How do you erase the memories that haunt you day and night?
I remember an essay we had to write when I was in seventh grade. It was entitled, “Who would you choose for a mother if you had that choice?” Kind of a strange request, now that I think about it, but the class really did a job with that thread.
Sitting straight in my chair, I stared out the window in an unseen world. I could choose any movie star, model, or saint or just anyone that popped into my head at the time whom I thought was cool in the day. The older movie stars appeared so caring in their roles as mothers, and in reality, my poor mom drank. Not often, mind you, but when she did, all hell broke lose. I ended up writing that nobody could replace my mother and it wasn’t a lie. She was the best mom ever, except when …. That day, like most other days, I would come home to fresh homemade bread and some really good cooking.
But then there was the day she visited with her brother, his wife and their children. I felt a lonely streak bite. Old enough to make my own decisions already, I decided to attempt to find her for I was not sure where she had gone. Worry was written in the tablets of my heart. As I got nearer to their home, hidden by some brush, I could hear mom say in French, “The little bitch is coming.” My heart shattered into pieces. I was about to turn and run, but she called my name. And when mom would call, there was no back talk or pretending you didn’t hear. I crept toward the shack, head cowering, and my visage surely showed my feelings. Not sure which one was more obvious, I tried not to disclose any part.
In a moment, it was as if I was welcomed and that mom was so happy to see me, but inside I knew better. My thoughts ranked from not how I hurt, but how she must have hated me. She had never showed that side of herself to me before and I was crushed.
The day she rolled her car right outside our driveway, I can still hear her words. “IF I get into an accident, it’ll be your fault.” She was in a drunken stupor and I refused to get into the car. Her anger escalated to the point where her foot glued to the accelerator, and as though stunned for a moment, she decided not to lift her foot. Pressing it for dear life, the car swerved left and right, and she lost total control. It flipped about two hundred yards from the house, its wheels swirling around like a merry-go-round.
It was one of the worst days of my childhood. Thinking she must be dead, I screamed in horror all the way as I ran toward the car resting upside down in the ditch. All the while, I blamed myself. I should have listened and gotten in the car as she demanded.
Years followed with many an occasion where I took on the mother figure. Years later, I met and married a man like my mother. My two oldest children lived the life I lived. I hated myself for that.
As mom got older, she changed however. First, she quit smoking, and a year or so later, she gave up booze and turned to God. With two drinkers in my life, I was heading down a one-way street with no escape route.
Once I finally divorced following forty-two years of marriage, I spent a lot more time with my mom. We became good friends, and I was so happy to have her help me with gardening, knitting and just talking about the good old days.(For they were not all bad.) The last couple of years we lived together.
Mom had triple bypass heart surgery plus a carotid artery cleaned out on one side of her neck about fourteen years ago. The bad news is, she never fully recovered so as to have a good and fulfilling life. She also had osteoporosis which kept her at home most of the time.
The day came when Mom asked me to call an ambulance. She said, “I think it’s my time to go.” I cried, and begged her to please not leave me, but she passed away about eight hours later in the hospital. I had always dreaded the day when I would lose my parents, even though, life at home wasn’t a rose garden.
Drinking marred my life and theirs as well. Now my children have to live with the side effects of my discomposure.