From as far back as I can remember, she hated me.
She never made me breakfast or lunch. Cooked dinner was a rarity. Midnight fast food runs were more common.
When she looked at me, it was always with anger and she never spoke softly. She was loud, harsh and mean. She often slapped me in the face just for breathing. She made me her personal servant. “Go get me this, get me that”. Years ago, kids were allowed to buy cigarettes. I was her cigarette runner, neighbor-sugar-borrower and everything else. I was scared of her. I lived like a mouse whenever she was around. She was an alcoholic and drug addict. The alcohol caused her to be even more cruel with her words. The drugs caused her to be absent in my presence.
When she left me alone, I would spend hours listening to her tapes on an 8-track player given to me by my grandmother. It was all old-school soul music. I would replay them over and over again and write down the lyrics so I could memorize them and sing along. Music was both my joy and escape.
On my birthdays, I was always alone. No cake, no presents, no friends and no family. She would sometimes make me a handmade card and apologize that she did not have any money to get me anything. “Maybe next year” she always wrote.
When I left her, it was to save myself. She never took the role of protecting me and my father (more on the old man) was not there to assume that role either. I cut her completely out of my life for five years and when I allowed her back in, she would only contact me for money. I gave her anything I could. Money, cars and more. I let her know I would be there to help her get her life back on track. I could see she was trying. The truth was I just wanted her to love me. My mom.
It took me a long time to realize she was using me. Once I had my first child I cut her out of my life again. She apologized for all she had done or not done. I was in the throes of revisiting ‘forgiveness’ and once I accepted who she was and how she had no obligation to meet my ideal of her, I was able to set and communicate boundaries to allow her to be in my children’s lives. It took a lot of work but I truly had forgiven her. It was what she wanted. Needed. A second chance.
It has taken years for us to work the kinks out. Meaning, it took her years to realize that to be in their lives she had to change her behavior, even if only for the time she was spending with them.
In the last year, since she has found out about my decision to divorce, she has continued to evolve herself as a ‘mother’ and grandmother. She ‘found’ G-d a few years ago and she has started calling me on the phone to check in and read me uplifting scriptures from the bible. She tells me she is proud of me. Tells me she can’t imagine raising four children because she could not raise two (my brother). True pity and sorrow comes through her voice.
My heart is not completely open to her so I don’t express my deepest emotions. I likely never will. It is not a matter of forgiveness that I shield my heart from her. It is a matter of protection from having trust broken too many times. I love her but she cannot be trusted with my heart.
However, I don’t want to be pitied so I tell her the truth. It is hard. It’s not what I planned or envisioned, but His plans are greater than mine and “To whom much has been given…” My expectation is that we will thrive and be joyful, regardless of what pain, sorrow or confusion I may be sitting in at any given time.
She laughs, again tells me she is proud of me, thanks me for everything I’ve done for her, calls me an old soul and ends our call with “I love you”.
What am I grateful for?
- Understanding that souls can only meet you where they are in this life, parents included.
- Appreciating and accepting everyone where they are without idealizing where I feel or think they should be.
- Realizing that the love I thought I lacked as a child was an illusion and understanding that I am love.
- Knowing that the path to expressing love and the path to accepting love is everything except straight.