Most people have the wrong idea about my mother. She’s always been the sweet “poster mom” who is also verbally abusive, especially when she’s drinking. She and my father had a pretty distant relationship, and she left us in the worst possible way when I was 12: telling us kids it was our fault for not helping with chores. After that I raised myself and my brother with little help. She rarely had us over, never paid child support, and avoided my brother as he got older because he “wasn’t any fun” (he’s autistic). We have an OK relationship today—that I can only stand because she lives far away. My aunt called me crying a while ago, saying my mother was in the hospital from alcohol withdrawal, because she is an alcoholic. My extended family expected me to be shocked (I wasn’t) and keep telling me that I should try to get her to stop drinking so that she won’t drink herself to death. How much responsibility do I really have here? I’m tempted to wash my hands of it, but I’m starting to suspect she’s getting alcohol-related dementia, which worries me.
—My Mother’s Keeper