Tag Archives: mother

Mother’s Day (Part Two)

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.

No one in this picture is EVER happy with me...
No one in this picture is EVER happy with me…

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is always a strange time of year for me. I have not had the best relationship with mine, and I always feel a little weird when refer to my wife as a mother. It’s not that she isn’t, it’s just that it’s weird to think of her only as someone else’s mother. I don’t even think of her as just my wife. I mean, she is so much more than can be fit into just one single box. She is my wife, her children’s mother, sister to her siblings, daughter to her parents, and someone else who exists just for herself. I was drawn to her because she was one of the first women who I’d met that seemed complete within themselves, and yet still wanted something romantic with me. Normally, I’m drawn to damaged people, pulled in by the vacuum of their negativity, as they were drawn to mine. But with my Wildflower it was something else entirely. She saw the best in me, despite the fact I warned her otherwise, and took a leap of faith into love with me. One of these days, I should probably apologize to her for not running in the opposite direction, and sparing her the pain of dealing with me all of this time, but I’d like to wait until I am successful, as a thank-you mansion helps ease the pain more swiftly than pretty words.

With my own mother, things get a little bit more complicated. I’ve had countless people tell me that I just need to put the past behind me and move on, but I cannot help but wonder how my life might have diverged were it not for her interference. Throughout my final years as a teenager, and into my early twenties, I heard nothing but venom from her regarding my life choices. Interesting then, that had she chosen not to interfere with plans of compromise forged between myself and the school district, none of the events which she felt obligated to speak down to me about, would have ever come to pass. As a minor, I required her permission to attend Seattle Central as part of the Running Start program. Had she not revoked it at the final hour, I would never have met one of my “friends” that year. I would not have been there when she was kicked out of school. I would not have been there when she was kicked out of her home. I would not have stood firm in my promise to be there for my friends and given her a place to stay. When things finally fell apart between my mother and I, I would not have been able to call upon this friend to return the favor of sanctuary, and would, in turn, never have met her mother.

I wouldn’t have been staying at that house when my friend and her little brother went off to Eastern Washington to stay with their grandmother. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to fall in love with… her. We wouldn’t have started dating, and I wouldn’t have been there when she fell back into a pattern of drug abuse. And if I hadn’t been there, who knows if my friends would have been there either. We wouldn’t have gotten caught up in all of that. The hardest substance which I’m likely to have tried would have remained some LSD. From there I cannot even think how much my life might have diverged from the one which I wound up living. Maybe I would have been writing sooner. Maybe I might have published something which reeked of youth and inexperience and the arrogance of knowing everything. Maybe I might have sunk to the bottom of a bottle and never come up for air again. But I wouldn’t have met Flor. And I wouldn’t have helped create the Minkey. And I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to try to get right what my father never could.

Are there things that I would change in my life right now if I could? I’d like to be living a little bit more comfortably. Other than that, I don’t know. Pull one string, and the whole damn thing unravels. What frustrates me is that I didn’t get to make that one decision. Everything I’ve built, everything I’ve done, has been built upon a foundation of reaction, of me trying desperately to shore up the what-might-have-beens and try to figure out how to go from there.

When I was nineteen, I wasn’t speaking to my mother. She’d shared her judgement of my girlfriend (nineteen years my senior) with me, and done nothing to hide her vitriolic disapproval from the woman with whom I was in love. So I severed ties between us. I told my mother that until she could get over herself, that I refused to be a part of her life any longer. That from the moment when she kicked me out (though, believe me, I was more than ready to have gone), she had renounce all claim to motherhood. If she wanted to still have me in her life, she’d have to ditch her failed attempts at mothering, and come to interact with me on an adult basis. It took her about a year to realize I wasn’t bluffing, and then she relented, and things were tolerable again. But I don’t think that she could ever see past the age difference, and when the woman and I finally parted ways (after a couple of trips to the hospital on part for nervous breakdowns), she could not conceal her joy. To this day, I still hear nothing but venom though her clenched teeth if that time in my life happens to be discussed.

But all of it, down to the tiniest little detail, could have been completely avoided were it not for her decision in early August of 1996. She’s told me that I’ll feel differently when David blames for screwing up his life. Maybe. Or maybe I’ll accept that I failed him, and try to minimize the damage. I’ve been through all of this before, hopefully I’ll still be able to recognize some of the landmarks along the way.

I cannot forgive. I cannot forget. I am the Center of All Bitterness. It is this rage which drives me forward, still attempting to prove all my critics wrong. Maybe I have my mother to thank for that. Actually, I know that I do. But I don’t think that I can do that today. Maybe next year. Maybe never.