“I hate it when my mother drinks. I hate it when my mother drinks. I hate it when my mother drinks.” This is the mantra that plays incessantly in my head, over and over, like an endless music box, every night my mother has a glass of wine. And every time I get mad, I feel unqualified to do so. She is not alcoholic. She does not get mean. She does not hurt anyone when she drinks. And yet, every time she drinks, I am filled with the kind of rage I thought was reserved for people in war combat zones and for those with psychiatric problems. There’s never just one sign to show that she’s been drinking. There’s no moment when the switch flips and I can say “Ah ha! You were drinking again!” But there are many small signs. It’s as if she reverse-ages at warp speed. Suddenly, she’s talking in short little words like a child and mimicking the items around her - the spurt of the coffeemaker, the whirrrr of the garbage disposer, the buzzzz of the turntable as it spins around the kitchen table, delivering the dinner goods around the mealtime altar. Then her body loses mature control next. She stomps her feet in exclamation. Any thought that is not a question is punctuated by a thrusting of a fist, an exaggerated tilt of the head, a leg jiggled in frustration. And when she is asking a question, her head tilts exaggeratedly, like an animal when it comes across something so foreign, it has no idea what the proper response is. Her skin on her face goes slack. Easy to observe when she is eating, her mouth hardly even opens far enough to allow the entrance of the food as it is spirited up towards her on her fork. Her eyelids slump dejectedly, her eyes taking on the half-sleeping position usually reserved for children when they are so tired that they begin to fall asleep in the middle of doing something else. Every action she does is done too much. It’s as if she is on stage, and the director has told her to do every action “with purpose! with feeling! with energy!” and the only result is a clown-like pantomime, where liquids are spilled, items dropped, and plenty of “oops”s uttered in an overly high voice. She has no meter for how loud actions should be. She bangs cutlery on her plate. She slams doors. She does everything in her power to make sure her presence is known. And yet, by making her presence known, she only makes it easier for me to target my anger. I have tried to tell her so many times that it bothers me. I have tried to explain that I cannot speak to her after she has been drinking. I cannot speak to her, I cannot hardly be in the seem room with her. She assumes she is the ruler of the world, and we are but all her minions. In case you are not aware of this already, having someone with such an attitude at your table does not make for the best dinner companion. Whenever I try to approach her on the subject, if she has already been drinking, she pouts in her 6-year-old manner and says “Why are you so hard on me? Why deny my such a little pleasure?” If I try to explain that it ruins my opinion of her, that I cannot speak to her, I know I have to fit in any important discussions before she has started on her daily glass of wine, she blames me for exaggerating the influence of alcohol on her body. And then proceeds to break down crying or screaming at me. And if I try to approach her in the morning, when the influence has worn off and she is sober, she seems to remember none of the hardships from the night before. It is as if it has been the ultimate Cinderella event, the event was beautiful for some, frustrating for others, and the next day, no one really remembers clearly what happened the night before. But the truth is that every night ends with someone ending up hurt. Either she feels that my father and I are beating up on her, and she goes upstairs crying, to fall into a drugged sleep. Or, the child act gets on someone’s nerves and we all separate angry. But eventually it ends. And the next morning I awake to have it happen again all over again. She is not an alcoholic. I feel stupid for being so concerned about something that doesn’t end up with anyone bruised, with no swears flung from one end of the room to the other. But I lose my mother every night. And I don’t know how to make it stop. The best I can hope for is that I learn from this to never drink, to never have multiple personas that are exposed only after the application of a magical tonic. To know that I never want who I am to be changed by drinking something that makes me someone else.
When My Mother Drinks
September 27, 2009