In May of 2016 Mom and I took a road trip. Unbeknownst to me, it would be the last trip we would ever take together.
With the combination of stress at home with the ending of my marriage, a recent move to a different house and the pressure of my career, this was a much needed vacation. I was very excited to see Mom, laugh, relax and travel with her.
I arrived in Phoenix on a Thursday. My flight was due to leave the next Sunday, ten days later. Before I booked my flight, Mom repeatedly told me that to keep to our itinerary, we would need a full ten days for this trip, a trip that would take us from Phoenix up to Kearney, Nebraska and back down to Phoenix with stops in between. It was usually hard for me to get away for that length of time; but with my kids getting older, being gone this long was doable.
I arrived in Phoenix, excited to see Mom and her little dog. As usual it took me a little time to wind down from the three-hour time difference and the long flight from Ohio.
Me and Mom took off from Phoenix, not stopping at her house as we usually would do.
We had a nice time talking and laughing. Again, I was looking forward to the relaxation of this trip. Mom loved to drive, and I enjoyed being a passenger relaxing and looking around at the beautiful countryside.
It took me a couple days to finally hear what Mom had been saying since I got there - which I hadn't been paying attention to in my excitement at seeing her - that we would have to travel fast to be back in Phoenix to meet my flight on Friday.
"Yes. After I drop you off, I will have to do a lot of driving to meet Lamar," Mom said.
Mom's married boyfriend Lamar.
"Mom? You repeatedly told me I needed to take a full TEN DAYS to make this trip with you, and that would take us to Sunday. I confirmed this with you several times before I booked this trip."
"Oh, no!" said Mom. "You told me you couldn't take that much time off of work."
"Hello? Again, we had this discussion several times. You were very clear about the need for ten days. I was very clear I could make the ten days work."
Oh, I get it I thought. Typical Mom. Throw away anything and anybody to be with a man.
When I finally realized what was going on, that Mom was lying to me and making it look like my fault, which was a common theme in our relationship throughout my life, I turned to her and said, "You know, if you wanted to see Lamar and had limited time with him, you should have been honest with me, and I would have understood."
Mom looked down in almost shame and said, "Okay."
I looked at her in surprise. Shame? No, that's not the mom I know.
Looking at her I felt an uncomfortable jolt in my memory and a painful ache of intense discomfort in my body, and a little voice in my head that said Remember! REMEMBER!
Remember what I thought?
Remember the past! that voice said.
I certainly remembered Mom's physical abuse when I was a little girl, her constantly slapping me in the head when she got angry, which was often.
I certainly remembered her verbal abuse.
You little BASTARD!
I can't wait until you're an adult!
What do you WANT FROM ME?? I owe you NOTHING!
Someday you're going to be fat, and I'm going to be skinny!
You're not as pretty as you think!
Again, that little voice urgently said REMEMBER! REMEMBER!
I put it out of my head. I couldn't make sense of it.
But I felt a sense of unease.
We never made it to Kearny, Nebraska because of bad weather. Mom had warned me several times that if there was bad weather there that we would not go and take a chance.
I understood that.
Mom seemed relieved to be able to turn around and go back to Phoenix.
En route to Phoenix we stayed at a hotel. The next morning I went to work out at the hotel gym before we left.
Before working out I went in to the bathroom, washed my face and brushed my teeth. As I went to brush my teeth, I accidentally squeezed too much toothpaste out of the tube, and it landed in the sink. I took my wet washcloth, wiped the sink out and threw the soiled cloth under the sink for the maid to wash.
Then I went to work out.
When I arrived back at the room, Mom was sitting on her bed and ready to go. She was looking at me with a strange look on her face, a look that made me vaguely uncomfortable.
Where have I seen that look on her face before I wondered.
"Morrene, what was in that washcloth you threw under the sink?"
"Toothpaste that I accidentally squirted into the sink."
"Well, I rinsed it out," said Mom.
RememberRememberREMEMBER!!!! that little voice screamed in my head.
I looked at her with a sick feeling in my stomach. I always remembered my dirty underwear pressed to her nose in the laundry room at the house in Mukwonago, Wisconsin where we lived for a short time when I was a teenager. I knew without a doubt that Mom had smelled that washcloth and was imagining what was in it.
Mom, what did you think was in that washcloth? And more importantly, WHY would you wash it out?
I never asked her those questions. I was sickened. I did not want to hear what she had to say.
REMEMBER! REMEMBER! REMEMBER! flashed through my head. YOU MUST REMEMBER!!
We got back in the car and continued on our trek back to Phoenix.
We arrived in Phoenix on Thursday at the hotel I had reserved.
"Where would you like to go for dinner?" I asked Mom.
"Well, I might as well leave now," she said.
I stared at her in surprise. "Leave now"?
"What's the point in staying?" said Mom.
Well, to spend a little more time with your daughter I thought but didn't bother to ask. I already knew she had no interest in staying.
"I wanted you to meet my friend Dennis, another court reporter, who has been very helpful in finding me work when there was none in Ohio. I told you he would be here working."
"Well, you don't need me here for that."
Mom had no interest in anyone but going to see her boyfriend.
The lying, selfish, narcissistic Mom I have always known was rearing her ugly head. Again.
Men were more important to Mom than her kids.
They always had been.
Boyfriend to boyfriend, husband to husband.
Six men in my young life by the time I was nine.
"Okay, Mom, be careful on your trip. And, yes, you can have gas money to fill up your car for the quarter tank of gas that was used."
It took me several months to finally acknowledge the sickening, perverted and horrifying memories that Remember! Remember! was screaming at me.
Mom and her husbands were abusive pedophiles.
I always wanted a mother. Always.
And for that I forgave, minimized and repressed the horrendous abuse of my childhood. I just couldn't face it.
At 51 years of age I could no longer look the other way.
I finally remembered with sickening clarity, shock and grief the abuse I had suffered as a child.