Tag Archives: mother

Momming: One Day At A Time

I had a conversation several months ago with an old friend. He was talking about how fantastic his mom is and how she has always been at his side through everything. Good or bad, his mom has loved and supported him through everything. I’m lucky enough to know her. She is as amazing as he says.

She is compassionate and empathetic and loving and supportive, no matter what he did or didn’t do. She is and continues to be his biggest cheerleader, and is always there for him whenever he needs her. And, he needs her a lot. He calls on her a lot. More than other men his age. But, he is never alone in this world, or standing by himself anywhere, because he always has her.

She is always a call away. She shows up, picks him up, and talks him up no matter the circumstances.

So, as he spoke of her, because I know her, I agreed as he professed gratitude.  He made promises to take care of her and make her life easier, and I nodded. She deserves to be taken care of, she’s been a wonderful mother. She’s hard working, generous with her heart, and fiercely independent. It’s time for her load to be lightened by a greatful son.

“I’m so lucky. So fortunate to have her. She’s my rock.” He said

She is so good to him. She has never turned her back on him. Even in times where if she had, no one would have judged her.

I wasn’t ready for the what came next.

“I feel so bad for you.” He said.

“You don’t have that at all.”

Ouch.

I just didn’t think we were going there.
I remember saying “Yeah, nope. But a lot of people don’t have parents.” A lot of people don’t have Moms for all kinds of reasons. “You’re very fortunate.” I reminded him.

That conversation has stayed with me. Perhaps because I’ve found myself in an emotionally crippled puddle, and I’d love nothing more than a home to run away to. I’d love the option of a lap to lay my head in. I’d like the chance to pick up the phone and put it against my wet cheeks to ask her through tears if she could come over to take the little one to soccer so I could go to bed. I would love someone to help me put one foot in front of the other, brush my hair, tell me he didn’t deserve me, that I’m better off without him, and assure me that everything will be okay after it’s done sucking. And, maybe this is going way too far, but I wonder what it would be like to be tucked into clean sheets in the room I grew up in. Not the actual one. But an imaginary pretty one that I imagine I loved.

Children of addicts don’t get that.

Instead….

Well, instead, we do one of two things. We self sooth. Or, we disconnect and we don’t sooth at all. We know how to take care of other people and we know what they need, because it’s what we needed or what we gave. We struggle to care of ourselves. We never struggle to survive.

My mom was a really great mom for a little while. She was affectionate, a really great hugger, and probably the world’s best snuggler. If I was scared or cold, I could climb into bed with her and she’d hold me like a little spoon all night. She was the kind of mom that wouldn’t move even if her arms fell asleep or her legs cramped, because she never wanted us to wake up to her leaving. She was like that until she either stopped coming home or when she did, the door was locked.

Children of addicts learn not to knock on the door. We begin to wait until they need us.

We know what to say and we know what to do for someone when life feels like it’s falling apart, because we were there soothing the addict every time. We wiped tears, and slept in thier beds with them to make sure they didn’t leave and do something stupid. We held their hair when they drank too much and came home sick and we made sure they didn’t drown in vomit. We put them in pajamas when we could and laid on the floor with them when they were too heavy to get into bed. We fended off fists that flew when they came home angry from too many or not enough pills, and we loved them through it because we knew they were hurting.

These kinds of moms don’t have open door policies at home. They don’t come over to cook for our children, or pick them up from school. They don’t call to see if we need anything, if we’re okay or if we want to watch a movie.

In many cases what they do do is so far from supportive, that they have to be let go from our lives. I don’t sulk or complain about not having a mom because I made the decision to not have her anymore.

Most of the time, I don’t even think of her as a mom.

On occasion, I miss the one I didn’t get to have.

Sometimes, I wonder if she’s cold or hurt.

Frequently, I remind people to be grateful for the support they do have.

Always, I try to be a mom my girls can come home to.

So, when he said “I feel so bad for you” and “You don’t have that at all.” What I should have said was…

“You’re right I don’t. But, because I don’t, I know what it’s like to need that. I know what it’s like to miss that. And so, my girls…my girls will always have me.” I will always have my door open for midnight snuggles. I will always wipe thier tears and tell them how amazing they are. I will hate the jerk who hurt her, or I will rock her while she cries it out. I will always have tea, and clean bedsheets they can climb into if ever they need to run back home. I will be a super cool grandmother, or I will spring into action to pick up thier life pieces if they need to relearn one foot in front of the other. So maybe I don’t have a mom, but I definitely am trying to be better than the one I had.

xo

Are You My Mother?

Quite often I see or smell something that provokes a strong thought, a feeling, a flashback, an adrenaline rush or a belly-dropping oh-shit moment.  On May 20th it happened while scrolling through my Facebook news feed.

Yikes!
Yikes!

It was pretty average in terms of the kinds of flashbacks I have now and then.  It came in quick, punched me in the chest and moved on.  I read the title and I froze. I couldn’t hear, but the moment was so loud.

A 63-year-old woman overdosed on heroin? Here’s the fucked up thought process that follows…

Are you my mother? Shit.  Is she dead?  How old is my mother now? Is she 63? Wait! She was born in 1953. Counts upwards by tens. 1963, 1973, 1983. Gets confused. Quits. 2014-1953=61. My mother is 61? Ok. Not her. What is she doing in Mashpee? She used to buy drugs in Mashpee all the time…back when she worked in a nursing home. That was pretty fucked up. Remember those days? Not all of ’em. How did she end up in a nursing home? Who pays for that? Wait. The thud. My heart.  One big thud.  literally.  I consider it a reminder to make sure I’m paying attention to whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing at that moment. You know…driving, presenting, having a conversation. Little things.  Right, it’s not her. Right.

My heart usually starts to slow after the thud, which is good, because I hate that wicked fast beat feeling. It kind of scares me and excites me at the same time. I could cry, laugh, or fight. Maybe all three.  At once.  It’s just fucking weird. It makes my throat and under my tongue feel fluttery and I reach for it. I can hear. Only my heartbeat, but I hear it. It’s beat is so loud, like techno in slow motion.  She’s doing heroin now?  Hitting the pipe was always her thing.

My mother the “crack head”, I think to myself and wonder, When did she start using heroin?  Not her.  Right.  I know it’s not her.  Open the fucking link and just check it.  It’s not even her. I just witnessed her being sent away, six days earlier. She stood up there in handcuffs like she was totally fucking normal.  Black-eyed and white haired.  She’s not even in Mashpee.  She’s in jail.  Or, treatment.  Whatever we’re calling it these days.  90-days trouble free remember?  She’s a slippery bitch with a horseshoe up her ass, though.  She’s managed to evade jail a zillion times.  Read that shit, maybe she talked her way out of this one, too.  Why didn’t she use her master manipulation powers to, I don’t know, get me into college or pay an electric bill?  It’s not even her.  Probably not.  Read it!

Are you my mother?
I read it.
It was not my mother.  Not today.  I don’t know if she was someone’s mother.  But, she has a mother.  And a head injury.

A deep breath. A quick spot check….feel my heart, touch my throat, fix my hair.  Exhale deeply. The adrenaline wears off slowly and the headache and fatigue creep in.

It wasn’t her today. I wonder if I’ll be sad when it is her? I mean, I’m ready for the call.  The fact that I haven received it already is a friggin’ miracle. Either that, or the Irish really are just lucky.  Am I so terrible that I wouldn’t cry when my own mother dies?  Baby diaper commercials and Olympic gymnastics make me cry.  I don’t even cry when I think my mother’s maybe dead.  I’m awful.

Six days before seeing this post, I’m sitting in a courtroom watching my mother stand there in handcuffs with missing teeth and a black eye…no tears.  I learned hugs, kisses and snuggles from this woman, and I called her “Mumma” when I was little.  I fought fiercely as an adolescent to live with her, because I never wanted her to be alone. I pretended everything was okay as a teenager, because I didn’t want her to be in trouble. She never makes eye contact with me.  Still, no tears.

What’s wrong with me?  I watched a court clinician recommend she be sent away for treatment. “Sectioned” they call it.  I can remember the name, intent, and number of several legislative directives, bills and regulations for work.  Yet, while watching a judge consider taking away the personal rights of the woman who gave birth to me, I don’t even care to inquire about what “Section” they’re referring to.  I don’t care and it doesn’t matter. At this moment I’m pretty sure she’s walking out of here, she always walks.

I’m wondering what she thought when she saw me.  I’ve seen her maybe 4 times in the last 5 years. Four times too many. I’ve spoken to her less.  Mentally, I’m planning the swift walk out to my car so that I don’t have an interaction with her.  It’s my luck that I’d be the one who gets arrested for punching her face after she says some dumb shit thing. Or breathes. (Totally normal thought, right?) That’s the kind of luck I have, though.  I’m not a junkie, have a career, own a house, pay out my ass in taxes, volunteer, no unpaid speeding tickets…and I’d be the ass-hole on the news for beating up an old lady.  So, yes, swift exit.  No one provokes a rage in me like that woman.

I’m hearing accounts of living conditions that sound like a special edition of Hoarders-meets-Pitbull Rescue-meets-Intervention. I’m not exaggerating. Crack pipes and needles strewn about. DUI cases, stealing money, no utilities, prostitutes and police. Not only am I not shocked, I’m still not crying.  She trying to defend herself and she’s speaking when she’s not supposed to.  I’m trying to determine if she pretending she’s okay and everything’s normal…or if she really thinks she’s normal.  I fear it’s the later.  She usually cries.  No tears.  From either of us.  I look at her and wonder if the court officers can smell abuse, cigarettes, dogs, vodka, neglect, rotten teeth and crack on her?  I want to apologize for her.  I’m feeling sorry for her.  There was a time when this woman didn’t leave the house unless her underwear matched the shoes, bag, heels and hat that she coordinated with a button down, belted dress. She hand-made gingham curtains to match the tablecloth and napkins in our kitchen.  If she could see this woman, my mother would be sad.  Maybe I’m not sad because I don’t even know who this woman is.

Are you my mother?  Where is that woman who braided my hair precisely?  Where’s the mom who let me slide into her bed to snuggle and was always so warm?  And she was beautiful and funny.  She had a smile that still had teeth in it.  She was like a magnet.  A crazy magnet, but people were drawn to her.

I understand the impact of drugs more than I understand drugs.  Most of the time, I have no empathy and no sympathy for people who can’t pull themselves up and just deal.  I don’t feel sorry for folks who don’t have a strong moral compass, and who’s grey line between right and wrong is more like a fucking canyon.  Even if it’s chemically induced.  I detest a person who makes choices and then whines about having to deal with consequences.  Cry at home, set your alarm, and get your ass to work like everyone else.  I hate people who play victim, and scheme.  I hate when people can’t handle their own shit.   I think dependence on people or substance is weak.

Occasionally though, I’m struck so uncontrollably with feelings, that it shocks even me. Most of the time I do actually hate this person.  I mean, seriously, I’ve had visions of reaching in and pulling her throat out.  Once, I mentally drove my car through the front of her house.  That’s normal, right? (If you’re thinking “oh, hate is such a strong word”, believe me I know. It’s actually not strong enough.  But I can grit my teeth and spit when I say it, so I like it.)  Sometimes I feel something, and the idea that she provokes something resembling a feeling-other than hate-makes me mad.  I still wonder who my mother is.  When she’s in trouble I always feel so bad for her.  She usually becomes child-like in her confusion and I feel guilty not rescuing.  Today, I’m just here to witness.

They took her away that day. “Up to 90-days”, they said.  I wanted to say that she was taken away a long time ago, but I didn’t say anything.  I don’t know who they took.

I closed Facebook.

Where is my mother?

If she hurt you, I’m sorry.  If she stole from you, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry she got so fucked up.  I think she maybe always was a little wild, but it was manageable and she was functional.  Until she met Dr. Feelgood.  I’m sure I still love her.  From way over here.  I just can’t help her.

Drugs and alcohol take people away. Loving and fun people are replaced with strangers who have similar traits. Their replacements are weak, sorry, vulnerable, in pain, and need help.

Drugs and alcohol take non-users, too. Their replacements are hard, tired, in pain, and need help. (Not me, though. I’ve totally got this. wink!) Seriously, I think I used to be nicer. And gentle.  And forgiving, and empathetic.  I trusted and gave second chances and I believed in change.  I don’t do a whole lot of that now.  Not that I don’t ever do it, I just don’t do it often.  I’m not blaming the addict, that’s my own shit.  Don’t go clicking the comment button to rip into me about the disease, or the gene, the effects of mental illness, or the lack of services.  In a stronger moment, I could probably speak in front of congress about the needs of mental health and substance abuse patients and families. So settle down social-work-warrior.

What I am saying is this…

No throats were yanked out.  No houses were driven through.
Senior citizens apparently DO do use heroin. And crack. So do children.
Help them if you can do it without hurting yourself, or your family. Help them until you can hardly help yourself.
Walk away when you know you have to.
Don’t judge other people when they do finally walk (or run screaming.) Not everyone can help.
Not everyone can be helped.
Epidemic is overused and we’re desensitized to it. We need a better word for ‘major fuck show of a drug problem’.