My relationship with my mom was a weird one.
Nontraditional, you could say.
She was never married to my father. They had a short fling, and I was conceived. She decided to have me as a single young woman with the support of her parents and sisters. When I arrived, I hope I made her feel like she was loved, but I don’t know if that was the case.
She had her tubes tied right after my birth. She was 23 years old and knew she wouldn’t want to go through that again. My birth certificate marked father unknown.
Our relationship was tumultuous from day one. I needed her to be a mother, and she needed her next drink or drug.
To be honest, a lot of the time I felt like I got in the way, but of course, there were times where I felt in my heart that she truly loved me and wanted the best for me.
Having an alcoholic for a mother is a tough road to trudge. You never know who you are going to get: fun drunk mom or mean drunk mom; passed-out-in-bed-with-a-cigarette drunk mom or let’s-go-get-some-McDonalds drunk mom.
When my mom died at 55, I hadn’t seen her in a year. She was newly sober and had moved out of state to date a new man.
Her sobriety didn’t last, she met a different guy, and they lived in a hotel for the last year of her existence, drinking into oblivion.
We talked occasionally, but I was a mom, myself, with a full work life and in a way, felt abandoned by my one close family member. I couldn’t always trust her, and I worried all the time that she would be asking for money or need something I couldn’t provide.
As a child of an alcoholic, when the phone rings there is always panic and dread.
When I finally did get the phone call that she had been found dead in a hotel room, I was seven-months pregnant and sitting on the stairs of the place I was moving out of. I heard the news and the tears fell. The crying was real, but over the years, as people would say they were sorry for the loss of my mom, I would say, “It’s okay, we weren’t really that close. She was an alcoholic.”
A mother and her child’s relationship is supposed to be full of love, nurturing, and bonding. As I continued to grow privy to my mom’s addiction and where I stood on her proverbial totem pole, I began to recede in my showing of affection for fear of rejection. I began to see myself as something on the back burner.
My respect for her began to wane, and I began to rebel and commit to being nothing like her. By my teens and tweens, there were full-on fights and screaming matches. I fought against the love I wish I had received, and it was too late for her to reconcile.
I wouldn’t be able to let anyone get close to my heart for a long time, especially any type of motherly figure.
My mom has been gone for over a decade, but, weirdly, I still wish I could pick up the phone to call her. There is something about being able to be real with someone that knows you and loves you unconditionally (even though she wasn’t always able to show it).
When the holidays come, I still struggle. I miss the way I wish it could have been, the mother I could’ve had, the love and camaraderie I could’ve felt—I grieve for what never was.
I try to instill traditions in my own family and be the mother I wish I could’ve had, but sometimes, it’s hard to do for others what was never done for you. I get jealous of seeing others with quality mothers and families. I long to feel connected to a mother. I think about my own and wonder why it had to be this way.
I get it some now. I can see the gratitude I feel in my own life, for being one to break the cycle of addiction and abusive relationships, but I still need to acknowledge the hurt of being left by someone too soon.
The relief surpasses the sadness in a way. The inevitable phone call had come, and now I could move on with my own life and not wait for it anymore. The loss, like any, left a gaping hole of what could have been, but over time, it has become more manageable.
I do feel orphaned in my 40s, with no parents or siblings. I do envy others’ family dynamics. I do worry about “being left alone” and not having anyone left.
I do, sometimes, hope she is looking out for me, rooting for me down here. I do, sometimes, feel her inside giving me a nudge toward this or that.
It makes me feel more passionate when sharing about the effects of alcoholism, and how it can take a life too soon—like, my mother.
Even if we weren’t very close.