least once. With the realization that his aggression toward me had me motivated by my mother, the shock turned to anger. In the ensuing confrontation with her, she threatened to have me committed; and, later, as I confronted my husband, he beat me severely enough to put me in the hospital for eight days. True to his Black Beret training, he never left a visible mark. It took six months for my stomach to heal. By that time I was back in New York.