This is a subject that, as I type these very words, I’m not sure I want to share. Although, I feel it’s necessary and I can’t quite figure out why. Maybe it’ll be healing. Maybe someone experiencing anything with a hint of similarity will think, “Hey, I’m not alone here”. Or maybe, none of this. I don’t know. But I’ll start anyway.
I haven’t always felt motherless. In fact, in my younger years, up until the age of 16 or so I would say that my mother and I were very close. Best friends even. I shared everything with her and we had the kind of ‘perfect’ relationship where there were no secrets, no fights, no teenage drama. Then, one day, my poor mother’s demons started knocking at her door. Ones I know she’d been holding the door closed on for so long that she must’ve lost her strength.
It began with a glass of wine or two in the evenings. Harmless, right? Sure, for most. Most who’ve lead a normal childhood, adolescence, and adult life. Sadly, this was not my Mama. My sweet Mom had endured in her childhood the unfathomable. What you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. A nightmare of a life that looked like being molested by her uncle at age 3, taken from her drunken whore of a mother shortly thereafter, placed in an orphanage, placed in a foster home at age 6 where she was subjected to the most extreme physical and sexual abuse you can imagine (and trust me, you can’t) – for the next 7 years.
She had held the doors closed on the demons of her past for as long as she could. I believe, until she felt that I could survive on my own if I needed. And so, she slowly began to collapse. Drinking away her misery. Night, after night, after night. It actually happened so gradually that I barely noticed a problem. Hell, what did I know? She was unwinding after work right? My mom was totally normal. At that age I had ZERO comprehension of what your past can paint for your future. Before too long, a few glasses was a bottle. Every night. And I began to worry. I remember bringing up AA to her. Asking her to go. My requests dismissed. There wasn’t a problem.
Wine turned to wine plus a few shots, turned into only liquor, turned a bottle of liquor every night. A functioning alcoholic. By this point I had begged countless times, “Please stop! Please get help!”. But those cries fell on deaf ears. The ears of someone in such excruciating amounts of pain no amount of shrieking, crying, pleading could have scratched the surface of the hell she was living in her own mind. To this day, 15 years later, she drowns in this same pain. A now non-functioning alcoholic, who has lost everything. It’s incredibly heartbreaking. Boy, that’s an understatement.
I used to believe that the dysfunction of my childhood (parents divorced at 2, a father barely there until I was in my 20s) was a special part of what made me, me and it would never really affect who I was to become as an adult. And I was mostly right. It wasn’t the early childhood shit that messed with me, at all really. It was having only my mother and then not having her at all, through my late teens, 20s, and now; through major life decisions and having a child of my own, that really screwed with me. I felt and still feel, like I have no one to turn to for advice.
“Hey Mom, London won’t poop, what’s wrong with my baby? What do I do?”
“Hey Mama, can you watch London for me this weekend?”
“Hey Mom, I’m thinking of doing (x,y,z,l,m,n,o,p), what do you think?”
“Hey Mom, I’m having a real shit time in my marriage. What should I do?”
Nope. None of that. Navigating it all on my own.
In fact, I remember calling her to tell her I was pregnant and her reaction made me cry. She told me I better be kidding. And literally she thought I was lying for half of the conversation.
I had more confidence about parenting when I was a damn teenager than I do most days now. What bullshit. When I step back and actually look at the job I’m doing I can say to myself, “Ok, you got this. Not so bad.” But in the moment, I criticize this shit out of my mothering. And it wasn’t until very recently that I put two and two together. The absence of my mother has made me completely insecure as a mother. I fear I am missing the joy of this journey scared to death of my every action and what effect it will have on my little man.
I received a call from my Mom today. One that ended in hollering and tears. Shutting off my emotions toward my own mother will always be torture. Yet, my only form of self protection. Every once in a while the emotions well up and I have to let them out. Or, more like they burst out on their own.
After the puffy eyes had calmed and enough time had passed to look upon the call without judgement I realized, I am not my mother. I am not my mom. I still love her, amidst all the hurt. But, I am me. I am.
My Mama, Age 17