Many of the array of psychologists, psychiatrists and family therapists I talked to for this story have a question Mary Trump actually once asked herself, at a moment when she was feeling something less than pride in her celebrity son.

This was in 1990. Donald Trump was divorcing his first wife, philandering with the model Marla Maples and floundering in hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, facing high-profile humiliation and ruin in his early 40s. Mary Trump, on the other hand, was approaching 80. Once a poor immigrant from the remote, desolate northwest corner of Scotland, and the product of the strict mores of the country’s Presbyterian Church, she had been married to the business-centric Fred Trump for more than half a century, residing with him and their five children and their live-in in a large, red-brick, white-columned house positioned regally atop a grassy hill. She had worked tirelessly, volunteering at a local hospital, staying active at schools, charities and social clubs, and steering her rose-colored Rolls-Royce to the family’s outer-borough apartment buildings to collect coins from the laundry machines. She and her husband had sent their fourth and most incorrigible child, who as a boy threw cake at kids at parties and erasers at his teachers at his private elementary school, first to Sunday morning Bible classes, like his siblings—and then, unlike his siblings, to a stringent military academy an hour and a half upstate shortly after he turned 13. Now, in the twilight of her life, beset with debilitating bone loss, she was being sucked into his tawdry, nonstop soap opera, rendered a bit player in a media frenzy, captured by paparazzi while sitting in the rear of her chauffeured car, looking steely and peeved.

That year, according to Vanity Fair, Mary Trump asked Ivana Trump, her soon-to-be-ex-daughter-in-law, a pointed question. “What kind of son have I created?”

Michael Kruse, The Mystery of Mary Trump