On a day meant to honor all mothers and the special bond they create with their offspring, I can’t partake in the celebration. Instead, it’s just another day spent waiting. For many reasons, some I know, some I will never know, my mother has been a nonexistent entity in my life. The good and loving memories I have of her and of us, ceased twenty some years ago.
I have a picture though. It captures one memory, frozen in time, that bears witness to a moment we were together and she and I were happy. There was love there. I can see it in her eyes as she looks at me and it radiates from my smile.
We’re both standing in the kitchen of the house I grew up in. I’m elbow deep in ground beef and seasonings. She is teaching me to make meatballs, one of her own recipes. I’m wearing a white apron with a blue shirt. My hair was jet black then, shining like raven feathers. My smile is huge, displaying an array of mismatched teeth. I’m standing on a little wooden stool so that I’m tall enough to reach the counter. My mother is looking down at me, her hands covered in ground beef too. She’s smiling down at me.
This is what I remember.
We had food and a love for cooking. She read me Stephen King books at night even though I was too young for them. She taught me things about nature, about wolves, about Native Americans. She would show me things about crystals and stones, colors of candles and their meanings, of animals and their strengths, and celebrations different from the ones we recognized as Catholics. I was able to donate money every year to adopt a wolf to help their cause. I couldn’t wait to get the post card in the mail showing which wolf was chosen for us to sponsor. She traveled across the state to take me to Pow Wows. She knew how much I wanted to learn and to see about Native American culture first hand. She created and designed elaborate Halloween costumes because it was our favorite holiday. She would wake me up in the middle of the night if a thunder storm came rolling in. She’d wrap us both in a blanket and we’d sit on the porch to watch the lightning show.
I can’t tell you the day where it all disappeared. I don’t know when exactly. Addiction has a funny way of destroying things that once were great. It breaks down bonds like a chemical reaction. The makeup of a person: their physical being, the psychological state, their emotional response, it decomposes like a body until the person that once was, becomes unrecognizable.
It used to be a day filled with anger and resentment.
A day of longing for something that once was but might never be again.
The mourning of a mother still roaming this Earth.
A heartbreak for those daughters and sons who would give anything for just one more day with their mother when mine is alive but gone at the same time.
As you grow older, life happens. You learn a thing or two. One of those things is forgiveness. The other is truth. One not more important than the other.
John Marshall III writes in The Lakota Way, “Sometimes truth is like the wind. You can’t see it, but you can see the effect it has.”
He also said, “Truth consists of two parts: that which is given and that which is accepted. The truth is sometimes painful, but without it, there is only illusion.”
I have tried every which way to excuse, explain, justify, forget, accept, resolve, and hide my mother’s actions. To pretend to the outside world that our relationship was just like any other. I would drive myself insane trying to figure out what I could do to make her want to be a part of my life, desperate to decode exactly where I went wrong. What did I do? How can I fix it? I hate her. I hate myself. I spend countless days confused and broken down.
In attempts to try anything to make it work, I behaved in ways that were nothing more than a forced and unauthentic version of the mother-daughter dynamic that should happen naturally. Saying things I thought she wanted to hear. Doing things I thought would keep her coming back to me. Getting only glimpses of her, pieces of her, lingering long enough to keep me holding on for dear life only to have her cut the rope that tied us together, sudden and abrupt. She’d disappear again and I’d fall into the nothing.
It was a mockery.
It was a fantasy.
I was only creating my illusion, void of any truth.
To move on, one must accept the truth. It is the only way to begin walking the path of forgiveness and enlightenment. The truth is, my mother stopped mothering long ago. She does not wish to know me, the real me, because she is afraid. I am the carrier of truth. She holds tight to the illusion. It is what keeps her safe. It is what numbs the pain. If she ever acknowledged the truth, it might crush her in ways unimaginable. She cannot fathom the thought that I accept the truth and with it, forgiveness. I forgive you mom. Whether it was circumstances beyond your control, or those you had all control over, or even an accumulation of the two, I still love you. I always have.
The truth doesn’t have to be damning. It can set you free. It allows you to accept that which was and move on to what could be. But your illusion keeps you trapped down in your rabbit hole. You are Alice stuck in a realm that doesn’t exist. You don’t want to wake up.
A long time ago, there was a mother who taught her daughter to make meatballs.
She had a light that shone brighter than the lightning forged in night skies.
She danced to Native American songs.
She protected her children like a wolf to her pups.
I am here waiting for you. I am always waiting.