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Susan Estrich
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Today would be my mother's 88th birthday, which is not so old, but my mother seemed very old eight years ago, when she died. She did not have a happy life. Her mother died when she was still a teenager, she went to work while her brother went to college, and she was painfully divorced after 23 years of marriage.

But she also had three children who loved her and four beautiful grandchildren, and the great tragedy of my mother's life was how little joy she seemed to take in any of us. She was way too anxious for that.

As a little girl, I tried so hard. I called her "Beauty" because that was what she strived to be, but I don't believe she ever really felt that way. And it ended up, as such things do, getting projected onto us. My sister was too tall, and I was too fat. Being smart didn't matter if you ended up without a man (and here I am). "No man will ever have you," my mother once told me, and I believed her. My mother was never without a man.

When I got raped, she called the next day to tell me I shouldn't tell anyone because people would think less of me (eventually, I told the world). When my sister got cancer at 33, she couldn't bring herself to fly to Chicago to see her. When my brother had open-heart surgery, she told me her legs hurt her too much to drive into Boston to see him. When my daughter celebrated her bat mitzvah, she decided it would be better (for whom?) if she didn't come.

I spent countless hours with therapists trying to figure out what to do when she called dozens of times a day, when she told me my miscarriage was harder on her than on me (she didn't have a husband at that second). It took a long time to get to the point where I could feel sorry for her and not angry with her.

But the thing is, my mother did not mean to be cruel or thoughtless or hurtful. I do believe she loved us, but that love was so intertwined with her untreated, maybe untreatable, anxiety that she could never enjoy us. We all made it to the funeral, despite the rape and the cancer and the heart surgery, and mourned the joy she might have had if she only could have not been so afraid of what might go wrong.

My sister reminded me today that the way our mother was with us was not how Helen was with others:

"I like to remember how others saw her, as it was so much better, bigger than we ever could. I was just in Chicago and spent a night with Debby (Goldman) Cohen. As a teenager, I liked to sleep until 11 or 12 whenever possible and remember stumbling down to the kitchen in the early afternoon to find Debby sitting there talking to Mother — I couldn't imagine anyone seeking her out voluntarily. Debby said Helen always listened to her and helped her with whatever she was dealing with.

"And remember Jon Rosen (a brilliant young lawyer who grew up nearby and whom my mother adored) and how close he and Mother were? He told me that Mother was like the fabulous grandmother he never had. And Joe (my mother's last beau) thought she was the best thing since sliced bread.

"Good lessons here. My interpretation has been that with us, with her closest family, Mother's anxieties and fears were at their worst and kept her from having any ability to enjoy any of us. She was always so worried that something bad would happen that she couldn't appreciate when it didn't, let alone deal with the challenges that inevitably came along. For me, personally, it has helped me learn to live with appreciation for each day, no matter the circumstances. And to remember to love each of us (including her and myself) no matter what."

I try. Rest in peace, Mom.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



2 Comments | Post Comment

There is nothing wrong I can see in you as a woman. I am sure you have plenty of husband-want-a-bes around and there are plenty of men out there that would love to share your success.

Thus, if a woman with your level of success is without "a" man it is by choice and I think I understand your choice to be alone.

I believe the better way to state the issue is as follows. "I am without THE man. THE man I can respect and who wishes to share and celibate my life not my success. The man that makes the sadness of success go away. The man that makes me proud to be a woman."

Sadly, liberals and the Feminazi's WAR ON MEN make "THE" man more and more rare. What one sees today, more often than not, is a feminized woman with a penis. Especially Liberal "men" - whom really should be called something other than "men" so as not to confuse a liberal man with a real man: perhaps Eunichels.

Eunichels are male by DNA but female by choice. Eunichels believe the 'ends justify the means" and while they speak honorable words they are all talk and no action and have little authentic honor. Eunichels may have inherited wealth or been given wealth via acting or government employment but very few, if any, Eunichels have earned their wealth by actually creating value for anyone. Eunichels are always looking to marry successful women as their road to success. In short, the Eunichel is a liberal male.

No woman can truly be happy with a Eunichel as a mate although many women marry them just to keep from being alone and they talk a good game.

Smart women would rather be alone than be married to a Eunichel - which is why I suspect Susan is not married now.

Word of advice: Get away from your liberal crowd and start hanging out where the more conservative males hang out. You are far more likely to find "THE" man in such company.

As for your mom, the behavior you describe above was tragically wrong. No one's fault but her's. All you can do is break the chain of self destructive behavior and not pass it own to your kids.

Comment: #1
Posted by: SusansMirror
Wed Oct 1, 2014 7:40 AM
This is just a nice article, revealing but not cloying. It must have been hard to write, and I thank Ms. Estrich for doing so. "She was always so worried that something bad would happen that she couldn't appreciate when it didn't,..." is a statement that applies to so many people. I also enjoyed the lesson she took from her mom; to lover her mom but not to behave like her mom.

Just a pleasure to read and ponder this article. Thank you.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Tom
Wed Oct 1, 2014 9:57 AM
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