There is nothing like a daughter learning her mother has a terminal illness to shatter the sleep of the dormant demons of the mother/daughter relationship. As so it is with Pat Taub, author of The Mother of My Invention, her memoir of the whirlpool of the relationship with her mother, Jane. In her 80’s and Pat in her 50’s have recorded a lifetime of barbs and jabs, slams and putdowns. Blame is never easy to assign, especially for someone like Taub, a trained psychotherapist and a professional journalist with in-depth interviewing skills. For the most part, Taub operates as though she has a bad mother, but with time now finite to examine the truths behind the facts and appearance, she wonders at the depths of her soul how much of the quake in the relationship is because she is a bad daughter.
Anecdote by anecdote, Taub leads us through the two years of gradual decline. Although Taub takes the lead on her mother’s care, she weaves into the story the relationship with her brothers and learns secrets about her father and her mother.
And, if the script of this opera is not enough, Peter, Taub’s demon lover, enters with his own weather–changing from dark storms to bright, sunny skies. At more than one spot in the book Taub wonders to herself if she is a masochist like her mother, seeking out men who treat her poorly.
At a number of intersections in the book, this reader will stop and measure her observations against their own personal experience. If I had a dollar for every woman who asked/said to me, men treat them like crap, I could spend a month in Starbucks.
It is my sense that the mother/daughter relationship is the most intense, potentially stressful and most rewarding, of all the one-to-one dialogues. Father/son, father/daughter, mother/son, sisters, brothers, sister/brother, twins–all have their own dynamics that might play out as meteoric growth, development, and achievement–or a disaster on the launch pad. It seems to me all the tugging and pulling that goes on between family members is apprenticeship for the dramas of courtship and lifetime mating–the second most complex relationship of all.
Taub examines the role of daughters and over the years and has examined this with her girlfriends.
Taub never forgets all of this review and examination takes place in the context of her mother’s life winding down. Medication, hygiene, and doctor’s visits are a full-time job.
It might seem a spoiler for me to tell you that, in the end, Taub chips her way through a backlog of anger and comes to understanding and forgiveness. The reason this is not a spoiler is readers will be asking themselves whether they would have been able to understand or forgive.
Taub acknowledges her debt to Jane for lessons in how to be charming while pushy, how to be persistent to the edge of stubbornness. Skills which she must have honed for her award-winning public radio program, Women’s Voices.
An inscribed copy of The Mother of My Invention can be ordered directly from the author by writing to Pat Taub at firstname.lastname@example.org
Taub divides her time between Portland, ME and the Florida Keys. Sometimes she conducts workshops on Discovering Our Mother’s Stories.
NEXT. AL talks with Pat Taub about how the book came to be and what it has meant for her since.