What lessons did you learn from Mom?
My mother was tough to love and at times, a challenge to raise.
As a divorced parent, she was just trying to figure it all out, and as a child, so was I. So let’s say we were co-parenting – the spirit of a growing boy and that of a woman who wanted to be a child again.
You see, in an odd way, we raised each other. We lived a turbulent existence. At times, we leaned into each other. Oh, we leaned out too and hit walls; enough walls to bloody us physically and psychologically.
My mother was an alcoholic and saddled with drug addiction but most important, mental illness. Mental illness that could only be treated with shock therapy which resulted in memory loss.
I saved her from suicide twice. The second time was close. I stayed out of school for 6 months to nurse her back to health.
There was much resentment but after she died at 59, I learned to understand and love her again. Perhaps I began to relate to her situation and thankfully today, there are less draconian treatments for those who suffer from severe depression.
I learned many important lessons from mom: Unconditional love, blinding rage, humility, frustration, but most important – empathy. I abhorred drugs and never tried them. I walked in her ugly shoes, absorbed her darkness and tried to spit out daylight.
After all, she was my mother and she could do anything – I had blinding faith in her to heal. She couldn’t. She wasn’t a mother in a true sense. She was a frightened little girl who couldn’t handle the obstacles that came along and happened to have a baby.
She was a human with many scars. At times, my frustration wasn’t about her, it was about me. I couldn’t save her from herself and I felt like less than a person. A failure.
I promised myself that I’d work as hard as possible to not be in the situation we were in just trying to pay the rent. Being on welfare was a complete embarrassment; using those dreaded food stamps at the local supermarket made me want to hide. I ran away often.
I began to write to self-medicate. I created characters who were flawed, strong, stupid, and funny. I was a voracious reader. My safe space was the library. Oh, and the movies. Oh, and Westerns!
I stepped outside myself to save my sanity and became an observer. I’d picture my life as a movie and this stage of my life as merely a role. As with every role, the story would end and I could move on to a newer, brighter one. I guess that was my version of hope.
On occasion, it was the church where the nuns would feed me and talk to me as if they were surrogate, tough mothers. They told me that life is about change and I can rise above all that was going on.
I share this because I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learned to appreciate the lessons my mother taught me. I wouldn’t see life the way I do now if it weren’t for her. I like who I am and wouldn’t change a thing.
We can all do better to understand our moms. Their amazing strength, love, and protection. And also their weaknesses.
Let’s not wait until they’re gone. Celebrate them now and not just today.
They were just trying to figure shit out. Just like you.