My mother died when I was relatively young, I was 23, and the year was 1977. She was 54 at the time, and I am now 58. The first few years after she died were horrible, I was so lost without her that I went on a drug and alcohol binge that lasted quite a long time, and much past the time it took me to get over her death. I guess there are other issues.
I loved my mother, and I try and remember all of the positive things about her, like how we used to dance the Polka as we watched the Lawrence Welk show every Sunday night, or how she taught me how to sew and make rice and beans and wash dishes properly.
She could also close one eye completely without moving any other muscle in her face. She had a great sense of humor and a lot of inner strength, which she tried to impart to me.
“You have to learn to take care of yourself, son; the world is a cruel hard place and your father and I won’t be around forever.” She was right about that, after she died my dad could barely take care of himself much less offer me any kind of guidance.
My mother was what used to be called “high-strung”- she yelled a lot and even hit us when things weren’t going her way. I once made a key lanyard for her out of colored vinyl strips we were given at school, I was 10 or 11, and it was an arts and crafts project, and the lanyard was a couple of feet long.
When I gave it to her she smacked it against her thigh once or twice and said, “Ah, perfect!” The lanyard became her favorite instrument of discipline, since it was shorter than a belt it didn’t double back on her and hurt her while she was swinging the way the belt did. I have to admit that she only used it when I did something particularly devious, like disappear for the whole day or go to Coney Island with my friends when I wasn’t supposed to leave the area in front of the building she could see from our 7th floor window.
I loved Mama, and I know she loved me, my brother, sister and foster sister. That she raised a difficult little girl like my foster sister, a being that came so damaged into our home at the age of 2 that there was never going to be any hope of redemption for her is a testament to my mother’s strength and love. I think my mother’s love was the only love this little girl ever knew or trusted in the 14 years she spent with us.
My mother smoked Kents in the bathroom while she read her sexology books, her only refuge from four screaming self-centered kids and an alcoholic husband, a man who gave her more than a few black eyes and even broke her arm once.
She didn’t cry when that happened, I was 12 and she got up off the floor and said, “Son, take me to the hospital.” I took her to Cumberland Hospital in Ft. Greene, where we waited for 4 hours for a doctor to set her arm. She did not shed a tear.
When she died 11 years later, it was at the same hospital. But by then she’d managed to make some of her own money and get enough control over her life that she’d kicked my dad out of the house a couple of times, gone to Puerto Rico on vacation with friends and taught us how to take care of ourselves, at least in a rudimentary manner. I always miss her, and I’ll never forget her. mother’s day, motherhood, alcoholism, drug addiction, relationships, death, love, family
Thank you, Roxy!
we would stand in front of the building, yelling MAAAaa Maa, our voice would riase up the seven
stories and sure enough Mom would apear poke her head out to see what her little sheep were
baaa-aaing about this time.
Thanks, Luis, that’s really nice.