First, I’m wondering if I should just keep numbering my posts, or come up with some snazzy, hip sounding title. I’ll think on it more. I’m creative enough to come up with something, if I really want to. *I’ve decided to name it. It was “My third post”, but now it is what you see.
So, surprise of all surprises, my mom, and someone I don’t know, but feel I should, left comments on my first post. It was really uplifting to see that. One, of course, was from my lovely mother. She’s trying so hard to come to understand what I’m going through. My experiences are so far beyond what she has considered in her life. My mom’s life has been one of struggle, but in that struggle, has found great love. My mother loves with all of her heart. Sometimes she makes comments that often are misconstrued as criticism, meanness and a lack of understanding. Many times she has said something, that to her, were just meaningless one-offs, flip or not completely thought out statements that everyone makes. In making those comments, so many of us in our family has been hurt and offended.
This has always confused me. I know my mother. I lived with my mom and step-dad for years after I faced diagnosis of 5 or 6 mental illnesses. She’s the one who sent me to the hospital in order to save my life. I know my mother more, I think, than anyone on earth. Nothing my mom says comes from anywhere but love, and it confounds and deeply hurts her to think that something she has said (and often the comment is forgotten as soon as the comment was made) has been hurtful and had been offensive to someone else. She wonders what is wrong with HER, not the offended. She flagellates herself in circuitous thoughts of self-hate and shame.
What is astounding to me is how some in her life remember every slight, every off-hand comment and hold it against her, to the point of not talking to her, not calling, openly showing some hostility. She cries to me, wondering why no one loves her. Oh, my mother. I love her so very much. I have a hard time understanding why people choose to be offended, instead of taking time to realize she has tried so hard in her life to make people happy, to make sure they know they’re loved, to be sure that her family knows, deep down into their souls that she stays up nights thinking of everyone, worrying, praying fervently, constantly. If they knew that, they’d forgive her.
My mom left my life when I was 5, I think. She had to. My father was an alcoholic, who relentlessly abused her. It was back in 1974, where women were not protected the way they are today. Her mom wouldn’t take her in, she had issues that resulted from the terrible things my grandfather did when he was married to my grandma. And she was very old-fashined, and very Catholic. So, my mom left. My dad…My dad. One of the earliest memories I have is of my father chasing my mom with a belt, screaming, “You act like a child, I’m going to treat you like one.”
We boys, my whole brother and I, were able to stay in some touch with mom, over viscous, devious, hateful behavior my first step-mother did. She’d hide letters. When mom would call, she’d just let the phone dangle instead of calling us boys. My dad, he was just drunk. I had to call my mom “Joanie Mom”, instead of just “mom”. How twisted is that? But my brother and I stayed in touch with mom, as much as we could. By the time I was 16, I was confused. I had begun to really realize I was different, that I sort of liked boys, but really just wanted to have breasts. My dad knew something was “different” about me, constantly saying I was acting “Gay”. Years earlier, he found a stash of my step-mom’s clothes that she hadn’t been able to wear for years, and threatened to send me to school as a girl. I so wanted to tell him, “Please, for the love of God, do”, but I said the appropriate thing, and “tried” to change. Finally, by the time I was 16, I had had enough, and ran away from home. I called my mom at 2 in the morning, telling her what had happened, and by the next day, I was on a plane to my mother’s home to live with her full-time. My brother and I had vacationed there a few times, but never permanently, and so deeply dreaded returning home to Alaska. I was with my mom through my Junior year, and part of my Senior year, but felt I needed to make one more attempt at fixing my dad’s and my relationship. That was just the wrong thing to do, but that decision led to a marriage, 4 wonderful children and a divorce. I wouldn’t change it, though, looking back, if I were able.
Let me pause right there, before you all begin to hate my father. He’s changed. He’s stopped drinking, he’s apologized, he’s made amends, he’s married an incredibly strong woman who would never put up with some of my father’s ability to piss people off. My “new” step-mom (they’ve been married now for almost a decade, I believe), is down-right amazing, and she loves my father in every way, so deeply that it even makes me uncomfortable. It’s an awesome uncomfortable. You know, the way kids are embarrassed when parents express their deep abiding love for one another. So, please don’t hate my dad. The things I’m relating about my father are a matter of fact, or at least as much fact as I, as his child, can recall. In other words, it’s from my perspective.
On with my mom.
Through some randomness of life, my mom came across my step-dad. He worked on the North Slope, in Alaska. That is the area on the North Slope of the Brooks range, where all the oil is, and the Great Alaska Pipeline starts. He was home, after working for a month or two, and had “imbibed” a copious amount of alcohol on the plane from Barrow to Anchorage, and was convinced that he needed a car. My mother was working as a rental agent. She sees this man, a Grizzly Adams sort of looking fellow, you know, the beard, etc., and realizes he’s 3 sheets to the wind. Just gone drunk. He demanded a car, and she refused to rent it to him. From here, the story gets fuzzy. I don’t recall exactly what happened, but she ended up giving him a ride home, in the rented car. She was sober. The story gets convoluted in my mind some more, but it ends up that my Grandmother had some property, or an extra shack, or something, that my step dad rented. Imagine my mom’s surprise that she was taking this strange, drunk, obnoxious man home. 4o years later, with 4 boys and 2 girls, (2 girls from things that happen in life before she married my dad, myself and my brother from dad, and then 2 more boys with my step-dad) and 28 grandkids…I think…and 5 or 6 great grand kids later, she’s found herself a great family.
And yet, with all that love, she still feels unloved, unneeded, and unappreciated. How can I convince my mom that she IS loved, her existence is vital in so many lives? Mom, I need you, my siblings need you, and we love you, and desire your happiness.
My mother is my hero. She loves completely. She adores her family and wishes that we all lived on the same block. My siblings are everywhere from an hour away (me), to many states away, and she hates it.
Mom, I love you. You deserve to be happy, and you are enough, you are loved, you are appreciated, and you are not invisible. We, your children, are so completely flawed, that we tend to take advantage of you; I apologize for my own behavior, in making you feel unimportant.
There is so much left unsaid about what led me here, to this moment in time, writing this blog, and so much left unsaid that has led my mother to the place of despondency that she feels. Family secrets and truths that would cause more pain than not if relayed here. They are my family’s private secret hurts that we know about, and often comfort each other when the memories overwhelm us.
This is my love letter to my mother. She gave birth to me, and I will miss her so much when she is no longer here.