|Biographical Non-Fiction posted March 31, 2009||Chapters:||...71 72 -73- 74|
Valerie and her mother become friends.
A chapter in the book A Leaf on the Wind
No Touchy, No Feely
Valerie was sexually abused as a child. Her mother and family denied the abuse making life a living hell. After many years of anger and rage, Valerie and her mother finally make peace.
"Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy."
When I told Mom I could not feel love, she could not understand what I was telling her. In her mind, what I was saying was simply impossible to comprehend. I understood her frustration yet, not feeling love was the way it had always been for me.
“I don’t understand,” Mom said staring at me as though I was a total stranger. “Please, explain it to me again.”
“Okay. Let me put it this way,” I said. “I know love exists. I see it all the time. I have read books that describe it and seen movies displaying it, but I simply cannot feel it. I don’t remember ever feeling it.”
Mom shook her head and said, “How can that be? You obviously feel other emotions.” She shook her head again and with a puzzled expression on her face said, “I know you are more than capable of feeling anger and I know you feel sadness because I’ve seen you cry. Aren’t all these emotions connected? Don’t you need one to feel the other?”
I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Apparently not.”
I continued to try and explain. “Yes I feel anger, remorse, sadness and happiness but I have no idea what it feels like to be loved. You just have to take my word for it.”
Telling someone, especially your mother that you don’t feel her love is difficult. Difficult for the person hearing it and difficult for me to tell them I cannot feel it.
“Are you telling me you don’t feel the love I have for you?” Mom asked searchingly.
“No, not in the way you do. I have found other ways to know if someone loves me. I can tell by the tone of your voice, the expression on your face or just by your body language. But, no, I do not get a warm fuzzy feeling inside when you tell me you love me.”
The look on Mom’s face went from confusion to guilt.
“It’s all my fault isn’t it?”
“What do you mean your fault?”
“It’s because I didn’t show you any love when you were a child, isn’t it?” she cried.
“I’d like to say no, but I’m sure that has a lot to do with it. I have spent my whole life trying to understand why I don’t feel love and if it makes you feel any better, we can place most of the blame on Daddy. I think I once loved him very, very much and when he abused me I turned off my ability to feel love to protect myself from getting hurt. I know that sounds like a bunch of psychological mumbo-jumbo but it’s the best I can do.”
I paused then said, “I built a wall around myself just like you did after Diane died. To survive, you chose to not express love and I chose not to feel it.”
Mom nodded and said, “I think I understand what you’re trying to say.”
She then asked, “Is that why you’ve always pushed me away when I touch you?”
“Yes. It frightens me when someone tries to hug or kiss me. I don’t know how to explain it other than to say, it is like standing on the edge of a high cliff and if I let someone hug me I will fall off. Sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it?"
Mom looked at me with tears in her eyes.
“How horrible that must be for you,” she said in a voice full of anguish.
“Not really,” I said plainly. “It is something I’ve gotten used to.”
Of course, that wasn’t entirely true. While I had gotten used to not feeling love, my desperate life long search for it had been an obsession. Yet, when someone reached out to me, I always pushed them away. My fear of love was as great as my need for it.
It suddenly became Mom’s mission to show me how much she loved me. Every day she made a point of saying, “I love you” no less than ten times. She often crept up behind me and without warning would put her arms around me again saying, “I love you.” After a few months, it became a joke between us.
If I caught her approaching me, I would laugh and say, “NO TOUCHY, NO FEELY”, and we would both burst into laughter.
Every night before we went to bed Mom would kiss me goodnight. Sometimes, she would get up a few minutes later and kiss me again. It was really very sweet.
At first Mom’s attention seemed forced. It felt as though she only showed me affection out of guilt but in time, it started to feel real to me. I began looking forward to her daily hugs and professions of love. However, I still found myself fighting the urge to hug her back or to tell her that I loved her. What frightened me the most was I began to feel her love. It was overwhelming. At night when she tucked me into bed, I felt like I was a five year old again. The warmth I felt when she kissed my cheek was slowly filling up the hole in my chest.
One night after Mom had tucked me in, she bent down and kissed me goodnight I forced myself to ignore my fear of returning the gesture, and I put my arms around her and whispered into her ear, “I love you too, Mom.“
Over the following months, Mom did her best to give me the childhood she felt she had denied me. I appreciated her efforts and looked forward to our evening ritual.
Often, after Mom had fallen to sleep I would lie in bed and listen to her breath. I found comfort knowing she was there in the room with me. Sometimes, when I couldn’t sleep, I got up and, careful not to wake her, I would sit on her bed and stroke her hair. I did my best to reassure Mom that I would be fine when she was gone but the truth was I wasn’t sure what I would do without her. I had spent nearly every day for the past 18 years with her and the thought of not having her in my life frightened me. As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, the invisible wall that had been surrounding me my entire life slowly disappeared.
Mom and I continued to joke telling each other, “No touchy, no feely” but I no longer held back when she hugged me. One night, after tucking me into bed, Mom gave me an especially long hug, and with tears in her eyes said, “Can you ever forgive me?”
With tears streaming down both our faces I put my arms around her again and said, “I forgave you a long time ago.”
I didn’t know when it had disappeared but all the years of anger and rage were gone. I was suddenly aware of how heavy the weight of a lifetime of anger had been. In many ways, it had become as much a part of who I was as the color of my eyes. Without it, I felt as though I was seeing the world for the first time. Everything seemed different. Reds were redder, greens were greener, smells were stronger and food even tasted better. I found myself smiling all the time. Life was no longer a burden. For the first time in my life, I was happy, truly happy. Everything was exactly as it should be.
* * *
One day I was in the kitchen fixing Mom a sandwich and heard a loud scream coming from her room. I dashed in and found her sitting in the chair shaking from head to foot. Her head was jerking violently from side to side. She was having a seizure. Terrified, I put my arms around her and tried to comfort her. After a few seconds, the shaking stopped but she sat silently with a glazed look in her eyes. I ran next door and asked our neighbor to call a doctor. Fortunately, in Mexico doctors make house calls. In less than an hour, a doctor arrived and confirmed my worst fear. Mom had had a seizure.
Mom was alert and able to communicate. I asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital. She adamantly said, “NO”.
I was terrified that at any minute she would have another seizure. I didn’t know what to do. After talking with the doctor who said she should be seen by a specialist, I decided to take Mom home immediately. The next morning we were on a plane heading for Seattle.
* * *
I knew putting Mom on a plane was taking a big chance but I also knew doing nothing was an even bigger risk. As soon as the plane landed, I rented a car and drove directly to the hospital emergency room. Mom was admitted to the neurological ward and spent the next five days getting every test known to mankind. I checked into a motel nearby and spent every waking minute at Mom’s bedside.
One morning during breakfast, I took a chance and asked Mom if she wanted me to call Teresa?
Mom looked at me and shook her head.
“Mom. It is okay if you want to make peace with them. It won’t upset me. I know they would want to know that you are in the hospital.”
Again, Mom shook her head and said, “I don’t want to see or speak to them. You have to promise me not to tell them I am here.”
For the first time I knew exactly how Sarah felt when I told her she couldn’t tell my sisters where we were living. I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was still very angry with my sisters, but seeing Mom so vulnerable frightened me.
I knew they would want to be with her.
Reluctantly and filled with considerable guilt I said, “I promise, I won’t call them.”
The doctor put Mom on anti-seizure medication. Mom asked if she could return to Mexico and the doctor said, “I see no reason why not. In fact, I think you will do better in the warmer climate.” He smiled and added, “Does your doctor in Mazatlan speak English?”
I told him he did.
“Great. When you get back have him call me and we can talk about your Mom.”
Three days later, we returned to Mazatlan.
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