Sunday, October 23, 2011

An Anniversary, Unobserved

October 18th would have been my parents' 58th wedding anniversary, had my mother not died on the Ides of March 2003, five months before her 70th birthday and seven months before their 50th anniversary. Hers was a preventable death - nobody with an education and a middle-class income really has to get adult-onset diabetes and die from its complications. She survived breast cancer and an unrelated tongue cancer (highly ironic as she was a psychotherapist - and that irony was not lost on her). Cancer is a disease that you go to doctors for, and they do things to you to fix it - surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, although thankfully she only had to endure the first two. I have come to think of type II diabetes in adults as the disease of self-love, as the result of unresolved anger and self-loathing, especially among women. To a large extent, it is something you do to yourself. I am not blaming the victim here - I do not think it has anything to do with lack of will or discipline, or any kind of moral deficiency. I think it is a way that women kill themselves, slowly.

This is hardly an earth-shaking conclusion - FlyLady has spoken very eloquently about the connection between depression and self-care, or lack thereof. I must confess, with shame, that I don't know enough about my mother's life to be able to speak with any kind of confidence about the reasons she did not take good care of herself. There was much anger - about choices she could not make as a young woman, about neglectful parents and children who could not fix that need, about babies who died and an adopted child whose own terrible void no one could fill. Her marriage with my father had its ups and downs about which I am certainly not qualified to speak, and I would not breach his privacy here if I could.

I started writing this blog post on October 18th. Between the Jewish holidays (now over until the spring, thank G-d) and the difficulty I am having with these thoughts, it has taken this long for me to write two paragraphs. I think I will stop now, and possibly continue this theme in a series of posts. For one thing, I need to disentangle my own anger at her no longer being here for me and my children, from my thoughts about type II diabetes. I know I've used strong words about it, and I think it is a debate worth having.

I would love to know what you think, so far.


  1. I know the anger well. I'm not sure what I think about Type II diabetes and anger and such. My aunt did have it and pretty much ignored the self-care part, but she died from cancer. But I do know of some research that suggests that diabetes leaves you more vulnerable to certain kinds of cancer...
    Anyway, thoughtful post and very emotional. Just know that I know. Big hugs. Lynne

  2. Thanks, sweetheart. Hugs greatly appreciated. I guess that, as I approach the threshold of 50, it is time for me to start figuring out my feelings about my mother - feelings as complex as she was.

    About diabetes, I guess I need to do some more research to back up these statements.

  3. I submit my candidacy to be a source of (totally biased) information and as a fellow rememberer. love, Zok

  4. Thanks, love. I realised that I used the word anger many times in the above post, but the word love not once. That's the next post, I guess ;-). We have talked about her many times and I'm sure we will continue ... it amazes what a difference in perspective 6.5 years can give in the course of a human life ... it's like we are talking about completely different families. Not just because you remember better than I do, and have done a lot of this work already in your own therapist training, but because you were the firstborn and therefore took the brunt of many things that passed me by. To be continued ... as I head for my run to avoid doing the same thing to my own kids ;-).

  5. There's a lot of reasons for lack of self-care. In my mother's case (who is still alive, by some miracle, at 86), I think it was a lack of understanding "back then" about the effects of fat and sugar and lots of red meat. But it's also her hopeless outlook on life. She honestly believes that all doctors are the same, and thus stayed with a HORRIBLE doctor until mercifully HE died. (This idiot never sent her for a mammogram until a lump developed in her late '60s; thankfully, it was benign. And even though we told her the lack of mammograms was medical malpractice, she refused to switch.)

    I think we get angry at our parents for a lot of reasons; not taking care of themselves serves as a legitimate focus for it. "I'm only angry because I love you and want you around forever." But really, we're just masking what we're really pissed about.

  6. You know I read this when you posted it, but could not find the words to comment. I'm sure you understand that. You wouldn't feel anger if you didn't feel love. The two are inexorably intertwined. At some point, I think, anger just gives up. Love lasts. Anger is hard to sustain. But it takes time.

  7. Thanks, honey! And thanks to all who commented. It's funny that you chose this moment to comment on this post, because I was just thinking that I need to pick up this thread again. Stay tuned ...


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