I confess, my mother was abusive both verbally and physically from my first memory. At the same time, when I needed her to bail me out of trouble, she was there. It is a fact that she held disdain for my being born and because of her emotional neglect, I grew to hate her vigorously.
One time on Mother’s Day I gave her a card written in Spanish, a language she cannot read. She carried the card in her purse for several months and would pull it out to show people when I was present. She would hand them the card as she said, “Look at this card my daughter gave me on Mother’s Day. She knows I can’t read Spanish.” The expressions on their faces made me feel horrible.
Worse than that was what I did to my mom on April Fool’s Day. I was sixteen and had been drinking beer at my friend’s house. Sometime in the afternoon, my brilliant idea of a joke came to mind. I phoned my mom at “the shop”. The shop was an upholstery business my parents owned and worked together since I was three years old. When she answered the phone, I spoke in a serious and matter of fact way, “Is this Mrs. Pulver?” My mom replied, “Yes, it is, can I help you?” I followed with the question, “Are you the mother of Cynthia Pulver?” You could feel the dread when she confirmed that she was. I then repeated what I had heard on television many times.
“Mrs. Pulver, this is Nurse Morgan at Cottage Hospital. Your daughter, Cynthia, arrived by ambulance about an hour ago. She was involved in an automobile accident (pause).” “I am very sorry, Mrs. Pulver, we did everything we could, but she didn’t make it.”
My mom screamed to G-d, the sound of the phone receiver hitting the hard floor filled me with instant regret. “Mom, mom… it’s a joke, mom it’s me!” I could hear my dad’s stressed voice asking her what was wrong. “What happened?” he repeated. I glanced at my friend sitting in the chair; she was laughing. I wanted to hang up the phone, but I also wanted my mom to know it was a joke and I was sorry. My dad picked up the receiver and asked who I was. “Dad, it’s me,” I said. I cannot remember anything more about that day.
Often, in my teenage years, I told my mom, “One day you’re going to be old and dying. Don’t come knocking on my door because I won’t answer.” She was not old nor did she knock on my door, instead, she phoned. My mom died the day after Mother’s Day twenty-five years ago today. She died six weeks after her fifty-fourth birthday.
I needed to know why my mom was abusive to me as a child and critically mean to me when I was a teenager. When I asked her, she answered, “I did my best.” I did my best, she said, and I stood there looking at her dumbfounded. I turned my back and walked away with the word liar on my lips. She would die the following week.
My hate and anger toward my mom were left at the cemetery the day we buried her wrapped in white cloth as is a Jewish custom. My mom died without me saying I loved her and without a hug. My daughter was born and now carries my mom’s name proving her existence and death were not in vain.
Despite everything, my mom became alive after her death. I want to believe she knew that she would be forgiven and she knows I am sorry for what I did and for what I could not.