For a moment I forgot who I was talking to, and failed to protect my mother from the truth of how she’s hurt me. I was talking about my fear of being labeled a hypochondriac and said, “Of course that’s because of my grandma and my mom.”

When I realized what I’d said, I tried to couch it, to soften the blow. “I know you’d never make that choice now.  I know it was cause of your mom and blah blah blah. But still. I grew up being told I wasn’t disabled, that I was a liar. And you left me with a dislocated hip for three years.”

It was the first time we’d spoken of out since our last reconciliation. I think the last time I mentioned it was seven years ago, as I screamed “You’re a bad mom!” at her from a car window while aggressively backing out of her driveway.

She still hasn’t apologized. I think she still feels justified in treating me like a liar, because of age appropriate childhood fibs about pilfered cookies and incomplete chores. The fact that I was no longer seven when I told her I had a bad hip doesn’t seem to count for anything.

I get along with my mom by pretending she’s someone else, an adult I’ve made friends with who happens to understand all my in-family references and stories. I pretend she and I are both cult survivors and that we are equally blameless.

Because it’s hard to love her, hard to forgive her, for not protecting me. If we’re both just co-victims of her mother, then I don’t have to be mad at her.  It’s easy for me to forgive strangers their sins while trapped in cults, much harder to absolve my own mother of raising me in hell.

But the truth is my mom did fail me, did neglect me, did let her mother abuse me. The truth is she’s not blameless at all. It may be nice to know she’d make better choices now, but it doesn’t erase the fact that I was shaped by three years with a dislocated hip, three years of being called a liar, three years of constant physical pain with no relief.

And she may feel sorry. She probably does. But she hasn’t said it to me, so I haven’t and can’t forgive her. I can just pretend it was someone else who did it.

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