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My Mother

Monday, October 6th, 2008
Posted in Joel by Joel Gross

I debated about writing this article, especially since my mom reads my blog, but I think she understands the cathartic act of writing and it is okay to do so.‚  Listening to an episode of “This American Life” (click to listen) about a fellow named Josh Bearman’s mother who sounds very similar to my mother gave me inspiration to write.

The radio show played a few clips of Bearman and his mother conversing that sounded like a recent phone conversation I had with my own mom.‚  In recent years, I haven’t had much contact at all with my mom other than that minimal interaction that is required in order to see my little brothers.‚  I wanted to see my only little brother who is still underage (Josh) and had made plans the week before to come down and give him his birthday presents (Madden NFL 2008 & NCAA Football 2008) and spend the night playing them with him.‚  The last time I had come down and spent the night, I had shown Josh some basics of working out and was planning on following up with him on that as well.‚  Anyways, I was at work on Friday and called to confirm the plans to see Josh that I had told my mom about the previous Tuesday.

Josh picked up the phone and went to ask my mom about our plans and I could tell from the tones of their voices that something was wrong.‚  The fact that something was wrong did not surprise me; many times before my mom has randomly changed her mind or gotten some strange idea in her head that threw a wrench in the clock work.‚  On my end of the phone, as soon as I detected there was something up I began to get frustrated.‚  I couldn’t believe this was happening again.‚  Then I heard Josh whisper the words to my mom that flipped my happy switch to off mode- “Mom… I know this is about the computer thing, but he didn’t…”

What was the computer thing?‚  About a week earlier, I had had one of my rare phone conversations with my mom.‚  She had described in great detail her recent difficulties with her four computers.‚  From what I could discern, she, my stepdad or Josh had somehow managed to infect all of her computers with viruses rendering them all unusable.

Here’s where the story enters my mom’s alternate reality.‚  My mom lives with the constant paranoid belief that people are out to get her.‚  Those people change constantly and everyone who has ever interacted with her at some point or another has come under suspicion. My mom believed that someone had purposely hacked into her computer, so she went to find a “computer expert” to tell her which of her enemies it was.‚  The guy she hired refused to tell her his name “because he worked for the government.”‚  She paid him a couple hundred dollars and he told her that someone had literally broken into her home, installed viruses on each of her computers to steal her information and then snuck out… all without her knowledge.‚  It’s not like my mom is wealthy and has something worth stealing; she hasn’t held a job for twenty something years and her husband was injured on the job and has no money either.‚  This brilliant unnamed computer genius also told her that he had seen an IP address on her computer and traced it back and hacked the server it came from and discovered… my blog and email (neither of these are hosted on my computer- my email is on Google’s datacenter and my blog is in a 1and1 datacenter).‚  Not to mention that if this BS artist actually had done the hacking he claimed to do he had just committed a federal crime.‚  My mom told me that she didn’t think I did it… but the unnamed guy had known how to find my blog!‚  (I’m sure he didn’t look in the temporary internet files or just Google my name).‚  But common sense does not intrude its annoying head into my mother’s world… which can make for some rather comedic stories.‚  I was driving my car with my friend Nick during this conversation and so turned the speaker phone option on so he could hear.‚  Nick listened incredulously as I tried to convince my mom that she had been ripped off by her unnamed “government agent” and she probably just had a simple virus and needed to wipe her hard drive and reinstall Windows.‚  I argued with her about this for approximately an hour before she finally agreed with me and said she would follow my instructions.‚  I also tried to get her to call the police about the guy who had scammed her for a couple of hundred bucks… but of course she didn’t know his name.‚  I laughed hopelessly, hung up and told Nick “She’s off her rocker.”

Jump back to the conversation I overhead on the phone between Josh and my mom where he said, “Mom… I know this is about the computer thing, but he didn’t…”‚  I made the connection.‚  My mom believed that I had partnered with my “evil” grandfather and snuck into her house and installed a virus.‚  There is a hundred sensible reasons that it would have been impossible for me to do this.‚  They are at home 24/7.‚  I have no idea where to get a virus, or how to put one on a computer.‚  I have never stolen anything from her or damaged anything she owns.‚  I have no motivation to do her ill- she’s my mother for chrissakes.‚  Every one of these reasons and many more immediately jumped into my head.‚  I was outraged, but not surprised, by her insane accusation.‚  She was accusing me of having committed several major crimes, each of which could put someone behind bars for a decade.

I demanded that Josh let me speak to her.‚  I began to try to talk to her about it- it took about five minutes for her just to admit to me that she thought I hacked her computer.‚  After that I tried to reason with her and explain what an absolutely ridiculous idea this was.‚  She refused to listen.‚  Unfortunately, having my moms wacko ideas affecting my ability to see my little brother quickly caused my mood to turn black and I said some things I shouldn’t have: “If I don’t care enough about you to visit, why do you think I would care enough to hack your computer even if I knew how?!” and “You belong in an insane asylum” and “If you don’t shut up and listen to me, I will cut you off like I did dad.”

Terrible things to say; she became even more upset at me and hung up the phone.‚  My mom and I have a deep and dark history; she is one of the few people who can make me lose my temper.‚  We both have strong personalities and are stubborn people who believe we are always right.‚  Both of us are directly confrontational, which led to us fighting constantly until I was kicked out of her house at 14.‚  By that time, my parents had broken up, gotten back together, divorced, married other people, divorced them, remarried each other and divorced yet again.‚  My mom has had little control over her own life and was abusing alcohol and using meth (Side note: I say using meth because I think there is only one use- getting high).‚  I have some true horror stories from this period of my life.‚  She has since cleaned herself up and switched to the somewhat less harmful addictions of very fatty food and cigarettes.‚  I was a very angry and unhappy middle schooler with a few issues, but my grandparents were extremely kind to me and helped me work through all that stuff and its mostly faded into memory… The remnant though is that I cannot have a relationship with my mom; I have given her hundreds of chances, but every time something like the story above happens and drives me away again.‚  Nowadays I am polite when I visit her, but do not engage her at all.‚  The only reason I go is to see my little brother Josh.‚  Perhaps this will one day change, but it would take a radical change from her for me to be willing to allow her into my world again.

I ended up not seeing Josh this weekend, but I am hoping that perhaps I can go down and see him next weekend. Josh is actually pretty wise for his age and a very good kid.‚  Most kids rebel against their strict parents and go nuts, I think Josh may be rebelling against his nutty parents and has made himself into an adult.

Final thought: When I was younger, I thought the many instances like the one above showed that my mother was an evil person.‚  Now that I am an adult I see that I was wrong.‚  My mom is not a bad person and actually has a kind heart.‚  She just completely lacks self control and a sense of personal responsibility.‚  I also think there is a possibility that she perhaps suffers from a mental illness.‚  Her perception of reality can be tragically skewed, sometimes worse than the story above.‚  I would like to help her, but since she and I have similar personalities I know she would not react well to such suggestions.‚  I am not out to get her (no matter what our unnamed computer hacking government agent friend says lol) and I would like to see her happy and stable.

5 thoughts on “My Mother

  1. Joel, This is my understanding of the relationship I share with our mother: First the facts: Yes, our mother did abandon our family and has in the past used drugs and alchol. She herself has admitted to and taken full responsibility for her actions. Our mother has to live her past choices and the consequences of those choices everyday. Not a day goes by that she does not wish she could undo the hurt and pain that was incurred by her children, including you. That alone is punishment enough. I do not blame our mother for the childhood I was subjected to, I do not hold her responsible for the subsequent impact of her choices upon us as it is not my place to. I love my mother and yes am a momma’s boy through and through. Our mother is of sound mind and one of the strongest minds I have ever had the pleasure knowing. I do not know of any other case, although I am sure there are, of an individual who has recovered from meth use. This alone shows her determination, self empowerment, and above all a love for her children that enabled her to take up tent in hell only to pick up and find a happiness unknown. This isn’t what I am most amazed by: What impresses me most and has had the most profound impact on me is that our mother was able to subject herself to a life as pastor’s wife and go through a hell to which we will never fully be able to comprehend. Did I mention she did this all the while with a smile that comes from a basic paternal instinct. Granted at some point along the line she did lose sight of things–of us, but never the less there is nothing she could do to ever break the bond that we share with her. You may not have the traditional mother to son relationship or even that ideal relationship, but as long as you are willing to share in a relationship with so is she with you. I for one am tired of family being the one to tear each other apart rather than building each other up. I stand for my mom because she has taken a stand for me, for you, for our brothers where no one else has and will continue to do so as long as she has legs to stand on and beyond. Mom and Claude have been there for you at every opportunity and escpecially when needed: Let us not forget your recent beer fest where your FORD car broke down and claude drove all the way to fix your car. I appreciate your commentary on highlighting the good you see in your own relationship with our mom, but why highlight things long laid to rest? Mom and Claude, Claude who I have the utmost pride in regard as my Father, have given to me in recent years something no one in my life has ever given to me apart from Heather–Unconditional Love and Acceptance. Even when we dont deserve it.d

  2. Forgive my spelling and lack of grammar in the above comment as it is nearly midnight. I do believe you can still grasp the ideas and thought presented–

  3. I don’t know that I really care to offer a long explanation of our childhood or relationship with our mother. So, I will try and be concise. First; I don’t know that the human mind or body is fully capable of recovering from sustained drug or alcohol abuse. This is a generally accepted fact. Mom will no doubt have to deal with the residual effects of her choices and addictions for the rest of her life. That being said, I don’t think she is insane or unstable- just a result of her past. Secondly; I don’t think your evaluation of her is very fair. She undoubtedly did somethings that are detestable, but she has since made an attempt to rectify and rebuild some of the connections she destroyed. I don’t think that you have made a legitimate attempt at forgiveness with her. Thirdly; I am amazing. Fourthly; There is nothing else.

  4. I love each one of my boys with everything that is within me. Justin is right, if I could go back and change that awful, horrible time period in my life, where I figuratively speaking, “was driving a car, filled with my most loved ones, and went over a cliff with them in the car with me,” I would do almost anything to change it. But I cannot. And almost everything Joel said, was true and accurate, probably worse than what you could imagine. I just pray that someday, he can find it within himself to forgive me and WANT to get to know who I am today. I am so proud of Joel, he has overcome a lot and become a fine man, for which I can take very little credit. I love you. Linda O’Tyson, Joel’s mom

  5. I hope Joel will realize that forgiveness is more for his own good than yours, Linda. You should keep reaching out to him and continue to let him know you are there for him and you love him. You really do have great boys, smart and well-mannered (even if Joel is kind of overbearing at times lol). You did better than you think, even if it meant one had to stay somewhere else and you should take credit for it. You loved enough to let him go, when it was necessary. Life is much too short to focus on the past. I think the hurt Linda had to live with is more than enough to have to deal with, and it’s unfair to continue to be beat up over something in the past. You have to do what is good and what is right as much as possible now, and I think Linda is doing that. Linda’s sons are great. Her boys have a great mom, who overcame an illness that many do not have the strength or love & support to overcome. She should also forgive herself, as well.

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