I recall stories of war. Men run through with bullets and bleeding their life into the mud. As they lapse into death, a good number of them call for their mothers. I've wondered how that works. You're in your last moments and your thoughts are of your Mom, like calling for her (whether she's alive or not) will conjure her onto the battlefield to make it all better.
It's not an understatement that I have a different relationship with my mother. I was actually relieved that my relationship with my Mother differed from that of what my friends experienced with their mothers. Of my childhood friends:
- One played tricks of her son-- tricked that would burn out anyone, let alone a young boy.
- One kept a stiff upper lip and looked down upon others.
- One was prone to lashing out and fits of explosive violence.
- One was absent. When the family split up, they suffered a fate of Solomon, with half of the family going one way and the other half going the other.
- One mother fed her boyfriend and her steak and baked potatoes with butter; while the kids got hot dogs and margarine.
Each of us squared away that dynamic. In equal parts, we all defended and bemoaned our own family dynamics. That's what families are: they're dysfunctional, boring or dead. My father was a piece of work: a dead beat through and through. My mother got stuck with the job of being the breadwinner and the mother while the deabeat who have me 23 chromosomes was MIA. Literally: we would run off and hide in Nova Scotia with his mother-- now there's a momma's boy dynamic. He did that seven times. In the 1970s, "just divorce him" was easier said than done. This was the era where, when a man beat his woman, if someone could get the police to show up, they would get the man's story first and foremost. There's a lot of ammo in the phrase "bitching" (ie. "femaie", "dog" and "yappy" in one word), but that's what the world considered a woman with a problem was: someone who was bitching. My Mom had to endure a court system that wouldn't issue a divorce in absentia to a couple without the man's input. Without the divorce, her deadbeat husband thought he could come home. again and again. He would financially hamstring us, then imagine that he would be welcome back. As my Mom was in plain view, with a job and an apartment, when her husband's debts went unpaid, she was a sitting duck for his bill collectors. It was painful in retrospect. It also speaks to how the system was radically skewed to make women subservient to men into recent memory. My mother's mother retired early and lived in comparatively financial squalor to help raise us. If my mother's husband could bugger off without repercussions, why didn't she? It would be a lot easier. Well, she didn't. She raised us.
She even doubled down. She raised my sister's kids* when the circumstances required it. I look at her and I would wish she could just "stop." Just stop being a Mom long to live her life before she, like her mother before her, moves into a long period of infirmity and dementia. It's the last good afternoon in Summer, and I wish my Mom would just go outside before night falls. There are friends of mine, both my age and much younger, who lost their mothers. Mother's Day is a hollow day where they can't say that they love them or do something nice for them. I know I will have lots of time for regrets down the road, but I wish I could talk my mother into walking unencumbered for a time and enjoy her life. She tells me that raising my sister's kids is what she enjoys. So: I leave it be. Maybe she stayed when her husband ran for it because some people have the fortitude and some people are failures. I got genes from one of each.
That childhood formula did a lot to shape who I was. I have roots now that run too deep. By the time I was 13, I had lived in 16 places. My daughter, by the same age, has lived in two homes. Poverty stings me and feels comfortable at the same time-- I work so hard to build some stability; and I look upon wealthy people with a special level of disdain, like I should take up an "eat the rich" mentality. When I travel in affluent circles (I do that sometimes), I find I snap between the two quantum states and never feel comfort. I work because I have a family, and I don't run away like my mother's husband. People who evade or run for it when times get tough get my encouragement to go a special circle of Hell reserved for quitters. I also feel an exceptional sympathy for people who have lost their mothers. I try to help single mothers who have to endure what my Mom did. I think I do that to stop history from repeating itself. We had some tough times and that did twist who I was, a little. I would always want a chance to prevent that twisting from happening in the next generation.
Happy Mothers Day.
* Editor's Note: I did use the phrase "kids" to denote two or more children. My sister's daughter's father had a problem with the content of this post.
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