part 2: aftermath

I shut the door in my mother's face.

I shut it and locked it.

It was a little stunning. My heart pounded in my chest. I texted my husband to tell him what happened: "I just shut the door in my mom's face. Fuck."

I closed the curtains to my room, because it was getting dark and I was about to take a shower anyway, and I thought I noticed a van parked behind my car. My parents' van.

Text: "I think they're still parked out there."

I felt grateful that the kids were all watching a video in the office, oblivious to what had just happened. In the past they have been around when my mom showed up at the door. I told them, "I'm going to take a shower. You guys stay here. If the doorbell rings, please don't answer it. I don't want you to answer the door while I'm in the shower." I felt fairly confident that they were too tuned in to the video to hear the door. I shut the office door, just in case. I felt like I couldn't actually get into the shower, because what if she tried to get into the house? I couldn't believe I had just shut the door on my smiling, Valentine-bearing mother.

Text: "I need a shower, kids are in office watching video. I feel like a jerk." My parents' car was still at the curb, nearly five minutes after the door. I tried not to imagine the scene inside the car. The driver-side door was still open.

The phone rang. Nervously, I checked the ID: my husband. He had been near an exit at work and left as soon as he got my first text. I felt sheepish that he did this for me, but also relieved. He walked in the door moments later. By now my heart wasn't racing, and my parents' car was gone, and the adrenaline in my system was making me just a little shaky.

I turned on a playlist of favorite, energizing songs to try to drown out the nerves and the oh-my-god-I-shut-the-door-in-the-nice-granny's-face feeling. I felt shitty. Who the hell does that? She was smiling. I had a flash of happiness to see her before remembering that she's not a safe person. I shut the door on her smiling face. I didn't know how to feel about that.

I reminded myself that I would not condemn a battered woman for shutting the door in her ex-spouse's face if he showed up unannounced at the door. I would not ask anybody else to let their abusive parent in.

I reminded myself that her happy-everything's-ok face was typical for her, brushing things under the carpet, pretending we're all loving and great. I reminded myself that there has still not been any communication from her containing her own thoughtful reflections on the past, or her plans for the future, or an apology of any kind. Only cards telling me why I'm wrong or saying "I love you" without any recognition of what happened in the past or what's happening now. I reminded myself that I have set a firm boundary and that she continues to ignore and disrespect it.

I still felt like a schmuck. What can I say, old habits die hard. I know that she was hurt and/or angry. I hate having had a part in that. I wish she hated having had a part in my own hurt.

I got out, dried off. My phone rang. My parents' area code. First three digits of one of their cell phones. I pressed ignore. Downstairs, I heard my husband welcoming our babysitter. He came up, I asked him to check my voicemail for me when he was able.  He told me he had told the sitter that my parents might drop by and asked her not to let them in. "Sorry for the drama," he said.

New blouse, red shoes, earrings he gave me for Christmas. Eyeliner in the new way I've been doing it, which he loves. Lipstick kisses on the kids' cheeks. Out the door. I look up and down the street. It's quiet. The cars belong to our neighbors. I'm safe. When will I actually feel safe?


  1. Claire, you handled this situation beautifully. Each successive situation/ambush you encounter and overcome will give you more self-confidence. Really.
    I had a similar "ambush" situation which went badly so quickly I called the Troopers-and psychobytch took off before they arrived. I absolutely would have had her arrested if they could have found her. Obviously, if she had nothing to hide, had done nothing wrong she wouldn't have run to the closest interstate to get out of Dodge. That surely speaks to consciousness of guilt.
    Claire, When we're making these kinds of life-changes it may feel weird initially. But all the work you've done to get to the place you are today is paying off: You DIDN'T reflexively open the door....metaphorically or practically. That speaks to how far you've evolved on your journey, IMO.

  2. You are amazing. Seriously. (wildly cheering)

    My heart pounded as I read these two posts, but I was cheering you on as you did that. Good on you!

    (I like to think that I'd be that strong, but I haven't seen her in almost a year, and I just don't know what I'd do. Freak out?)

    And your husband rocks. So wonderful to have that kind of support and protection and love, isn't it? We may have been screwed over in the parent department, but not with husbands.

    1. Men like Gibson and my DH really are worth their weight in gold! Sorry for the heart palpitations.

      I think you would be stronger than you think. It had been over a year since I last saw my mother face-to-face (she did appear at my house last June and yelled at our windows and prowled around our house, but I didn't interact with her at all). Despite the initial "Mommy!" feeling, I was able to be pretty calm. Well, aside from all the adrenaline. ;)