I would like you to meet my mother.
She was NOT a perfect woman but she was pretty wonderful in her very special way. She was a school teacher, she was a foster parent, she worked tirelessly with special needs children. She was a poet and a writer in her own right, having kept journals her entire life.
Let me tell you about some more of the really great things about my mom.
My mom didn’t finish high school. She was abused as a child and like many women, she used pregnancy as a way to marry and to escape her own family. She didn’t just use my dad as a means to her own desperate ends though, she fell deeply and passionately in love with him. She wasn’t good at keeping house but she doted on my dad and would have done anything that she was capable of doing to make him happy. She loved her three children and wrote that, ‘My beautiful children and my husband are the sunshine in my life. Without them, everything would be dark’.
My dad had affairs on my mom and my mom had few options at her disposal. Because of her early pregnancy, she never finished high school, she was utterly dependent on my dad for financial care. On several occasions she tried to get her GED and this led to fights between her and my Dad.
It was because of this that when my dad divorced my mom after cheating on her, my mom was in a dire place. She was completely traumatized. The one thing she had believed in: Her Love, had failed her and set her out in a boat in a stormy sea.
She collapsed. It was awful.
And then, she picked herself up and she got her grade 12. Yep, that’s right. She did what she had been stopped from doing and she did it on her own. She didn’t stop there. She applied for college and then university and became a school teacher. She worked primarily with children with special needs.
When my mom was going to university I was just discovering my own love of literature. This love blossomed for us at the same time. It was like our childhoods overlapped into her adulthood. Her life, a life that was kept from her because of being a girl from an abusive family, and then being with a controlling man, had been ‘gifted’ to her through the divorce.
She did great at school. She and I stayed up late and talked about what books I was reading, what she was reading. My dad had never liked anyone to read so the freedom we both had to read literature was a liberation for us both. We would butt heads about this later on when it came to her religious beliefs, but the point was that literature was great.
We read Shakespeare together and her favorite poet was John Donne.
When I was a little girl she brushed my hair 100 times every day. When she realized how afraid I was of spiders she made me a book about how spiders were our friends and it was so sweet and tender that I actually PRETENDED to be cured from my fear of spiders for so long that I stopped being scared of them!
She worked hard to be a good parent even though she was such a young parent. She had been raised with beatings and wooden spoons, that’s how she raised me when I was very young. By the time I was in kindergarten she had advanced to using ‘time outs’ and using positive statements about each other in place of what she had been brought up with. She broke the cycle of violence used as punishment.
She was always into self improvement. One time she took this course on massage and one on foot care. She taught these things to me and probably started me off into my career as a masseuse and Shiatsu practitioner. She was always trying to stay on the upside of life and not get sucked into the darkness. Sometimes she slipped, it was especially hard after my dad left her. Nevertheless, she would not be stopped.
When my dad re-married my step-mother, Judy, she took great pains to torment my mother. When I stayed with my dad my mom would write to me and Judy would open the letters before I saw them and she would cut down everything my mom said in them. She would try to convince me that my mom was putting me down in completely innocuous statements. She loved me enough to write me a letter and there wasn’t any vitriol in the letter.
Judy was so jealous. She once orchestrated paying my mom her child support for me in pennies. She put them in a big blue water jug and then peed on them. She thought this was hilarious. What a nice woman. My mother rarely got any child support and struggled to support her kids on a student loan. Life was not easy for her. Judy, a woman at a truck stop who had jumped into my dad’s big rig and then clung onto him for life, had stolen my family. She had stolen my mother’s family. Judy started poisoning my brothers against their mother as well as me. Only poison ever came out of her mouth.
My mom never spoke down about my dad after the divorce. She never spoke ill of my step-mother. She was just broken hearted. My dad and step-mother had plenty of bad things to say about my mother and she never tried to defend herself.
I fell for it. I believed a lot of the things that they said about her.
I was a stupid kid and I had always been a daddy’s girl but you know something? I might have been a kid and believed what my dad said, but that doesn’t mean everyone was quite that gullible.
One of my husband’s co-workers was asking about his wife. My husband mentioned her last name and the man he was talking to, an old timer in Dawson Creek, got a reminiscent look to his face and smiled wistfully.
“I know who you mean, Debbie. My god, she was a beauty, smart as a whip too! She was a teacher, you know, loved books.”
THAT was my mother.
I was recently accused by a friend? Of glorifying my father in my story about him for Chicken Soup for the Soul. I was surprised by her anger at my very truthful and heartfelt story about my dad because there are many different sides to people and you can acknowledge the bad while focusing on the good times and the good memories of the people you actually love. You can love people despite the fact that they hurt you an incredible amount.
For me, I had to leave my family (what is left of it) and have zero contact with them. This isn’t the first time that this had happened in my life. When I was fifteen I ran away from home. I tried to stay in contact with my mom but it was too difficult, the whole family was too tangled up and if I touch one of them the whole ball of yarn comes tumbling into my lap. That doesn’t mean that I can’t value the good things that my family did as well. They were a difficult family to have from the start and after their divorce and then Judy coming into my life things became hellish.
But there was also GOOD there.
So, yes, my mother hurt me and she really hurt my little brother, but she also loved all three of her children an incredible amount. My older brother, the baby who had helped her escape from her parents left her to drown after the divorce but I know that he was drowning too. He had to leave then just like I had to leave when I was fifteen and things got too bad.
There are few villains who are villains for the sake of being villains. My stepmother enjoyed tormenting me. I can count a very few things that she did for me in life and after she was ensconced in marriage with my dad those few things ceased entirely. She and my half sister are some of the worst, most malignant, oblivious and stupidly cruel people I have ever met.
My half sister, Kat, Kate, Katy or Katrina depending on the day and her mother, Judy (deceased). These two people tormented me and my half sister continues to slander me and to deny my mother’s very existence. She’s not my family and neither of my brothers are Judy’s sons.
The rest of the ‘cast’ of my life have good traits and bad. I can tell you hundreds of good stories or bad stories that would make you say, ‘how could they even be human?’ They tried to be good and sometimes they chose to be villains. Of all of my family I know that my mother never tried to be a villain, she just slipped down the rabbit hole from time to time.
I was out of contact with them all when my mother died. She had stayed and spent the years while I was gone being tormented by my drunk stepmother and my increasingly foolish father. She died from an electrolyte imbalance from drinking too much water. She died too young and it wasn’t her fault. Like everything in her life it seems, it was too soon, she was too young.
My mom and I weren’t as close as we could have been. She and I both had poison being whispered in our ears and we both were innocent unsuspecting dupes. We were played by a lot of people. I wish we had been closer. I wish she had had a better life but what I wish most of all is that people would remember like that one old timer. She was a mother, a wife, a teacher and most of all, a sensitive, delicate rose that kept her blooms long past all logical explanation could justify. She had a core of strength to her that is neglected in her memory.