When I was a little girl, my life was picture perfect. A loving mother and father who doted on my every whim. I wasn’t spoiled, but I didn’t go without.
My father owned his own floor covering business. He was well known throughout our city for his exceptional work.
My mother was a stay-at-home mom who gardened and always included me in her day to day activities, whether it be grocery shopping, cleaning, visiting friends or taking my father lunch while on the job. The three of us were inseparable.
I can remember my mother rocking me in her arms and telling me how much she loved me and singing to me randomly throughout the day. She would always share her wisdom with me each day and somehow make it fun even when it was a very serious subject.
Both of my parents are deceased now, but I will never forget what they did for me and who they were.
Actually, the above isn’t true.
Well, some of it is.
My life was picture OK. I had a good life. I’m pretty sure I had a loving mother, and I know I had a loving father. My father raised me after my mother passed away when I was 11 months old.
I never knew her. Not in the sense that I can draw upon memories of her on my own accord. Everything about my father was true AND my father did everything for me that I described my mother having done for me. He was my mother as well.
He cooked meals, visited friends with me in tow, and gardened. Imparted little tidbits on how to survive life the best way he knew how. He sang to me and rocked me to sleep when I had bad dreams.
The two of us were inseparable.
You may be asking yourself why I made that stuff up. Partly because it’s just the way I chose to begin this blog piece. Partly because it’s the fairytale life I envision every child wanting. Some have it. It’s just what I think of when I imagine a picture perfect life as a child.
Several months ago I started trying to find my mother’s side of the family. There are some secrets that I have been dying to uncover for a while now, but those are for another post, another day.
I joined ancestry.com and started a family tree. I entered information on both my father and mother. Within minutes I had over two hundred hints for my father’s family.
On my mother’s side? For two weeks, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Fucking not a thing. Disheartening, to say the least.
My father was 51 when I was born and my mother 33. She passed away at 34 with three other children left behind as well.
All of my relatives on my father’s side are gone except my aunt who is 90. Nobody is still alive on my mother’s side except my two brothers and a sister. They don’t speak to me. I’m toxic, so they say.
Even though I had found my seventh great-grandfather on my paternal side, I still wasn’t as excited as I thought I would be.
I finally figured it out.
A week into my search for answers, a fellow blogger happened to ask me where my mom was from. I told her about a little town in backwoods Tennessee.
Lo and behold, she’s from there as well, or at least has family members and friends from there. She shared a post asking for anyone in the area who may have known my mother to please contact me.
I was so grateful when several people came out of the woodwork saying they had known my mother and my grandmother!
I have some pictures of my mom. Seven to be exact. After meeting this woman, I saw more pictures of my mother in twenty-four hours than I’d ever seen before.
One of the most amazing things is that I have had the pleasure of speaking via messenger with a woman who knew my mother and grandmother. KNEW them. Like, is in the school annuals with her. My mother even SIGNED one of her pictures in the yearbook.
When I say doors were opened and a piece of my heart had been ignited that I didn’t know existed, I mean it. My mind was constantly abuzz with thoughts about my mother for days.
“She did the best she could in the ’60’s. Finding a man and marrying young was often the only way out for a young lady back then.”
“Your mother was beautiful and I see her in you!”
“You should be proud of your heritage!”
Then a pivotal moment occurred. I had come home from work for a full week and had heard nothing new about my mother — not from my new “friends” or the internet. I did send a couple of pictures of my son and myself to the nice women, but no reply back. It seemed as if the novelty of my mother had disappeared.
I realize I sound bitter and ungrateful that these women gave me so much more in those few days than my own blood family has during my entire life.
I am bitter.
The moment came when I finally let go of all the sadness and allowed myself to hurt.
I was with my boyfriend one evening, having dinner and enjoying a Netflix binge. Walking to my truck, I suddenly found myself holding back a river of tears.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I don’t buy that.”
I was doing my best not to cry. He noticed my sagging shoulders. The gentle tremble of my body as the tears became more steadfast. He sat in the passenger seat of my truck, closed the door, and took my hand.
“I wish I could help you feel better.”
“It’s OK. It’s nothing you or I did wrong. I don’t know what it is.”
He hugged me and I promised to call if I needed him.
As I was driving home, an emotion I’d never felt hit me. I wouldn’t know exactly what it was until I called him from my truck after parking in front of my house.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I think I know what’s wrong with me. What has been wrong with me the past couple of days,” I said to him.
Revelation: “I am so fucking pissed off at my mother,” I said between clenched teeth. “How could she just die and leave me with nothing?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“She was dying of cancer before she even gave birth to me, and I know she was sad about leaving me because the day before she died, the nurse’s notes I have from the hospital describe how she was fearful of dying and leaving a baby behind, but she left me nothing. Nothing! She made my dad promise that he would raise me and make sure I was OK and not abandon me, but she didn’t even think to leave me with anything to remind me of her. Except the crappy stories I’ve heard about her second-hand from family members. If she were standing in front of me right now, I would yell at her. I would cuss her out. I would hit her if I could.”
I’ve never felt this way about my mother.
I’ve always thought if she were to miraculously come to me in a dream, as a ghost in my room at night, I’d tell her how much I love her. How sorry I was that she didn’t live long enough to get to know me or her grandson. How she would be so proud to know that we had the same sense of humor she did. That we also possessed the same caring and loving personality.
Except sitting in my truck at that moment, I didn’t think of her as caring, loving, or anything nice. I saw her as a selfish woman who didn’t care one bit about her last child, the daughter who was barely learning to pull up and stand with the help of her hospital bed when her father brought her to visit.
By that time I was full on sobbing in my truck. The wind was blowing hard and I was wishing it would just blow all these fucking feelings away. I didn’t want to know her anymore.
I hated my mom. There, I said it. I hated her at that moment.
“If I were to die tomorrow, Jacob would know who I was. He would have so many pictures of me and so many people who would tell him about me until he was SICK of hearing it. I guarantee if I knew I was dying and had 11 months plus to prepare, I’d give Jacob something to remember me by. Not my fucking mom. She was a selfish bitch!”
There was silence on the other end for several minutes. Then he spoke.
“You don’t know what your mom was thinking, sweetie. She was probably scared.”
“I know that! I can’t imagine, but to leave me without anything to remember her by?”
Here’s the killer part to me.
“It has been so hard for me to find anything out about her or that side of my family all these years, and now all of the sudden people are coming out of the woodwork telling me about my mom. Jacob would never have to wonder about me. Good or bad. He’d know.”
“I’m pissed,” I stated after a long silence. “Fuck her.”
“I’m sorry. I wish I could help, but I think you need to feel this. To realize this,” he said quietly.
That’s how my night ended before I walked into my house.
I love my mom. I really do even though I don’t know her.
That night, though, was a breakthrough. I think.
I have never truly grieved for the loss of my mother. I have always consoled people when they apologize for bringing her up unknowingly.
“I didn’t know her! It’s OK!”
It’s not OK. I’m finally going through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, and damn it if it isn’t hard to mourn the loss of somebody you never even knew.