Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 9 April 2017



I sat and watched my mother cry, and said,
"These arms are mine. You gave them to me.
You cannot have them back."

6 April 1991
My mother cried a lot. I made her cry. My brother and sister made her cry. Her husband made her cry. And I’m not sure any one of us ever put our arms around her and said, “There, there.” We were not that kind of family. There’s a photo of me as a wee boy—I’m probably about three in it—and my mother’s hugging me and I look like a cat a small child’s got hold of and is squeezing to death. The expression on my face says it all: I don’t want to be here.
The last mental health professional I went to once asked me the classic (or is it clichéd?), “Tell me about your mother,” to which I replied, “I’ll tell you about my dad because you need to understand my dad and my relationship with my dad before you’ll understand me and my mum.” I don’t think she was very pleased; she didn’t like when I didn’t play ball. My dad was a bully. He never hit my mum, not once, but he belittled her and never worried about whether the kids were within earshot or not. So we took our cue from him and looked down on her. And it only got worse when I realised just how much cleverer than her I was.
This is one of only two poems I wrote about my mum. The other is ‘Making Do’ (#934) which you can read at the end of my post Richard Brautigan, my mum and I if you’re interested.


Kass said...

My mother NEVER cried, but in some ways, this lack of expression was just as manipulative.

What a long-term mark parenting leaves.

Jim Murdoch said...

Oh no, Kass, my mother couldn’t manipulate a can opener. (I’m serious, she used to open cans with a knife.) When I said she cried it was because we upset her. She wasn’t especially thin-skinned but we were a merciless bunch and I, especially, was completely oblivious to my mother’s feelings. People wonder these days about how slavery could’ve become so widespread in the western world. I don’t. That was how I treated my mum. Granted that’s how most kids treat their mothers in their selfishness but looking back I do think I was worse than most.

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