About 5 years ago, via Facebook, I had the amazing experience of being contacted by siblings I never realized existed (of course except for one, only because I managed to be given a photo of Aaron when he was young, and had to drag the information from my dad about him). I never in a million years believed that I would ever find Aaron, or that he would ever know about me, and yet, in some strange twist of fate, the ball was rolling and not only was I contacted by Aaron, but also with a sister Sharon, and another brother, Michael. These past five years have been unbelievable. I’ve managed to get my hands on social services paperwork with details about my mother’s life that seems to be, to this day, top secret information. It’s amazing how family secrets work. It’s amazing that 40 years later, people still keep silent, even though the information couldn’t possibly do any harm. I’ve learned things about my mother’s life that make me very sad: sad for us, sad for her… sad for her siblings.
My mom was one of 12 children. My mom spent her life running from relationships with people; in my father’s words, “she couldn’t allow anyone to love her”. I know in my heart, and from records I have read, that the suggestion is that she did not have a very healthy childhood or upbringing. She was gone from her family home by age 14. She gave birth to her first child by 16.
There are 5 of us all together. My mother wasn’t well loved by anyone who should have loved her, and it seems that to this day, none of her family really has much to say about her, good or bad.
She didn’t leave behind a beautiful story, no one to share fond memories of her, and in five years time I have not heard one story from anyone who knew her about who she was, or what kind of person she was, other than my cousin who seemed to really love her, but was forbidden from seeing her and had to sneak around to do so.
So I’m going to share what I remember of her…
I remember speaking to my mom on the phone from time to time as a small child. I never really remembered spending time with her, because she was back in London by the time I was 2. Never once did anyone in my dad’s family say ONE cross word about her. I still to this day don’t understand how they managed to withhold so much about her, but I cannot even begin to express the gratitude I have to everyone around me as a child to have kept that to themselves. I know it took a lot of strength and discipline to do that, and you did it for our sake, so as not to poison our minds to her.
I ‘met’ my mom for the first time when I went to London around age 14 or so… It was an eye opening experience… We ended up fighting, she had me picked up by police, and that was the last time I saw her. I returned to the states not long after. But in that time I was there, I remember moments with her, the way she spoke, her behaviors, things she told me about how much she missed her father… and I was able to realize that she was just this lost little girl inside.
I spoke to my mom last when I was 19. I remember telling her that I needed her to keep in contact with me, let me know she was ok, where she was, what she was doing. She promised she would do that… and then I never heard from her again. I know now that my mother died as she lived…. Alone. With no one there to hold her, she just dropped dead of a heart attack in the shop… purchasing alcohol… her favorite demon. The one she ran to in order to erase the memories of the loss of her father, her family, her children, the one that numbed her from feeling empty and worthless.
I’ve been told that in her final years she expressed the desire to see us all together, but I know that she didn’t try it because she feared rejection from us too. Her ashes were tossed into the wind in a cemetery, with no marker to even show she was there, because even the man she lived with at the time couldn’t be bothered to mark the site where she rests, and I’m certain almost no one cares she’s there.
But I care. This woman is my mother. She gave birth to me… she gave birth to five of us… four of which have managed to bond, talk, share secrets, feelings, and our love for each other. We are all so similar to each other that it’s almost unreal. Our children are similar. We look alike. We’ve lived very similar lives. And we’ve managed to meet cousins, aunts, uncles, and many other people we would have never known. Because of a woman whose family despises her so much they won’t even speak her name?
How ironic is it… that such a wasted life could bring so many people together in this way. A woman who believed she was unlovable, worthless, and a waste managed to leave this legacy. I choose to remember her in this way, even if no one else will. Now after several years of tears and listening to the anger and questions, I have been able to spend such precious moments bonding with my siblings and being able to share this connection with them. I’ve been able to watch my sister closely and be reminded of the way my mother laughed and smiled, and how she was when she was sober and pleasant to be around. I’ve been able to wrap my arms around them and tell them that I love them, and video chat with Aaron and listen to his laugh and see the gleam in his eyes when he talks to me. I’ve been able to hear Michael tell me about his upbringing, his children, and his experiences and travels in life.
My mother gave us this. And though we missed out on so many years to know each other, we have each other now.
It’s not my place to lay judgment on my mom. I know that she made the decisions she made for a reason and like the rest of us parents, she did the very best she could for us with what she had… and she can’t give her side of the story, she cannot defend herself. I know in my heart she did what she thought was right at the time. And honestly, isn’t that all we can ask of anyone?
I stood in my kitchen in tears yesterday while cooking dinner, wishing I could just have her for another day to tell her how sorry I was, and that I loved her and wanted her here and well. I want to be able to tell her that I wish she had been brave enough to find us all when she was here, and how much I wish she had the opportunity to meet all of our children and our children’s children. And that there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her, and wonder how different things could have been.
No matter how insignificant you feel your life is, you must realize the effect you have on so many others. Live your days like they’re your last, think of what kind of impression you’ll leave behind. Don’t be afraid to say what you need to, right now. One day it will be too late.