As with my father, I refer to my mother by her given name, Patricia.
For a very long time my feelings for her were defined by ambivalence, a push – pull kind of casual indifference.
While it is true that she gave me beating after beating, she also pinched me, threw water in my face, slapped me – and she once left me alone in a grocery store parking lot while she drove home and subsequently put away all the groceries she had purchased before deciding she should come back for me … I was about six years old and had apparently embarrassed her by playing along with a teasing clerk as he filled our grocery bags – I had a more difficult time letting go of an idealized notion of my mother than I did of my father.
And a part of me always believed my father hurt her too, that she was afraid of him. As terrible as her beatings were, they didn’t compare to his, so in my child’s mind I came to believe that she was just trying to make me behave so he didn’t have to do it.
And then …
She told me that every so often my father “had to beat the hell out of me” — I was probably ten or eleven at the time. Her words were stark and cold, delivered to wound and induce fear – I have never forgotten them. In adulthood, and in therapy, revisiting them was haunting.
And the ambivalence died. I began to see her as loathsome and repugnant, and her mothering was nothing short of reprehensible.
I understand now that she was, in every way, complicit in what took place in Pat and Ed’s House of Horrors; she condoned his beatings, and she had all along.