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Winnie Calhoun


My Mother is Psychotic
A Winnie Calhoun Story
by Lynn Perretta



My mother is psychotic. Then again, so am I and so are most people I know, so I generally don’t hold psychosis against anyone. I find it to be a pointless endeavor, really. After all, if pretty much everyone I know is that way, what is the point being upset about it? Life goes easier if I just accept and work with what I have.

That has always been my philosophy.

Conversations with my mother usually branch into two subjects. The first is Marriage. Even though she long ago decided the entire institution simply did not suit her, that doesn’t mean she thinks it is an unsuitable institution. She is convinced that my life will be happier and more whole if I settle down and get married. Specifically, if I settle down and marry Greg. She simply adores Greg, especially because he makes a good amount of money, enough, she says, that I could quit my own gallivanting around (she still does not accept that I have a legitimate career as a freelance journalist) and settle in for the second subject.


Mother is convinced of two things, and nothing that I say ever seems to come close to dissuading her of them. One is that she and I are not as close as we could be. I tell her all the time that we talk much more than my female friends or co-workers and their mothers do. She and I have lunch together at least twice a week and dinner at least once. This habit is broken when I’m out of town, of course. But for the most part, there you go. We always talk and always share.

So, I don’t see where there is this “not as close as we could be” thing. But again, my mother is psychotic and psychotic people are given to being unreasonable at times. I just nod and promise her that we’ll work on it, and no matter how many times in a night the conversation may spring up, it always seems to placate her.

The other thing is that motherhood always draws a mother and daughter closer together. That is to say, the daughter’s motherhood. It creates a sort of empathy, she says, between the two, and makes their relationship stronger. It also reinforces the bond that they shared when the daughter was a baby. I ask her often if this is the same for mothers and sons, and she looks at me like I’m insane. But it is amusing to draw the look out of her. Her brows will tighten together and her eyes widen at the same time. Even her pupils seem to widen in surprise. Her nose will squint up from the effort and her lips pucker and tuck in at the corners. On a woman who is generally very lovely with graceful curves to her facial features, it is a very comical look. I always try to find some way to draw it out, especially if I’m in a bad mood and need a quick pick-me-up.

I am, of course, no more ready for motherhood than I am for marriage. I have learned, of course, not to say this to mother. The marriage part does not become dramatic, but the motherhood part does.

I was, once upon a time, looking at impending motherhood. I found out that I was pregnant, and did the usually worry that is associated with it. One half of my friends were convinced that I should get an abortion. After all, as serious as Lance and I were, we were not ready for marriage or parenthood. The other half of my friends was divided into two camps. One camp was ready for a support network to help me and Lance out if we needed it. The other camp was ready to support me if I left Lance (this camp made up of people who commonly called him “the Bum”) and had the baby on my own.

Charming, I know. But you must realize that few of my friends actually liked Lance. I did decide to keep the baby. At the time, I was still decided on keeping Lance too.

Then I went for my first OB check-up. The doctor wasn’t happy with some of the symptoms that I was describing and wanted to take a look-see at the baby. Sure enough, it was what he feared, and what I hadn’t even considered a possibility. The egg never made it down to the uterus. I conceived in the tube, not unusual, and the baby hadn’t left there.

The end result was an abortion. I was devastated by it, and of course, so was mother. Probably the only good thing to come out of the entire ordeal was that my eyes were finally opened to the kind of person that Lance actually was. I could have handled it if he was against my having to have an abortion or if he was eager to see it done to avoid any responsibility on his part. What I got from him instead was a kind of indifference. He didn’t care that I was pregnant. He didn’t care that it was a tubal pregnancy. And he didn’t care that the tubal pregnancy was going to have to be terminated in order for me not to die.

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