Friday evening a friend (who is some kind of distant family connection) messaged me on Facebook because my mother had contacted her completely out of the blue. My friend is the genealogist of our family, and so many wonderful things I’ve learned from her, photos I’ve seen from her, such a gift! She had written an article about some parts of her family tree and my mother saw it and wrote her for more information. When my friend asked how she was related to me, my mother said, “Lori who?”
In one way this wasn’t surprising; at some point in the 1990s, a different friend happened across my mother’s real estate website and told me that my mother said she had two children (she has three….the missing one was me, of course), so my mother has long been in the habit of not claiming me. And while I don’t see or speak to her, or ever want to see or speak to her, and while I feel like it would’ve been much less traumatic to have been raised by a wild badger, I do claim that she is my mother. I was given birth to by her.
It’s very complicated trying to understand how it made me feel to see that “Lori who?” in writing. On one hand, I was grateful that she didn’t put my friend into some kind of uncomfortable spot by trying to turn her against me, which has been another of my mother’s life-long strategies. I was grateful she said that and then moved right on to the questions she had about family. And I don’t want her to try to learn anything about me. But I guess the formulation of that question — Lori who, as if she never even heard the name — still hurt. And I wish it didn’t. Maybe it stung more than it hurt.
I immediately lost my appetite when I got the message, and started shaking a little. It felt like I had been walking around in this Edenic paradise, and then suddenly heard the rattles of a snake nearby, and I hadn’t realized there might be snakes in the garden. The way she can pop in out of the blue in the most random ways . . . and she wasn’t trying to find me or anything, it was just this unexpected appearance . . . unsettles me. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this since I got the message Friday evening. I will, it will fade, but for now I am ‘Lori who?’ Negated by the one who gave birth to me.
I mean, it’s OK. I’m 58, a mother and grandmother, surrounded by so many people who love me, and I have collected an assortment of chosen family members over the years, fathers and brothers and sisters, and I know who I am. This will be our relationship to the end of her life, and I don’t want anything else from her. I’m OK. It’s just …. something.