My brother shared a family secret with me and now I don't know what to do with it.

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I apologize if this isn't the right forum in which to share this. I found this site in 2013 when I was caring for my dad at home. It was a godsend, this site. After my dad passed away the members here were gracious enough to let me stay. Other than a question about taxes I haven't posted anything personal since my days as a caregiver are over.

My parents were lovely people. I had a great relationship with them both and I loved them both very much. We had a wonderful childhood, took many trips as a family, and my memories are all good ones. However, since as far back as I can remember I have had a reoccurring nightmare about my mom. In it she's the bad guy and I'm trying hard to get away from her. I run to my dad but he's no help as he's being tormented by my mom as well. I've had this dream into my adulthood and never, ever knew where it came from since I was never abused as a child and had always had a loving relationship with my mom.

About 20 years ago my mom went into a deep depression and never really bounced back. As difficult as it was on her it was also hard on my dad. My dad was an empathetic, loving, and understanding man who never experienced depression. But he supported my mom as much as he could. Gradually my mom came out of it but never really bounced back 100%.

My mom was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. It hadn't spread and the surgeon was able to get it all. She went to rehab, did well, and came home. Once she got home and the enormity of what she had been through hit her she took to her bed and never really got back up. I was trying to care for her from my place 10 min. away. I was constantly driving over there, helping her off the floor when she fell, begging her to get up, etc. The longer she stayed in bed the weaker she became until every time she'd get up to use the bathroom she'd fall. My dad would call me to get her off the floor, I'd go over there and get her up. I was dealing with my own illness at the time and wasn't in good enough shape to be doing this several times a week so the last time she fell I pretended that I couldn't get her up and I called 911 over my parent's objections. The hospital admitted my mom.

Several days later I was admitted to the same hospital, on the same floor, as my mom. I visited her when I could as my illness allowed. The last night I spent with her we watched The Wizard of Oz, an old family favorite. I knew this was going to be the last time my mom and I ever watched it together and I was grateful for that time with her. I was grateful that she was lucid and was able to understand what was going on around her. The next day she fell very ill. I was holding her hand as she died.

I made my mom a promise that I would take care of my dad and I kept that promise. Most of you know that he moved in with me and as a result of my caregiving I became very attached to my dad. The caregiving drove me nuts and the NH he had to go into drove me nuttier but my dad was the sweetest, kindest, nicest person I ever knew. I knew this growing up and I knew it at the end of his life. Everyone loved my dad.

Last year he died. I understand why I felt like I was grieving more for my dad than for my mom since my mom had been gone so much longer than my dad. But over time, over the months, as the grief lessened somewhat it was always my dad I thought of, not my mom. And this bothered me. I loved my mom very much and I wondered why she didn't cross my mind as often as my dad did.

So I was talking to my brother about this, asking him if he felt the same way. Did he grieve more for dad than for mom? And my brother told me that he gives mom very little thought these days and I was shocked that he would say such a thing and I told him so. Then he told me that before mom died she had unloaded all kinds of poison onto him about how she never wanted to marry (she didn't get married until her 30's which was 'old' back then), she never wanted children, that she "settled" on my dad because she was getting pressure from her family, and that she never led the kind of life she wanted to lead.

When my brother told me this I wanted to throw up and demanded to know why he hadn't told me this before, why he had been hanging onto this for 7 years, and he said that he didn't want ME to carry it around but since we were having this discussion he decided to finally tell me.

Now my memory of my mother is ruined. I'm so angry at her but I know she was speaking the truth. Somewhere in me I knew but until it was brought into the light I had never examined it before. And I think about my poor, poor dad. He deserved more. I'm not sure she ever loved him.

Even though deep inside I sensed something (hence the dreams) I'm so upset with my mother for leaving us with that I get physically ill every time I think about it. Then I hurt, then I get angry. What my brother told me has been on a loop in my brain for days.

I don't know what to do with this except dump it here. Thank you for reading this.

15 Comments

Lass... my heart goes out to you. Most families I know have one parent who is looked to as the main source of love and support. In our home it was my mom but for my bff it was her dad. No matter why or how they got together you need to remember and focus on the fact that she was your mom...not just your mother. If you loved spending time with her, she obviously loved you. She could have left you and your family but she didn't. A lot of parents don't. So, although she may not have loved your father the way your brother feels she should have, that was between your parents. If you are finding out about it after both have passed, your father obviously was never distressed enough about it to burden you while he was alive. Do not let their past ruin your future.
i dont find that shocking at all . i knew for 16 years that my ex wasnt content and had envisioned her life much differently. i see nothing abnormal about your story -- daughter dreaming / fantacizing about being dads true love , right down to mom feeling closer to son and confiding in him . mom envisions son rescuing her when shes old and in need , dad know his little girl will take care of him ..
i fantacized about being my moms knight in armor when i was a kid , im sure my sisters were in love with dad . thats the way it worked out . sis bedside cared for dad , me for mom .
Eyrish, why would you let what your brother told you interfere with memories of your Mom. You don't know what he said is true, or that she actually said it. Take the memories that you have and cherish those. Even if it were true, she could have chosen a different path instead of staying with your Dad and you and brother. She made her choices and that may have something to do with her deep devotion to her children.
It is OK to be mad at dead people. Their journey was not ours; they may be in a better place where they find their own healing from their own regrets. Every person has had both good and bad in their life. No need to pretend it was ALL good to remember the good with some fondness.

Your brother got unloaded on straight from Mom's gut on a bad day when her choices looked the most regrettable to her. You might even feel jealous she told him and not you!

Your dad loved your mom despite it all though, as mine did; it hurt to watch Mom decide he never loved her, which I think was a mechanism to relieve her guilt of being unable to care for him in the end. Mom's hospitality was above reproach, she collected tons of pictures of us and the grandkids, mostly the grandkids, we finally arranged to be close to her in her last year and a half, it just about killed me to have to clean out and sell the house that had been her whole life before she fell and went into care...never made it back... And I live with knowing that some of the attitudes she had and choices she made limited my dad's well-being, basically ruined their marriage, and kept us apart from other family members for no good reason. I miss them both now, maybe not equally or in the same ways, but I do. Fair or unfair, I was mad at Mom but not Dad for all those things. My bigger regret is not bringing Dad to live with us which was only because I would have felt like I was breaking up their marriage, even though it really was already broken at the time, and then when I had all the incapacity letters and could have actually done it with out her approval or even telling her, I waited too long.
You are hurt and angry now. Give yourself time to absorb this and I suspect you'll have more moderate feelings.

After all, what did you mother do? Well, she aired some regrets about her life to your brother. She had a depressive illness. The regrets probably loomed larger in her life looking back from that perspective than they did as she lived her life.(If you are depressed long enough it is easy to believe you have never been happy.) Her observations were made through a barrier of depression. And before they were shared with you they were filtered through your brother's perceptions. So she told you some things that hurt your feelings. Be hurt. Be mad. But I'm pretty sure you are not going to let this color all memories of your childhood and your relationship with your mother.

For a generation when marriage was almost a requirement and there was strong family pressure to "settle down," can you imagine how many thousands of people eventually "settled" for a partner? How many who weren't even sure they wanted a partner at all succumbed to the expectations of their culture? How many gay men and women put on a good show and did what was expected of them? What your mother says she did hardly makes her a rare and heartless example. Society's expectations have changed (Hooray!) but she made her decisions then, not in the present world. And even though, through her barrier of depression, she said she "settled" instead of acting out of passionate love, she clearly did more than that. She made the most of her situation. She loved her children and treated them well. You have happy childhood memories. You went on family vacations. You celebrated birthdays and holidays. If she was faking all that all those years she did a hell of a job.

Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof, set in a milieu of arranged marriages? I think of the song, "Do you love me?" Look up the lyrics if you don't recall them, and consider whether your mother and your father loved each other, and whether they both loved their children.
Eyerishlass, try not to be too mad at your mother. Women's options used to be pretty limited. It was expected that they would marry by a certain age and have a bunch of children by the time they were 30. There used to be such pressure on women to fulfill this role. I remember how the women over 25 who weren't married were called old maids. That is such a hoot now, but it hasn't been long since this was happening.

It sounds like even if your mother didn't really want to embrace the wife/mother role that she did a good job. It sounds like she internalized her unhappiness.

I don't know what the point was of letting you know at this late date. Maybe your brother needed to share something that had bothered him. I'm sure if you know whether it is true or not. And maybe you have to figure out inside you if it really matters. You are still the same person as you were before you knew, and so is your mother. I'm sure many people didn't want kids back in the day, but here we are. They apparently did a good enough job.
Really. That's all it took for you to ruin your memory of your mother??

When my dad had a stroke, he lost all his filters. Mom and dad had been divorced for thirty years. One day he said to me, "Maggie, I'm sure glad the doctor wouldn't give your mom an abortion like she wanted. You've been such a wonderful daughter."

Do I care? Not a tinker's dam. I'm an only. I love my mom to pieces, and I always will. Like your mom, mine will never know I know that. I could care less.

I hate to say this to you, but I will: grow up.
Aw, Maggie - that's a little harsh - but then, what you found out was more than a little harsh if tis evne true... I'M glad you're here too though, FWIW!! Blessings to you and yours, sounds like it has not been easy.
Yeah, I know, Vstefans. I thought about it before I clicked. But I wanted to kind of shock her. Some of us go our whole lives never thinking about our parents' hidden lives -- before and after us. Realizing we love them even though they have feet of clay is part of growing older and, sometimes, having a past of our own.

There are things I've done in my own life that I would shudder to think my mom knew about. It would shatter her perception of me. But. Would she really stop loving me for what I did as a young woman? Oh, I so doubt it. Perhaps Eyerishlass has had some less-than-proud moments in her OWN life that she wouldn't want to share with mom or dad. Yet they would still love her. They would seek to understand.

Maybe that's where Eyerishlass is headed . . . toward understanding. I sure hope so...

So Eyerishlass, if you took offense at what I said, know that I was throwing cold water on you. Mom (your mom, your dad, my mom and dad, everybody's, for the most part) did the best she could do with what she had at the time. She's no worse than any of the rest of us: Human.

I'm betting she loved you a thousand times over. Don't let her humanity stand in the way of loving her back.
Dreams are definitely a part of who we are! They tell us things at times that unravel years later. Maybe you feel guilty for what seems to you like you loved your Dad more than your Mom. It's hard when we have to accept the fact that our perfect parents are human just like the rest of us. And the old adage can be inserted here that if thats the worse family secret they had your pretty safe here! lol...I know that doesn't help much because what is easy for one person to handle maybe something totally different for someone else. But maybe your Brother was being a little protective and maybe stretched the truth a little to make you feel better about your feelings. That is what they are however "Your" feelings and we have to own them before we can analyze them and make sense of them...

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