17 07 2011

Karen Rose, 1950-2011

Most of you know my mother and I were estranged. She was funny and loving and smart and creative and wise. I never once ever wondered if she loved me. But she was sick. Mentally ill. She’s always been sick, but she completely fell apart when I was about eight years old – lost her job, started drinking, the house became like one you might see on Hoarders. And while she loved me, she was also a master manipulator and having a relationship with her was confusing at best, but more realistically described as psychologically destructive. She had moments where she lost connection with reality that, while not her most common problem, made me afraid for my very safety. She had hated herself her whole life and used her destructive behaviors to commit a very slow suicide.

And now she is gone.

For the last six months or so, I’ve had these little nagging thoughts or small signs from The Universe making me wonder if it was time to contact my mom again. I wondered if I was strong enough to handle anything she might throw at me. I had a very strong urge to send her a birthday card in June, but a stronger fear that I might open a door that would be damaging to me or my children somehow. I am sad about the fact that I never got to tell her that I loved her no matter what, because I don’t honestly know if she knew that in her sick, muddled mind, but I can’t say I think I made the wrong decision. My instincts weren’t pushing me hard enough for me to know what the right answer was, and it was such a big decision I simply didn’t have the time to come to a good answer. I am at peace with this aspect of things. I don’t know what my beliefs are right now about what happens after death, but I would like to believe her mind is clear and that she knows I loved her and missed her always.

Two Thursdays ago I got suddenly sick. It was completely random, but left me weak for about three days. The same day, my aunt (my mom’s sister) fell in the shower. This was also the last day my mom refreshed her email. We feel certain she fell this day. Her weekly medication organizer also reflects this theory. She was on my mind a lot for the following week, without knowing why.

The next bit is awful. At least to me. Feel free to skip to the following paragraph if you have to.

It was not until the following Wednesday that she was found in the hallway of her home. The medical examiner said she’d been dead for 2-3 days. Which… Leaves a lot of days unaccounted for. Four at best estimate. And this horrifies me. That she may have lay there, alone, scared. For four days. The night after I found out I hardly slept for all the horrible visions, and at that time we didn’t even know she may have been there for days, still alive. I think it’s possible she was drugged on her meds and asleep for a lot of it – I am fairly certain she was taking too much of her meds or maybe the wrong combinations since she told her neighbor she’d sleep for two days straight on them. But I also think, once she knew death was coming, that she was relieved. I feel that she waited patiently for the peace that would come with The End. I came to this realization in the car on the way home tonight and I could hear her telling me about it, how relieved she was, and how surprised she was by that, and how comforted she was by the fact that she’d be at peace soon.  That she was okay with laying and waiting because she knew it was coming.

I hope that’s not just me trying to make myself feel better.

We’ve been sorting out things in her home. Which is a disaster. Although not nearly as bad as it was when I was a kid. And, strangely enough, it feels good to invite my friends into this Shit. As a child I was forced to keep it a secret. Not forced by threat of punishment, but forced by threat of shame (and also of the very real fear of child protective services being called). I felt alone, dirty, hated, disgusting. My mother was a master of projection, but in this case she actually physically projected it onto me by quite literally forcing me to be as dirty and disgusting as she felt inside. If a show like Hoarders had existed back then, I’d have been saved a hell of a lot of grief. So, while I am sorry to have asked my friends to have to spend time in The Shit, it felt good to no longer be alone. To no longer be disgusting because of it. To share, and in sharing, to be freed. And for the record, my friends are amazing. They not only willingly came over and helped, but they really fucking helped. The house is unrecognizable from its state this morning. Unrecognizable.

(All these photos are from yesterday, before today’s transformation.)

the spare bedroom

When my anxiety was at its worst, I’d envision a woman coming to save Child-Me from my mother’s house. She was dressed in white and she took me to a white room and bathed me until I was clean and tucked me into bed. She would leave the room to allow me privacy but was only just outside the door and would come back to rub my back or to run a warm bath for me any time the anxiety came back. She was not afraid of my dirty. She loved me anyway.

And so we’ve been working in the house. Sorting, organizing, remembering, preparing. And looking for her purse. While the house is a pretty massive disaster, we are feeling very uncomfortable with the fact that it is nowhere. Neighbors have also told us she mentioned having a new laptop, but that is also MIA. We did call the police today, but were told that since we have really no information other than that we can’t find it (in a hoarder’s house, particularly) they really can’t do anything for us. I understand. But it still feels unnerving.


My aunt and I have been in the house daily since Thursday looking for those vital items, important papers, and maybe even clues. We’ve found a lot of letters and notes she’d written to and about us, in her emo habit of feeling the entire world was against her. Naturally, we acted them out for each other. I don’t think either of us has been surprised by what we’ve read, so adding the humor element really helped with the yuckiness of the letters and the pain of the grief. In fact, despite the sadness I feel I’m conveying in this entry, we’ve done an awful lot of laughing in the last few days as well. Which is how it is, isn’t it? Life? And therefore Death, since they are the opposite elements and thus reflect each other as mirrors. The lines blurred between sad and happy, so often overlapping each other.

It is surreal to think she is dead. In all honesty, I’ve known this day would come. For months now I’ve listened closely when they’ve found a body in a trailer fire, knowing her habit of smoking and drinking together. Although that is not how she ended. And as the moment of her death arrives and becomes real, it feels pretend. I keep thinking she’ll show up at the door and find us going through her stuff and getting very angry (in fact one of the aforementioned notes begged me not to let my aunt and uncle in the house – I imagine so they wouldn’t find out how much she’d stolen from them. Too late, anyway, it was my aunt who found the note!  Heh). Possibly related (although I don’t feel her anger surrounding it): Last night I put some items from her home in plastic bins and stored them in my closet, neatly stacked on top of each other. I left to take out some smelly old cardboard and when I came back I found the bins all over the floor, outside the closet, contents spilled. No one was home but me.

Unrelated (mostly): A few weeks ago I was driving past my high school (as I sometimes do living in the same town), and I was overcome by a strong memory of Erizen (as I rarely am despite living in the same town). Later I saw that someone had found my blog by Googling his name and when I mentioned this to Summer she said she’d been talking about him only that day and asked what he might be trying to say. Turns out there is a canned foods drive in his name right now at his law school. And now I have lots of canned food to donate, from one talkative ghost to another.

The worst part of all this is the judgement. Some of the neighbors have given me dirty looks for abandoning her. And I completely understand. They didn’t know me. They never even saw me. They had no reason not to believe everything she said. That doesn’t make it hurt less. I was no longer angry with my mother. I no longer harbored any ill feelings toward her. That didn’t make her a safe person to be around. All the goodness simply could not balance the emotional and possible physical danger of having her in my life.

As if to prove this, we found a pamphlet for a handgun certification class (we don’t know if she completed it) and a silhouette target paper. I’m terrified we’ll find a gun, unsafely stored somewhere. God willing we won’t.

She was too young to die, but far too old to have lived so unhappily. I feel sad for her loss. Sad for the loss I suffered from the very beginning, being born to an ill woman. Sad that her smile, which was so beautiful, was always so false. Sad that she never lived. I feel relief that she’s at peace now. Relief that I’m safe for sure now. Relief that she can move on and find health for her mind, her soul. I feel happy that she’s free. Finally, finally free. I miss her.

One thing that strikes me is that she hoarded her stuff, I think, because she thought it would bring her happiness. But she never enjoyed it. It was locked away in storage, or covered in piles of stained clothing topped with dust and cat fur. And she doesn’t have it now. It was worthless to her in her life, and even more so in her death. I am struck by the fact that she never lived. Not really. She just passed each day to the best of her ability, just holding on until the next one.

I think part of what granted me sanity, among all the sickness of our family, is the love she cast over me all Lily Potter-style. Her love for me gave me self worth that was able, ultimately, to overcome the abuses and the insanity.

Thank you, Mom. I promise to live. To always live. I love you.



8 responses

17 07 2011

18 07 2011


18 07 2011

This is a beautiful tribute, Bonnie. Your love for your mom makes these words practically glow with warmth. And I know your mom must have been an amazing woman underneath the illness and sadness because she raised a daughter who grew up to be another amazing woman. ❤

19 07 2011

oh bonnie… you are a wonderful daughter, to come through all that and see her life with such clarity and understanding for all she was and did. i’m sorry for the child-you, i’m proud of now-you, and i’m sad too for all of you for the loss and the hurt over the years. i imagine my mix of emotions is only a smidge of what you must feel, and you explained so much of it so well. thank you for the reminder to live, to really live. and for the reminder that mental illness can be such a hard thing to live with and that it impacts so many in one’s life. it’s easy for me to say it from here, but as i read your words and of your experiences, i saw them not as things that will pull you down or hold you back anymore, but as things that will prop you up and propel you forward in a positive direction. and i am so happy that you have such wonderful friends in your life.

thanks for sharing. really.

19 07 2011

Beautiful. I relate to so much of that.

20 07 2011

Bonnie, I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. I am glad she is finally free.

3 09 2011
Carpet is expensive, man. « Z E B R A B E L L Y . C O M

[…] pictures show more than just my own work, of course. (You can see some before pics here.) The aforementioned friends put a lot of their own sweat and tears into the house. Doing more than […]

10 10 2012
On Anxiety | This Is A Woman

[…] for several years now, last fall I had a sort of relapse. I’m sure it had to do with my mother’s death and the cleaning of her house bringing all sorts of emotional stuff to the surface. We had been at […]

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