1. My mother died yesterday afternoon. Quite suddenly (though she’d been sick for a long time), so I didn’t have a chance to fly to Cape Town to say goodbye. The last time we spoke, in January, she hung up on me in hysterics because I tried to convince her to see a doctor.
2. Whatever you imagine I’m feeling now, I’m not. I’m not feeling anything much. I’m glad that she went fast. I’m glad that it’s over.
3. The fact is, I had been wishing her dead for years. Not because I hated her. But because she was a problem that nobody could solve. She was incapable of happiness and incapable of looking after herself (so she made life a misery for all the people who tried to look after her). She burned through relationships with drama and finality; although she had been very, very deeply loved by very many people, there is hardly anyone left who will actually miss her.
4. It’s an ugly, hard, impossible thing to know that you don’t love your own mother and you wish her out of existence. Even more so when you can’t point to a clear reason. She never abused us. She just steadily used up all sympathy and all capacity for sympathy. You can’t grow up hearing constantly that your own childish neediness was the reason she’d tried to kill herself, and the reason she still wanted to, without sooner or later thinking “Well then – get on with it!” She was a black hole of attention and emotion. And anything you told her, anything at all, could be twisted into a weapon and thrown back at you – whether days or years later – a weapon that you couldn’t see coming and absolutely couldn’t defend yourself against, because it didn’t have to have any shred of truth in it. So I had to learn how to talk with her without talking. How to say nothing whatsoever about myself, just listen. And that meant listening to non-stop poison about everyone else in her life. It burnt me out. I have nothing left.
5. You’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead. I’m supposed to be writing about all her good qualities, and yes, she had many. I grew up hearing, constantly, “You are so lucky to have her for a mother.” I’m glad to have inherited her creativity, though not her genius, and perhaps some of her charm. She was incredibly generous. I wish I had her mechanical talent and her patience. I’m glad she taught me how not to be. And I’m glad she’s gone.