My mother has always been a proud woman, but in such a subtle manner that her pride is nearly undetectable. You would have to know her for quite a time and to quite an extent before it became apparent that pride is one of the motivating factors of her life.
This morning I was wondering for the umpteenth time why, when she discovered the man she had left my dad for was a monster, she didn't flee to my aunt and hubby. They were rich. They tried for so many years to have children but couldn't. They loved kids, and would have welcomed us warmly into their home. My mom and aunt have always been especially close; due to the age difference between them (12 years, just like me and Sissyface) and my grandma's abdication of her motherly duties, my mom nearly raised my aunt.
She had somewhere to flee to, is my point. She had somewhere to go with people who cared, and could provide practical help. Why then did she stay with her monster?
As I pondered this mystery it hit me that she must have really wowed her friends and family with raving reviews of the new man in her life. They all lived out of state and wouldn't have known my new stepdad. They had only her word for it that he was a wonderful man, a saviour of sorts who possessed all the characteristics my dad lacked.
And then: the horror of reality. What must it have been like for her to realize, early on in their relationship, that he was a monster? I'm talking about before she even witnessed him molesting me. When he used his fists on my oldest brother, did she think "what have I done?" When she witnessed his cruelty to animals did she rue the day she ever met him?
I believe my mother had too much pride to have to admit to everyone to whom she'd sung his praises that he was a bully of the worst sort. Pride stopped her short; how could she go running to her sister, or anyone, and admit what a tragic mistake she'd made?
I can imagine her weighing her options, considering the price it would cost her in the currency of pride to admit how off her judgment had been.
I imagine her thinking, "I'll just give it some time. We're both dealing with the stress of forming a new family, and he lost his footing. But with time it will get better. There's no sense in upsetting the apple cart if I don't have to."
The problem with making someone your saviour is they're always going to fail you. Always. And when that happens in a big way, as it did for my mom, you might be left backed into a corner from which you can't easily extricate yourself.
Pride must be cold comfort when your entire world, as you envisioned it to be, crumbles before your very eyes. Pride must be a fickle friend at best, luring you into believing all sorts of nonsense and then, once you do, pulling the rug out from under you. There is no comfort in pride, no soft place to fall. It is all sharp angles and thistles and a brittle foundation which can't withstand the storms of life.
My mother's pride, I firmly believe, kept her in unholy alliance with the monster she'd chosen twice: in the beginning when, perhaps (to give her the benefit of the doubt) she didn't realize he was a monster. And then later, as his true colors appeared, when she chose to stay and keep him for her (hopefully tameable) pet.
If just once my mother had told someone, "I've made a huge mess of things. This is not what I thought it was, I need help," well, imagine a different outcome for my brothers and I. If she could have even thought that, let alone said it out loud. I wonder if she did. I wonder if she allowed the truth of her situation to express itself within the privacy of her mind.
When we can't admit our human fallibility we doom ourselves (and our children) to a prison of despair and mental torment. When we can't be real about who we are we are damned to live a furtive sort of life, where everything on the surface must appear just so, as meanwhile everything beneath the surface is a cesspool of fear, the nagging sense of failure, and hopelessness.
I wish my mother had learned early in life that pride truly does go before a fall. I wish she'd learned to be herself regardless of what others thought of her. I wish somewhere along the way, before she became anyone's mother, she'd learned that total dependence on anyone is a costly mistake.
Oh, it's maybe simplistic to say that everything I suffered was the direct result of my mother's pride. I'm sure there were other factors involved. But her pride is what I'm focused on now, truly for the first time seeing it for what it is.
There is cold comfort in realizing all this, it doesn't really help me. But it does cause things to shift a tiny bit into better focus. And that's always a good thing.