Scene4-International Magazine of Arts and Culture

Oh my aching back

Claudine Jones-Scene4 Magazine

Claudine Jones

I was just getting ready for a nap and I realized that a discussion was going on in my brain. I listened for a bit; it kept me from the nap and now I realize that it seemed familiar, important and if I don't write it down I'll undoubtedly forget it.

Decades of feeling I've just figured out something critical in this life puzzle, just filled in a gap, so close but as soon as I try to complete it, put the last puzzle piece in, it pretty much vaporizes. I'm back to zero. Here's the attempt, the latest iteration, before it disappears. Here's what I think.

That I am who I am because, obviously as a lot of people have figured out, we are what our parents make us. Whatever happened to them happens to us and its own particulars are unique, but still linked.

That my parents were so fundamentally ill suited to each other I absorbed this from an unconscious level, from being a baby. Maybe even from the womb. My mother has recently reminded me that when I was very young maybe 18 months old or so I tumbled and hurt myself and when she tried to help me, I rebuffed her. She took this as a sign that I was going to be strong and that I would not need her help, so she turned her attention to my older brother whom she has always thought of as tender and in need of support.

That in the early years of her marriage to my American father, being very isolated and ferociously in need of friends as a new immigrant, she met up with O who was also French, but she wasn't counting on and she had no idea what she was exposing me to. Her treasured new friend's husband, also American, both molested me as a child, and terrorized me until I was an adult and a mother myself. When I received the news of his death I was not only not sad I was relieved.

That I cannot extricate myself from the sense that my position in life has been to hide. Unless I hide, I will have to admit that even though I wasn't responsible, I still am the person holding a secret that would explode my family and possibly, I don't know, potentially remove my mother from the embrace of her dearest friend O.

That under wraps the secret could just reside inside me. It didn't cause trouble with the family, it didn't prevent me from functioning, but it did shape the way I am: the fact that I don't trust and that I Escape. My sensibility, my personality is intensely attracted to the theater, to dance, to make believe.

Here's another interesting piece of the puzzle: I am presently trying to deal with the impending loss of my second parent. I was not present when my father died, in fact I made a conscious decision not to visit him to say goodbye when he was in the hospital. I told myself that he was so far gone, unconscious and so forth that he wouldn't have even known that I was there. I found out later that he was asking for me. I called the hospital everyday but I never actually saw him, or allowed him to feel my presence before his death.

I'm now in a position of repeating that with my mother. And it's troublesome. I don't really have any sense of loss at that prospect. Of course we're having a difficult time with her. My brothers have both said that they wouldn't mind at all if she were to die very soon. It's very difficult to talk to her; it's very difficult to communicate at all, not like she has Alzheimer's, but as though she is incrementally re-establishing the French person she's always been but at a level that is so intense that we almost don't recognize her, as though she's pre-motherhood. That goes back to the initial premise.

She is a product of the abuse that she underwent from her parents. It made her uniquely unsuitable to be a parent; she always wanted to be taken care of herself. I'm not saying that she did not do a great custodial job. Actually that was her strong point. What I'm saying is that she didn't have a clue that the effect on us of her decision to marry an American was going to be so extreme.

I reached the conclusion that all the things that she has told me about who I should be are beyond my reach. As early as being carried around in her body, I was getting the message that she had made a mistake. I did my best to protect myself, but I can't change what I am. The things that she complains about--coldness, aloofness, not-opening-my-heart--all are direct results of the messages I got. As much as she says wanted me I'm at core a product of her fear.

I get lots of feedback from Friends and from my partner as well that I am quirky & weird, but I am heck of creative. I'm not a placid person. The idea that I'm going to have a breakthrough and that there will be a cathartic end to all of my mother's anxiety about what kind of daughter she has, we will finally connect on the level that she's always wanted to--that's not going to happen.

I am not responsible for that.

See? I'm already feeling guilty. Like there was some magic button I could push that would make me a great lady. And I’m just now getting at age 70 that enough is enough. I've always wanted to be heard. I've always wanted somebody to say like freaking Mister Rogers I like you just the way you are but no there's always always something that I have done wrong. I am not who I'm supposed to be. On some really profound level that pain goes directly to my mother's experience with her own parents.

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Claudine Jones has had a long career as an Actor/Singer/Dancer.
She writes a monthly column and is a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2019 Claudine Jones
©2019 Publication Scene4 Magazine



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April 2019

Volume 19 Issue 11

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