After my grandmother had died, my aunt called me to tell me that she had told my sister something important. She said that I should call her. It was about Christmas time, and I was going to spend it with my sister in San Francisco. So I waited until we were in the taxi out of the airport to ask her what my aunt had been talking about.
She nonchalantly said, “Oh yeah, mom was s&xually abus&d.”
“By who?” I asked.
I was getting annoyed with my sister, because this was pretty important information, and she was treating it like it was regular family gossip. I prodded her for more, but she didn’t know anything and I let it drop.
I have to say, I almost immediately felt a sense of relief, which is probably a surprise to you. Why? Because this news answered so many questions about my mom.
My mother was a really intense woman. She had what could only be described as temper tantrums on a daily basis. She would scream and cry, throw things and end up in hysterics. She did this every day.
She was also very religious. She was particularly enthusiastic about chastity. My sister used to say that she got the impression that it would be better to kill someone than to have s&x.
She was constantly in battle with a s&xualized culture. We weren’t allowed to watch tv shows or listen to music with s&xual content. Unfortunately, we grew up in the 70s so my mom had her work cut out for her.
Now, looking back on it, I realize that to my mom, s&x was something hurtful and abusive. As crazy as her actions were, in her own way, she was trying to protect us. She naively thought religion and her own energetic efforts would keep us innocent, and in her mind, safe.
I also think it is why she was so against feminism. Her own mother worked. I really believe grandma worked because they had so many kids, and were living off a miner’s salary. But in my mother’s mind, my grandmother was selfish. In retrospect, I wonder if my mother thought that if my grandma had been at home, maybe the abuse wouldn’t have happened. Maybe she thought grandma could protect her if she didn’t work. Again, this would be a little naïve on my mother’s part.
The most important question it answered for me was why my mom allowed herself to be abused by my father. My father was a very violent man, and I never understood why she subjected us and herself to his abuse. I was really angry at my mom for a long time about this. But knowing what I know now about her past, I have more compassion for her.