Tabloid-drenched voices echo through the living room to the kitchen where I stand. Why has my mother always gravitated to this type of content? Why are these programs mandatory viewing for her? Every day, from the moment Mother turns on the tv, there’s an endless cacophony of Nancy Grace-type programs shouting facts and spewing venom over wrongful acts done by vicious evil-doers. Growing up with Mother, my sister and I noticed she tended to prefer tv dramas and soaps, but nothing to this level of “engagement”.
Although Mother’s penchant for choosing such programs is not new, I’ve recently wondered if it’s all somehow connected to her childhood, the one she refused to revisit or relive for the sake of getting medication. She’s bipolar.
As tweens, she and her sisters lived for a while on my great-grandfather’s farm in Missouri along with my grandmother, his daughter. For what little has been said about their time with him there, this may be a way for her to exorcise the undisclosed level of brutality and heinous acts she and her sisters witnessed and overheard as he abused and tortured the farm animals.
It was a rural area and a different time. Women and girls witnessed and endured many wrongful behaviors, but were powerless to act unless they wished to invite the same or worse upon themselves. It was the time. They knew it and lived with it, but never spoke of it again – except on rare occasions, and never specifically about what had occurred.
This period of time, plus others from her childhood, were no doubt what kept Mother from getting counseling in the 1970s, when bipolar disorder finally had a name and a treatment – Lithium. One catch: to get the treatment, she also had to get counseling.
Mother refused to go, saying she didn’t want to revisit her childhood; and so that bright, beautiful month or so of my mother’s medicated and modulated behavior became just another “oh well” in our emotional lives as a family. By then my sister and I were grown and living on our own. Our only emotional investment at that point was a hope and wish that Mother would choose to finally purge herself of those remembered family darknesses. It never happened.
As Mother’s final era unfolds, I’m thinking she still feels those lived and endured injustices from the past. Even though her memories have become obscured and veiled by time, she still seeks justice within; the justice she and her female family members never got. That emotional residue still resides within her as she listens and endures the latest injustices done to others, maybe purging some part of her past in the process, or maybe still thinking “Oh well” to changing the channel.