Aug. 1, 2021

MY MOTHER LOVED TO HATE ME.

Because of her name recognition and established "position" in the community----my aging mother was treated like royalty in the small town of Pine Bluff. She never worked because my Father took excellent care of her--while he was alive and after his death.

Growing old, she was made to feel like a queen by my daughters; My ex-husband’s minister; the staff at Pine Bluff’s only assisted living facility; and the medical team at Pine Bluff’s only hospital.  When my oldest daughter brought her grandmother's dirty laundry to my house to wash, I was appalled at the tattered gowns and torn robe and immediately purchased new ones. With no one available to deliver the new purchases, I decided to deliver them to my mother’s hospital room during my lunch break.  She seemed shocked when I walked in her hospital room. The last time we’d crossed paths was at my brother’s funeral in the early nineties.  Surrounded by her loyal followers, the ones she paid to “help” her, my mother took pleasure in ignoring me -- treating me like an outcast.

 Now, my mother was flabbergasted at my ability to be nice, despite the way she had always treated me. I hung the robe in the closet, placed the gowns in a drawer and said “I hope you enjoy your day” and left.

Her room was hospital-ugly—void of color, life, or personality—so I called the florist and ordered two large flower arrangements-- both spring bouquets-- delivered to her hospital room. One card was signed “Sally” and I asked the florist to sign the other card with my youngest daughter’s name. Why? Because, back in my hospital/volunteer days, I’d watched hospital staff and medical teams treat older patients with more dignity and respect when those patients were actively-loved and cared for by family; when the senior citizen appeared valued and treasured by family, friends, and others. Appearance is everything.

Soon, my mother was moved from the hospital to an assisted living facility and I “dropped by” unexpectedly---for a second time. She was trying to watch a very-small and very-old Television without a remote. The TV screen was so small my mother--unable to see the picture-- just listened to it like a radio.

The next day, I returned with a new television that had a much larger screen and a matching remote. My mother was sleeping at the time and… after removing the worthless and old TV and replacing it with the large television---I placed the new remote on my mother’s night stand---and left the room. That day, at the request of the facilities director, I agreed to return several days later and present a short, music program for the residents.

About twenty people showed up for the music program—with most in wheelchairs-- looking “surprised”-- like they weren’t sure where they were or why. My mother, also in a wheelchair, had been carefully positioned near the piano and me--- by an attendant.   Unlike others in the audience, she insisted on talking and laughing-- throughout my performance-- with my ex-husband’s minister who was sitting beside her. Determined to ignore her rudeness, I continued to play and sing the familiar church hymns.

Before the program ended, my mother asked the minister to wheel her back to her room. She passed by me without saying “thanks” for the TV or “thanks” for the music. In fact, that was the last time I saw the woman who’d given birth to me almost seventy years earlier.

As a reader, you have every reason to wonder why I cared how my mother was treated while in the hospital or if she had a decent TV?!?!? My mother hated me from birth so—why should I care what happened to her??!?!?

 I cared because-- from childhood-- I was taught God expects the best from each of us-- regardless how others treat us. I also cared as a matter of personal pride and public perception. Believe me when I say:  Nothing I did—the gowns and robes, flowers, TV, even the music program—was meant to soften my mother’s heart. Let’s just say-- I did it out of respect for my Father—and for myself.

At the end of 2010, my ex-husband Jack died and---six months later--- my mother stopped breathing.  It was no surprise that Jack left his daughters nothing and, it was no surprise my mother left my daughters everything. The surprise came when my daughters—now in control of considerable money and power—abandoned me. The children I’d birthed and loved always—walked away from me the day my mother died—without a second thought or a backward glance.

The date was August 1, 2011.

 After my mother’s death, I wrote about the emotional events that took place. I detailed the words—decisions-- and actions-- taken by my daughters--their stepmother-- and their father’s family.   I wrote page after page---from the moment my daughters called to tell me my mother was dead ....until they clarified I was not invited to the funeral…the gravesite… and would no longer—be part of their lives. I wrote to stay alive…to force myself to live rather than plan my death.  I used every bit of strength I could find to keep-from ending my pain, permanently. I wrote and wrote but shared my words with no one but me.  Writing was my therapy and writing saved my life.

 I certainly described—in writing—how I felt when I received the call from my daughters’ lawyer--- threatening to sue me---if I didn’t allow my daughters to “re-claim” ALL their long-ago possessions from MY house. The fact is: My children had never—not even once-- contacted me about getting their “possessions”.  EVEN BETTER, they knew I taught every day so I was away from home—all day.  Better still--- each daughter had a key to my house.

The last time my oldest daughter spoke with me--to tell me goodbye-- her final words were: “If you ever hear I did something good for somebody or something—like a stranger or an animal—you should be happy, knowing, I learned from you.”

My youngest daughter’s much-harsher “last words” were shared over-the-phone, shortly before my mother’s burial service: “You better not have the guts to show up at the graveside service, you Crazy Cunt.”

I haven't seen or heard from my daughters since 2011.

Sally Miller