When Mom Left

December 29th, 2017 was the day I lost my Mom. She’d hosted Christmas for our extended family just 4 days prior. Tina, claiming to be down with a migraine, had declined to accompany me. I was disappointed, but my mom commented, “maybe that’s for the best,” when I mentioned it. I’d gone to Tina’s family function on Christmas Eve.

My Mom’s sister Linda had been staying at the house for the week and my other Aunt Ileen, who lived in the neighborhood had been visiting frequently. The three sisters seemed to be having a grand time.

It was a Friday and I had been trying to reach Tina in hopes of spending some time together over the weekend, but she’d not bothered to take my call or answer my texts. I’d given up on her and decided to go visit some friends.

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I took a shower and was just getting dressed when my aunts both began shouting my name up the stairs. It sounded urgent. I pulled on my shirt and dashed down to the living room, asking “what is it?”

My Aunt Ileen ushered me towards the dining room, where my Mom was lying on her back on the floor. Her head was propped up on a one-gallon paint can that had been left there for a project I was getting ready to do. She appeared to be unconscious.

I was struggling to comprehend the situation – it was far from when I expected. I thought maybe they’d seen a mouse or something like that.

“She’s not breathing,” Linda said.

“She’s not breathing?” I repeated, trying to force that information into my brain.

“Do CPR!” Ileen said. “It’s 2 breaths and 30 compressions, I think.”

“They don’t teach breaths anymore,” I said, academically. “It’s just chest compressions.” I was scrambling to recall how to go about it, beginning to panic as realization of the dire situation finally started to penetrate. My mom was dying? I flashed on a memory from health class. I failed the CPR unit, having “killed” the Resusi-Anne Doll, the computer indicated, by breaking her ribs with too much pressure in my compressions.

“Call 911,” I said as I began pressing on my mother’s chest. After about 10 compressions, she noticeably exhaled, her breath fluttering her lips with a snoring kind of sound. I didn’t know what a death rattle was at the time, but looking back, I believe that’s what it was.

I stopped compressions for a moment to see if she was breathing on her own. She didn’t seem to take another breath, so I resumed.

Once an operator was on the phone, my aunt held the phone to my head and I did my best to explain the situation. They started counting compressions for me, because I was going too slow at first. “One-two-three-four…” She counted rapidly to thirty and started again. Time ceased to have meaning, but firefighters and paramedics crowded into the house with big jackets and heavy boots to take over the lifesaving attempt. I think they arrived pretty fast. A matter of minutes.

“She was just standing, there, talking to us and suddenly fell over,” my aunt said. When she fell, her head hit the paint can. It was gruesome. I wondered what additional damage that may have caused.

I sat on the couch, definitely in a state of shock and looked on as they cut my mom’s shirt off and attached electrodes. They used a machine for respiration and compressions. There was a flurry of activity. It seemed like at least 6 people were working her. I’m not sure. It’s hazy.

“Look away, Dan,” one of my aunts said.

I had the presence of mind to begin informing people of Mom’s situation. I tried calling my brothers but neither answered, so I sent texts. I texted my ex wife while I was at it, and Tina.

“Mom collapsed,” I wrote. “I think she’s dead.”

Tina replied to that message quickly and said she would rush to my side. I was grateful but didn’t know where we’d be and told her to wait.

A paramedic came over to explain what they were observing. She said mom’s heart wasn’t pumping, more like it was twitching and they were going to transport her to the hospital.

Everyone converged on the Emergency Room. I drove my aunts and was reminded of the time a few years prior I’d driven my mom and these two aunts to the hospital when my grandmother had similarly collapsed.

Terrified, but hoping and praying, my brothers, my uncle and others began to arrive and fill up the family room we’d been assigned. Eventually, we were given the word that Mom was dead. She’d had a massive heart attack that killed her almost instantly. For all our efforts, she’d been gone for quite some time.

I went, alone into the dark room where she lay and spoke a quiet goodbye, apologizing that I couldn’t save her, lamenting the hard life she’d lived, feeling guilty and hoping that I’d somehow prove myself worthy of all she’d done for me.

Once we were leaving the hospital, I texted Tina again to ask her to meet me back at Mom’s house. She said nothing could keep her away and she’d be there as fast as humanly possible.

I was on the front porch having a cigarette in the cold when I saw Maura’s silver Saturn pull up in front. I was surprised. Just a month prior, I’d given Tina a car for her birthday, so I expected she’d drive herself, but I soon understood. She was drunk and thanks to someone’s wisdom, she’d gotten a ride from her mom.

My aunts offered to stay with me at the house, but I had my Tina and that was all I thought I needed. They went home for the night. My ex-wife, Jessica who had been very close to my mother was in shock, herself. At one point, I remember her picking up copious amounts of medical debris that was left strewn across the house and frantically scrubbing a blood stain that had been left on the floor where Mom had lain. I never knew for sure where the blood came from.

Once we were alone in the house, I found Tina a great comfort. We cuddled up in my bed and I was finally able to drift off to sleep. I remember feeling bad for Tina, because we’d missed any chance to close the rift between her and my mother before she left. Now, I’m sure Tina didn’t care a bit, but at the time, I thought it would bother her.

Our newly-rejoined relationship had seemed spotty before Mom’s death, but an intense new period of devotion and love bombing ensued after.

Tina stayed by my side or at the house for several weeks immediately following Mom’s death and her mom came to stay for frequent overnight visits. That was my new family, for a time.

Tina and her mother were full of opinions and advice on handling my mother’s estate, particularly the house. For a while, they had designs to move in. When it became apparent that wasn’t going to be possible, because I was adamant on splitting the value of the house with my two brothers, Maura expressed interest in buying it.

Both Maura and Tina began pressing me on the house after a while and I began to feel that they were trying to manipulate me into decisions I wasn’t comfortable with.

There was a lot to work out and at first, I included Tina in all of the decision-making processes. She was often not rational about it, but I did my best to consider her point of view and tried to accommodate her when practical.

Mom’s house was becoming Tina’s regular home and we moved her car up from Farmington so she could get around when I was at work. We moved her ball python, Lenny, and his terrarium into the house as well, so we could more easily take care of him (or her, it seems to have turned out).

Tina became the lady of the house. It was a role she seemed to enjoy for a brief while, but eventually, it began to chafe her. That got worse when I eventually had to disabuse her of some fantasies she had about big personal profits from the sale of Mom’s house. That certainly caused dire narcissistic injury and led to a wayward shift in Tina’s behavior.

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  • Alex

    Sorry to hear about your mother’s passing.

    On the other hand I think this story represents good management of a narc woman by a codep guy. A narc woman is like a field, you have to allow it to lay fallow (devaluation) and reap the harvest opportunities when they arrive (lovebombing). Her greed here was her weakness as it made her predictable and therefore ripe for the picking. Your job as an aware codep is to feign naivete and weakness. Her sweet lovebombing is merely a means to a juicy end. You tangle those easy profits in front of her face by acting weak and gullible. Drinking that occasional sweet wine of lovebombing is the entire point of being in a relationship with a narc woman. Morality, normality, and stability are the enemies of this relationship. A codep guy is a harvester of lovebombing and in reading this story you seem to have done an excellent job. The ending is only hinted at here. The key is that she must be denied those easy profits but it must be done while maintaining your illusion of weakness and vulnerability. In other words you were about to deliver for her but unfortunately you were thwarted by forces outside your control. Devaluation will surely follow but you will have the memory of weeks of lovebombing to get you through it.

  • Dan

    Alex, your perspective is certainly interesting and even novel to me, but I see it as a junkie, strategizing on not gaining too much tolerance while keeping a steady supply of junk available. It’s untenable over the long term and ultimately destructive.

    I think most of my readers are looking to “get sober,” not manage their addictions.

  • Alex

    Dan, that is exactly what I am doing.

    But one problem with the addiction analogy is that it overlooks the fundamental tension within codep guys: that while we are not “normal” we are totally infiltrated by societal norms. Going cold turkey is to deny our true nature in favor of what we are not. An analogy to homosexuality could be useful, particularly fifty years ago . A homosexual relationship then (and to a lesser extent now) would have been challenged by the normalized heterosexual norms that both partners would have internalized as they grew up. Each partner would have been torn by shame and ambivalence as they on the hand they were driven by internal needs towards engaging in a relationship outside of the norms but on the other hand as they struggled in vain to embed those norms into their nonconforming relationship.

    Your writing displays an ambivalence in accepting and/or rejecting both your codep reality and your relationship with Tina. When things go wrong it is often due to you attempting to impose “normality” upon a relationship that is necessarily outside of society norms. Crucially this relationship is “normal” for both of you because as a codep guy and a narc girl, you need each other. At the same time the coupling is highly dangerous and unstable. In particular since these relationships have are no “norms” proper to them.

    So one strategy indeed is to completely reject these relationships and in doing so to attempt to annihilate our codep ways; to stigmatize our deepest natures. Clearly in light of the homosexual analogy, this is probably not the best strategy to take. Sidestep the codep is as futile as pray away the gay.

    Which is where embracing a codep identity can help, along with creating some sort of norms for a codep/narc relationship. To bring our true natures out of a closet of shame. For us to recognize, even celebrate our uniqueness. Instead of rejection, for us to “manage” our codep orientation.

    In order to achieve this, we would need to stop pathologizing are narc partners. They are the flip side of our coin. Imagine in the old days an angry homosexual explaining in detail how his former partner was not a female. Well, yes, our former narc partners were not “normal” exactly because we aren’t attracted to normal.

    So what a codep/narc relationship boils down to then is how to embrace our unique needs within a non-normal pairing while at the same time managing the outside norms we have internalized. For example the future faking phenomenon seems to be an excellent way to manage the societal norm that couples should cohabitate while acknowledging the long-term impossibility of that within a codep/narc relationship.

    • Dan

      You previously said you don’t think you’re codependent, so I’m not sure where you’re actually coming from, but I will put forth that codependency is a maladaptive response to damage. It’s not a healthy condition. It’s a disorder that once identified in myself, I’m working on correcting.

      I agree that cluster Bs and coependents seem to fit like yin and yang, but that’s because they’ve both suffered similar traumas in ther upbringing and produce identical but opposite (mirrored or out of phase) maladaptive behaviors as a result. I touched on this in “My kind of Crazy.”

      This is all damage and trauma leading to more damage and trauma.

      No one can talk someone else out of their addiction, so if that’s all working for you right now, then please do enjoy yourself.

      I’m not willing to settle for delusions, fake futures and the illusion of love. I am a loving person who deserves a partner who can truly return that love.

      The day I realized that Tina is incapable of love was devastating and it also marked a point of no return.

      • Alex

        When I say I identify as codep what I am really saying is that I am attracted to cluster B’s. I had a normal and healthy upbringing and uneventful life until I lost a son to cancer. Then my marriage collapsed and I ended up together with my version of Tina. Luckily for me it only lasted a few months as it was devastating for me. I was as unaware as you were and in that position getting together with a cluster B is like getting blindsided by an outside linebacker running at full speed.

        But after I did my research as all of us do. Half of it was to get a contact high from reading similar stories. Particularly from the male point of view. Your blog is great for that. I started reflecting and realized that my most intense former relationships had been with cluster B’s but that they had been short. My marriage had been with a normie.

        After my version of Tina I dated super sweet and beautiful normies but the spark was not there. Then I met my current, I must emphasize, MILD, custer B and that effervescence was there from the first moment. She too had suffered a tragedy which I think triggered her cluster B tendencies.

        With codependence and cluster B there is both an environmental and genetic factor. I suspect I have some genetic aspects of codependence but my normal upbringing (I was adopted as an infant) meant that I avoided the environmental impacts of what I later learned were my biological mother’s issues. When I eventually met my biological mother and her family I learned that one of my half brothers has serious codep issues. He blames his mother and I can see his point.

        One thing that separates me and you, and you may find this strange, is that I don’t look for love from my current cluster-B. My two surviving sons provide me with the love I need and so although she certainly claims she loves me, even with her mild symptoms, I doubt she is capable of loving. She does try though in her own way and that is charming.

        Have you had this problem in the aftermath of now dating non-cluster B’s and finding them flat? Due to no fault of their own of course.

        Cluster B’s are on a spectrum and from my experience I have to strictly avoid the hard stuff, like your Tina and my version of her which are like Whiskey. My current B is more like a strong beer. And from what I have learned from many blogs, including yours, are tools to manage her without trying to normalize her. Ideally though I would heal from the loss of my son and find a nice non cluster-B to settle down with.

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