Saturday, May 9, 2009

On Mother's Day....

Firstly, I do wish a Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there. I hope your partners bought you something nice, and I hope your kids bring you breakfast in bed, even if it's only a box of PopTarts.

As for me, Mother's Day is simply a reminder of the fact that I haven't seen or spoken to my mother in over 10 years. I have been motherless for almost 30 years. As I sit here now, I don't notice any adverse results from having finished childhood without a mother, but I would be the last one to recognize those results, anyway.

My early childhood was rather idyllic, looking back. My younger brother and I had an intact family until I was about 10, at which point things started going wrong. At the time, it appeared that my parents were fighting over my mother wanting to go out and get a parttime job. Dad would have none of that, and the squabbling began. It got to the point that my mother decided to move out.

Although we loved both of our parents, at that age, we were actually more attached to Dad; our mother was somewhat emotionally unstable; quick to anger and fling shoes at us if we were out of reach. Dad, although a strict disciplinarian, was more tolerant of our goofing around, and certainly much more evenkeeled. So, when she decided to move out, we chose to stay with Dad in the house. We opted for the calmness of Dad, along with the fact that we could live in the same house and go to the same schools, and not disrupt our lives any more than necessary.

While my brother and I were making our decision, Dad was enforcing his will on his wife, telling her that she wasn't getting custody of us no way, no how. She really didn't have much choice, really; Dad was a formidable opponent. If she wanted out, she was leaving emptyhanded. And so she left. For the next 2-3 years, she moved back in several times, but it never worked out, and she left for good before I started high school. So, for those years, it was just Dad, my brother and I in the house, sans any female influence whatsoever. However, Dad was still hooked on Mom; for him, she was his thunderbolt.

Late during my freshman year in college, I had occasion to run into her at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. We met by happenstance in the parking lot. She came over to my car and we chatted for awhile; I hadn't seen her in about 5 years, so I was catching her up on the fact that I'd graduated high school and was now attending UCLA. At some point, the discussion turned to my father, and she said that she still had Dad wrapped around her finger, and could move back in with him in a heartbeat. That really pissed me off; so I told her that although she had Dad wrapped, I wasn't, and if she set foot in the house, I would find a way to "fuck her under". Her response was galvanic; she burst into tears, bolted out of the car, and headed into the mall.

I sat there for a moment, pondering what I had done. I then went into the mall to find her. I just started walking, knowing that the odds of finding her were minimal at best. However, 50-60 yards in front of me was a large crowd of people. I knew my emotional mom was in the middle of that scrum, so I jogged over there. And sure enough, she was prone on her back, with a rent-a-cop tending to her. I pushed my way thru, telling people that it was my mother on the ground. She saw my face, pointed to me, and yelled, "He's not my son!!!!". That was all I needed to hear; I turned around and walked away.

Later that year, while I was off at school, my parents remarried. I came home from school for winter break, only to find the house redecorated in a very distinctive way. I opened the door, and my parents walked down the stairs. Dad said, "I've got something to tell you....". I interrupted him and told him "Don't tell me, let me guess; you got remarried." They nodded in affirmance. I congratulated them and said, "Well, you guys are adults, so I presume you know what you're doing. I hope it works out". In my mind, I gave them 6 months. They didn't even make it that far.

I didn't see my mother again until the year I turned 30. By then, I had been in the PD's office for a couple of years, Dolores and I had been dating for almost the same amount of time, and things were good. I was looking forward to turning 30, and I was in a good place in my life. But, the one loose end was my mom. I still felt poorly about how things had ended between us, and I wanted to apologize. So, I went to Costa Mesa, to the last place I knew where she worked. She was still working there, and I was directed to her. She was blown away to see me, and we chatted for a few minutes. She got permission to leave work early, and we drove to her apartment. I caught her up on my life, and invited her to dinner. At dinner, we continued talking about my college and law school years, and what I was doing in the PD's office. Finally, I told her that I was apologizing for the way I had treated her 11 years prior. I told her that, at 30, I had a much better understanding about why the marriage fell apart, and that I felt that she did the best job she could under the circumstances. She appreciated the apology. Then, I told her, that although I've let all of the past go, I had been without a mother for so long that there really was no place for her in my life. I had no interest in trying to fake a relationship that simply didn't exist. So, it was very unlikely that I would ever contact her again. She didn't like hearing that, but offered no resistance. I drove her home and said goodbye.

That was 12 years ago. As I write this, I have no idea if she is alive or not. I have no idea where she is. And Mother's Day is tomorrow. So, I hope all of you have a great Mother's Day, but please forgive me if I sit this one out, OK?


FC said...

You come off a little heartless in that piece, partly because you didn't tell the whole story. You remember more of it than I do, so it's yours to tell or not tell. As the other participant in this little drama, I'll just point out to your other readers, in a show of solidarity, that this wasn't a solitary occurrence, that my own participation in the annual celebrations of our parents ended before yours did. And they both had it coming.

And herein lies the lesson for you mothers and fathers out there. Don't let the obsession with Bakugan fool you. Your children see and remember far more than they can process or contextualize. But that doesn't mean that they don't see it and won't remember it. And they're keeping score. Your relationship with them as they get older is going to be a direct result of the way you treat them now. And you might not be replaceable, but the role you take in your child's life is.

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