Happy Birthday Mom

Today would have been my Mom’s birthday. She would have been 64 if she did not lose her battle with alcoholism.

I had something else written out, but as I prepared to post, it did not feel right. It felt too seriously, so instead I decided to share some of my favorite stories of her.

I brought her to see Bad Grandpa and she thought Johnny Knoxville was the funniest thing ever. I thought she was going to be offended but she died laughed.

She broken her femur before I was born. The hospital tried to take her pants with hospital shears. She told then they were not going to cut her goddamn Levi’s off and proceeded to get them off.

She loved our dog Birdie. She treated her like her first grandchild. There were always treats and new toys for Birdie when we visited. Bird was allowed to drool on everyone, jump on furniture and reign general chaos. One time me and my now husband caught Mom feeding Birdie half of a steak. We let them have their moment.

Most importantly she was the first person to believe in my writing. She believed in me before I did. She told me I had a gift with words, and encouraged me to keep writing. More than anything, that has stayed with me.

My Mom had a strong, stubborn, loving personality. Much of my strength and tenacity comes from her. I am proud to be her daughter and carry those traits into my life. She was an alcoholic, but first and foremost she was a person. A person that I deeply love.

Happy Birthday Mom.

Hindsight 20/20

When I look back at old pictures of you it is bittersweet.

 I have an entire album of pictures of you. I felt a protective pull over those photo albums. It was all I had left of you. Looking backwards makes me smile.  In those pictures, you look healthy and happy. Well dressed. Being held by loving parents. Surrounded by friends. You look like the stereotypical American child.

You had no idea what was coming. How your choices would come to shape your life. How your addiction would come to shape mine.

Unfortunately I saw the tragedy of your life unfold. I watched you claw at the edges of addiction unable to escape. I was shaped within the dysfunction brought forth by your addiction. I was there at the unfortunate ending. I watched Alcoholism end your life.

It still hurts in many ways I struggle to put words to. There are memories that I am not ready to unpack yet.

I don’t know where your addiction started. That was one of the many secrets you took with you. In the wake of your death, I have come to terms with living with the unknown. There are things that we will never know, because of your silence.

There is nothing I can do about the past. It is done.  Looking back at my childhood with anger, does nothing, but hurt me. I can hold you accountable, and still find it in my heart to forgive you. within healing I can stop this pain from continuing forward to my children.

In the end, I think that is the best gift I can give all of us.

Complicated Grief

After My Mom passed away, my emotions were complicated.

We lost her on a rainy day at the end of June. I still remember the rain on my face, as I ran down the driveway. Running by the ambulance in the driveway. The group of people gathered there speaking in low voices. Walking into that living room, and the jolting moment when my life was split into a before and after.

Losing my Mother left me with a deep sadness.  The grief that follows the death of a parent is difficult to explain. It is permanently pulls from your own childhood. In the aftermath, you are faced to face your own mortality in an intimate way. As a young child, you believe that your parent is invincible. When that is proved wrong, it changes you.

 Yet there were other feelings too. In the days following her death, I developed a deep sense of closure. A heavy weight that I had been carrying my entire life was lifted. It felt good but was at odds with what a daughter is supposed to feel after her Mother’s death. I kept those complex thoughts and feelings hidden. I did not want to be judged. It was easier for me to sit and nod at the condolences.  Yet as I listened to mourner’s kind words, I became uncomfortable. Our life as a family was being idealized. There was more to the story, and it felt like that uncomfortable truth was being ignored.

Healing and time have given me a deeper understanding of my mindset.  Those complicated feelings were valid given my childhood environment. Living with someone in active addiction is a nightmare.

I was 24 years old, when my Mom passed away. She struggled with Alcohol the entire time that I knew her. Our relationship was unpredictable, confusing and painful. There were days I could feel her love deeply. There were also nights where I feel asleep crying, hating her.

When she was sober it was a mixed bag. Some days were good.  Where there was warm food and a smile waiting for me when I got home. Where I felt loved and cared for. It would never las though.  The longer she went without drinking, the more rigid things became. She would snap at us for being late to dinner or laughing too loud. She had lost control of her life due to addiction. She compensated for that by exerting an iron will on us. It made life suffocating and unbearable.

 Yet that was still better than the alternative. When Mom drank, she was a monster. She would blame us for things, invade our privacy, and scream for hours on end. In high school I would hang out at school, avoiding going home. When I got a cell phone, she called me constantly. I did not pick up, she left screaming voicemails. Our entire life as a family revolved around the uncertainty of her addiction.
For years we knew that her death was inevitable. She drank close to 30 beers and smoked an entire pack of cigarettes in a day. She was running herself into the ground. It was hard, but we knew that it was only a matter of time. You cannot cheat death indefinitely. It catches up with you.

When it happened, there was part of me that was ready.  I had been thinking about it deeply for years. Mentally preparing myself so that when I was faced with it, it did not hurt as much. My reaction to her death surprised me though. I had expected the pain, but not the relief.

Yet looking back, I understand why I felt that relief. Life close to an alcoholic is hard. Her death closed out a difficult part of my life. I no longer had to worry about what I would walk in on at my parents’ house. The fights were over. I would never have to call 911 when my parents got violent.  I did not have to prepare for her cruel words. Or worry that she would get behind the wheel of a car and kill someone. That vicious dynamic was finally at an end. It makes sense that I felt relief.

I understand it, but it is still hard to share that.  I worry that people will judge me for it because it is hard to understand. We are not supposed to feel a sense of relief that our parents are no longer here. I usually keep it secret because it is easier. I still feel a certain sense of guilt for it. despite our differences, and her addiction, I loved My Mom. People do not understand the complicated nature of coming from that legacy of addiction.
But I have come to understand that my feelings are valid. They make sense. They are part of me.
I miss her deeply. There are moments when I feel her loss deep within my bones. When I silently cry in my car, wishing I could hear her voice again. Yet I also feel a sense of relief. That I no longer have live within that dysfunction. That that pain and dysfunction is done. That she is no longer in pain.  I am thankful that now I get to look towards the future.

There is peace and healing now. I miss her deeply. But there is a sense of closure and relief.

I have realized there is room in my life for both.