My Mom always told me that she knew very young that she wanted to be a mother. Over the years, she said many, many times that my brother and I were so lucky that we were wanted and loved. There were so many children who were neglected, abused or just unloved. I remember even as a young child how that always confused me. I didn’t know how to feel or react whenever she talked about it. I didn’t feel loved. Or wanted. But her statements made me feel almost guilty for not being grateful. I thought something was wrong with me. Something made ME not worth the love she always talked about. Her words said she wanted children and she loved children. I saw her with other children and she did seem to love them. She especially seemed to love the underdogs. Kids born with disabilities, or even serious handicaps. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t enjoy me as much as she enjoyed them.
Then, when I was 7, my parents divorced and I started to figure it out. It was me. She told me how much I reminded her of my father. I was ugly because I looked just like him she said. She couldn’t stand to look at me. I loved and adored my Dad and missed him terribly. She seemed to lose her mind when we would cry for him. He was a disgusting human being, so we must be disgusting too, for loving him. On Fridays when we would go to spend weekend with him, she would let us get dressed in whatever was our favorite clothes at the time. She would do our hair and tell us how beautiful we were. We would absolutely GLOW with the unexpected and so desired tenderness. She would even sit us down to have our picture taken.
But then Sunday would come and we would return. The dread of Sundays is burned into me, much deeper than the brief elation of Friday afternoons. The first Sunday we had no idea what was waiting for us. We came home hoping to walk right back into her loving arms, but instead were greeted with abhorrence. We were filthy rotten and we smelled like garbage. She wondered aloud if we slept or bathed or even changed our clothes even once over the weekend. We were belittled and insulted until we were in tears. Then she sat us down for another picture.
This went on for some time. I was around 9 years old, so I can’t quite recall if it was weeks, or months. The pictures were used in a court battle to gain full custody of my brother and I. Not because she wanted us, as would be made very clear in the future. At this point in my life I have a few ideas of why she would do these things, but really, they are only my guesses. And she is not here to talk to about it. She can no longer confirm or deny anything. She can no longer answer any questions we may have. Even when she was, I tried many times and she was unable to participate in any difficult conversations. The conversations I most needed to have with her.
The last time I tried, was just a few years before she ended her life. She was living with my family and we were alone in the house. The familiar story of how much my brother and I were loved and wanted was being retold. I felt such a surge of emotion. Anger, sadness, pity, confusion, longing and something new. I think it was something like resolve, or determination. Maybe I was just feeling brave or rebellious or even resentful, I just don’t know. I asked her where us children were during the time in her life when we were loved and wanted? I told her I didn’t remember any of it. I even asked if maybe it was the first few years of our lives, before my memories begin? I explained that I did not feel lucky at all. What I remembered was screaming, anger and abandonment. I remembered her allowing us to be abused by our first step-father, and not stopping him or leaving until the first time he laid his hands on her. I remembered her sending us away, to go live with our father who she so desperately hated, when she first met the man who would become husband number 3. I remember weeks at a time of taking care of ourselves because she would not come home. And when she did, things were only worse.
I will never forget this moment. When I told her about the childhood I remembered. It was the moment I began to realize that I would never hear an apology, much less an acknowledgement. Right before my eyes a physical change came over her. She was sitting on the couch facing in my direction. Slowly and simultaneously, her body became rigid and her eyes grew wide like saucers. Huge, terrified and childlike, she looked like a deer caught in headlights. Frozen. From her head to her toes. I realized something was terribly wrong. I still do not know what. I don’t know what would cause a reaction like that in a human. I don’t know how someone can just turn off or tune out like that. I have never been confronted with anything so terrible that it caused a reaction like that in me. The closest thing I can compare it to is when I experienced a sexual assault at the hands of a friend while sleeping. I froze in fear. I pretended to still be asleep because I did not know what else to do. I imagine it could have been a very similar reaction, but I will never know. She is not here to ask and if she was, she would not be capable of answering.
One of the reasons I wanted to tell this story today is because I want the world to understand why I am not as sad as I believe most people think I should be. I am more relieved for the mother I loved, than I am sad for the mother I lost. My Mom was not a happy person. Yes, she experienced happy moments, and I feel SUPER BLESSED for each and every one that I got to share with her. But they were the exception, not the rule. I don’t know what her relationships with others were like, because she never talked about it much. When she had someone else in her life, her children were put aside, so I never even really got to even witness much. In my later teen years and early adulthood, we experienced a few rather lengthy periods of close friendship. I even consider her my best friend during these years. But a best friend is not a mother. To this day, I wish she had warned me against the bad decisions I was making instead of encouraging me and giving me high-fives. I wish she could have taught me to love myself, and to know the value of what it is to be a woman. But I know now that she did not have these things inside her to give. I can’t be angry for that. All I can be is sad.
Sad that she never learned to love herself. Sad at the thought of all she missed out on in life. Sad that in her last years of life she alienated herself from all those who loved her. Sad that her doctors and therapists were never able to stabilize her. Sad that in the end, death was the only way she could find to feel better.
So, yes, I am relieved. I am actually HAPPY for her now. She searched for God her whole life and even found Him in a few corners of her mind. I know she is with Him now. I know she is free of the heavy burden of mental illness. She is experiencing love in a way she has never known possible. She is adored and cared for. She is needed in His kingdom and serving His other children happily. She has clear eyes, not the eyes of a scared deer. And with them, she can see her own children. Her little girl and baby boy. She can feel their love. She can love them in return, with PURE motherly love. And she is waiting for us. It is then that I will have the happy childhood of her stories. I will finally be wanted and loved.