I dread when Mother’s Day comes around. It first started in 1994. That was the year I lost my mother. She died of a massive heart attack that killed her quickly. Partly from medical neglect, but mostly from her not taking care of herself and living a very unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle. She was 42, I was 21 and in the middle of my first marriage breaking down. Those first few years were difficult. I missed her, my life was in upheaval, and my dad handled her death badly. I would lose him less than 2 years later (22 months, to be exact).
After that, I could ignore it because when you’re working two, sometimes, three jobs just to make it, things like holidays drift by so quickly, there’s not much time to reflect.
Then, I got a new mother-in-law. She’s freaking fantastic, but those first few years, I felt awkward because she wasn’t my mom. It’s not that I didn’t love her, I just wasn’t sure what to do. Then, my niece came along and I was the only non-mom left in the family. Talk about awkward. I just wanted to erase Mother’s Day from the calendar.
Now, as I’ve gotten older, I observe it because I’m lucky to have a mother-in-law who treats me like I am her child and I love her like she is blood. I have someone who likes the flowers I get her and doesn’t expect anything but to spend time together.
Here’s where my awkwardness comes in of late. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting about my childhood. There’s not much of my family left and those who are don’t have the same recollections I do. They’re in disbelief when I tell them what really happened.
See, everyone loved my mother. She was sweet, funny, could sing (all the girls in the family can), and my friends loved to hug her and get hugged by her. I did, too. But there were dark times. My mother was molested as a child and it affected the way she conducted herself as an adult. All those things about running a household you’re supposed to learn from your mom? Well, I learned most of them from my dad. How to take care of a car, how to use my gas and time most efficiently when running errands in town, how to make steak and mashed potatoes, heck a good portion of stuff having to do with cooking I learned from my dad and his brother.
I spent almost as much time on family (thanks, by the way, to my three aunts, who put up with a crying, homesick child for weeks and months on end) and stranger’s couches as I did in my own room. Whenever mom was feeling neglected, she would have a boyfriend on the side. Which meant I was dragged along because, well, I never really figured out why. I really don’t know how my dad put up with it. He stayed until the day she died. Even quit drinking for her. Was he perfect? No. Far from it. He was a wife-beater. He never touched me, but his dad taught him that was how you dealt with your wife. Regardless, he raised me like I was his own from the day he met me. He taught me how to stand up for myself. He made sure I knew that I had a home to come back to if I needed it, when Mom was telling me to stay and work things out. It was a confusing childhood, to say the least. I think he was trying to teach me how to be a better person than he and Mom were.
Anyway, these feelings all came to a head early last year and pushed me to write Through Paige’s Eyes. Paige’s mother is a conglomeration of the feelings I had as a child, and as an adult looking back on how my mother was. She had her reasons for what she did, but now as I get older, I see just how much they’ve affected me as an adult. I really don’t know if anything could have helped her. She was in therapy multiple times, but she always went back to what made her feel good. It just happened to be extramarital sexual relationships with men who were not the same race she was. A lot of that I think has to do with her father. He was a racist, and her molester. All, ALL, of his children married someone not white in order to piss him off. –side note, I just realized that I ended up with a freaking awesomely diverse family thanks to this. And all of my cousins are gorgeous, damn the luck! 😉 –
Why would I put this out there for you to read? Because I think more people than want to admit it, have dealt with something similar. I have quite a few good memories of my mother. But I have almost as many bad ones. I try to remember the good ones more often, but sometimes the others surface and I wanted to start acknowledging them instead of leaving them to fester for another decade.
Truthfully, I was scared to death I would die at the age of 42 like she did. I was a nervous wreck from the time I turned 40 until about a month after my 42nd birthday. I’m more active and healthy than she ever was, and I don’t live with a smoker (which caused her C.O.P.D. and a good part of her respiratory issues), but I’m not as healthy as I should be. I think, the main difference between me and my mother is that I was able to find a passion in life. Two things that fulfill me while hopefully making one small corner of the world a better place. For the first time in I think ever, I feel like my life has meaning and that the only reason I fear dying now is not just because I think I’m still young but because there’s so much left that I want to do.
There you have it. An insight into me and the latest book, Through Paige’s Eyes. Happy Mother’s Day to those who celebrate. I’ll be here snuggling my furbabies and giving my mother-in-law a big squeeze for being the awesome woman she is.
P.S. Paige’s story will be published this June.