Before anyone starts in about me beating a dead horse, or, conversely, showing my hypocritical nature by now saying something nice about someone whom I had previously excoriated, let me say this: The previous post with the same (well, similar) title was in reference to the office of Mother, not the actual person. I am not such a monster as to believe that said person did not do her best or that she didn’t love me. That being said, I did (and do) have issues about the execution of said office, and for those, I air my grievances to the world. While it may not seem fair to publicly call someone out for an ostensibly private occupation, the fact is that I am entitled to my memories and experiences, and my interpretations of them. But, enough about the negative and intentionally provocative: I am writing this (albeit, a smidgen belatedly) in celebration of my mother’s birth (and indeed, her life). Just a note: as with the first Mother’s Day post, I am basing my words upon my experiences, as my knowledge of my mother as a human being is more lacking than I would normally prefer. But everybody has a story, and I would like to tell you hers.
From an inauspicious beginning as a somewhat sickly child, someone who might normally have been naturally selected to burn twice as bright for half the time, had it not been for the advances in modern medicine, my mother not only survived into adulthood, but thrived despite the innumerable challenges which seemed to pile on top of her, not the least of which was yours truly. Looking back at the broad strokes, it seems almost comical the sheer volume of misfortune which she was forced to endure (which I draw attention to not out of malice, but out of a desire to highlight the ridiculous amount of hurdles which she had to clear just so that she could achieve the next set of challenges which lay ahead). She has had to remain more than slightly medicated just so that she could continue to breathe, she fell in love and married, thinking of the family which she could begin to build, only to have the marriage end in acrimony and be forced into single motherhood. While she managed to get a job which allowed her make almost enough to survive upon, while also giving her enough time to spend with her son, eventually even that turned sour (though not for a couple of decades- and, I cannot say this enough, it was not my fault).
Her son was irritatingly intelligent, constantly testing the boundaries of both acceptable behavior and her patience, that is, when he wasn’t trying to set her up with doctors, or really, anyone who might have been able to fill the role of father figure (whether or not they wanted that role). When she saw that her son was coming apart at the seams, she did what seemed best, fell back upon those things with which she was familiar, and tried to help him through religion, and, when that didn’t work, counseling. As the years progressed, and her son, the one for whom she had wished with all of her heart to have, became withdrawn and impervious to compromise or reason (in her eyes). He seemed determined to destroy every opportunity which she had set up for him, obsessing over trivialities which would never be enough to actually enable him to survive. Perhaps his lashing out and self-destructive behavior reminded her of her ordeals with her ex-husband. Perhaps she drank the Kool-Aid and blamed everything on drugs. I will say that I am more prepared for this sort of thing, should it come to pass with my son, than she could ever have been.
Despite her best intentions, I did indulge in self-medication, though that was more of an attempt to manage the pain of living as opposed to the cause of said pain. But that was not her fault. As a mother, I may have found her skill set lacking, but as a human being, she did her very best. I have firsthand experience with mental illness, with drug use, with… dubious… career choices. The only thing to throw a monkey wrench into my parenting ability would be if the Minkey turned out to be a normal, well-adjusted kid. Everything she did, she did to try to spare me from the pain of learning things the hard way, as she had been forced to do. Of course, as should be painfully obvious by now, I am the type of person who would rather fail by my own choices than succeed by blindly following the advice (or orders) of others. In short, she and I had drastically different worldviews, and there was never really any chance that her careful preparations would do me any good.
But, one time in my life, I did manage to get something right on the first try. It was the middle of July, 2006. Somehow I had managed to keep secret her surprise, and, despite the very nature of who I am, I actually gave her a decent birthday present that year. You see, that was the year of her half-century mark, and I wanted to surprise her by showing up and wishing her a happy birthday in person. I caught a flight up, met her roommate, and was chauffeured out to her church, where she was doing something or other. I walked in the door, and, as casually as I could, walked up and past her, saying, “Hey mom,” like it was any other day (from a decade past). I had seen double-takes on television, in movies, and cartoons, but up until that moment, I had never actually witnessed one in real life. Of course, then came the water works, and the incessant hugging, but I had braced myself for this on the flight up (with the help of a number of Bloody Marys). What she’d wanted more than anything was to have me home, as for some reason she had missed me. Hey, even I can get it right, once in a while.
Anyway, I just wanted to wish her a happy birthday this year, and tell her that, as a person, I love her.
Happy Birthday, Mom.