My parents divorced when I was two years old and due to some miracle – and the fact that the woman who birthed me really is that shitty – my father was able to get custody of his two year old daughter, which was unheard of in Alabama in 1981.
Before I go any further, let me say that I don’t even know what to call this woman. She isn’t my mother other than in the biological sense and I would never refer to her as that. For the past several years, I’ve sarcastically called her my egg donor but even that rings false here. Honestly, I speak of her so infrequently that I rarely need to call her anything at all. For my purposes here, I’m just going to refer to her as R, the first letter of her given name. That’s really all I’ve got.
So, when I was young, my dad was awarded custody and R had standard visitation rights. But she didn’t avail herself of them – unless there was a new boyfriend or fiance that needed to see her adorable little daughter.
I remember seeing her sporadically when I was very small, I remember her remarrying and having another baby, and then I remember her just going away.
More than my memories of where she was, though, are the memories of where a mother was not:
She was not at any of the Mother’s Day functions at my elementary school; she wasn’t there to help me buy my first bra; she wasn’t there when I came from school with problems a dad couldn’t understand; she wasn’t there when I was having my babies (thank God for great nurses who were like family those days); she wasn’t there for the everyday things that really matter.
Despite her absence, I was very well loved by my Grandmother and aunt and other wonderful women.
But there is no way to explain the hurt a child feels when their mother has chosen to leave.
Of course, as a child, I didn’t understand the kind of person I was dealing with in R.
All of that said, R has been on my mind this past Mother’s Day weekend, not for the sad childhood memories, but because of a few more recent ones, and also because there really is a happy ending to this story.
This weekend, I saw this incredible article about mothers in the delivery room with their daughters while they were giving birth:
And I remembered, for the first time in many years, that I do have an OB memory of R.
I ran into her, as an adult, when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, Laura, at the OB/GYN’s office. And she too was pregnant. With her fourth (or fifth?) child. Jerry Springer, anybody? And she recognized me. And she wanted to talk. And BE FRIENDS.
I had a panic attack. The OB staff literally had to escort me out the back door. She even had to audacity to call my father’s house a few weeks later. That went as well as you might think.
And then she went away again, thanks be to God.
However, when my Grandmother passed away, her sister, who really is a lovely person, contacted me on Facebook and wanted to be friends. I had no problem with that, making it clear that R was to stay far away from me.
And then her sister’s kids, who I still remembered from my childhood, wanted to be friends. And that was fine.
And then one day I got a long message from my “sister,” one of R’s children.
And that was NOT fine.
I felt her closing in and I flipped.
I promptly blocked them all and cut all ties, even though it isn’t their fault.
That is R’s collateral damage, not mine.
Because, what I learned from all of the hurt that she did cause by leaving, is that she would have caused so much more by staying. She is not the kind of person that I would ever allow in my family’s life, so I know now that I was protected by not having had her in mine.
The hurt that I felt was for not having a loving, present mother – and she would not have been that, even if she had stayed.
And, now, I have not one, but two, amazing loving moms – and if you think you need your mom less as an adult, just wait. I think God saved the best for now and I can’t imagine doing life without them.
And, because of what I experienced, I love my tribe hard, I’m stronger, I have extra love and compassion for people experiencing tough times, I’m more independent, and I’m truly grateful for my people.
So, thank you, R, for hitting the door when you did. Best of luck to you and yours.
Me and mine are excellent (thanks for not asking).