Today my sister posted a bit on her social media of “In Loving Memory of My Mother…” We had the same mother, but different fathers. Sometimes, when I read her posts, I wonder if we did even though I know factually, we both rented the same womb for nine months. I was earlier than my sister by eight years. My mother was twenty when she had me. My entire childhood from birth until six years was supervised by my grandmother (who adopted my mother unbeknownst to me). My mother often complained loudly how having me ruined her life and now she would never amount to anything. My grandmother tried hard to impress upon her that she could indeed support herself and me. Hell, she offered to buy her an inn that she could rent out and make a living from. She offered to pay for college. No, my mother would prefer to bemoan her situation and wallow in her pathetic self pity.
My mother was a parasitic louse on society. She worked exactly two jobs her entire life for a total of four years. I have worked more hours than my mother ever did. I have also lived longer than her by a few months and I’m not even forty.
From the age of twenty until twenty-six, my formative years you could say, she stayed at her mother’s home smoking cigarettes (with me being a severe asthmatic) and whining that she couldn’t go out to drink. Her mother insisted that she care for me, but she really didn’t. My grandmother cooked all the meals, took me to church, taught me to write my name and to sew. My grandmother sat me on her lap and fed me oyster stew from a bowl when I was ill. My grandmother paid for my doctor’s visits, medicines, clothing, pageant entries, preschool books, toys, art supplies, and anything else I dreamed of at such a tender age. My grandmother loved me so much, if I woke at two in the morning and whined for food, she got up and cooked me a small meal and made me tea. This woman was well into her seventies essentially raising a small child. To think, my mother wasn’t even her blood daughter. She was simply a small child she found abandoned.
When I turned six, my mother moved out of grandma’s house and into the projects. To be fair these were small town projects, but there was drugs, alcohol, violence, perverts, yelling, and chaos. My neighbor to one side was a single mother that had a husband whom she was divorcing which visited form time to time, just to smack her up in front of her two boys. I suppose this was his way of showing he still owned her to his sons.
My neighbor on the other side was a single mother to one teenage girl that had men come and visit for a day or two at a time. She regularly got such male callers and she had fancy clothes, shoes, and more. She even had a car that was brand new, but whenever welfare asked she said she was borrowing it from a friend. The paperwork said it belong to one of her male friends. I remember asking how come she wasn’t so poor and she said it was because she wasn’t stupid like most men and women stuck there. The environment was toxic to a small young female and impressed upon me heavily that women which were single were undoubtedly poor and or preying on men to survive in an immoral manner.
My mother was no exception. I saw her have orgies, drink until puking, and then be in the middle of a knife fight. I watched with tiny eyes from the banister of our stairs. She did it all in the open area…our living room. When I belly ached for food at midnight as usual, I was yelled at and told to go to bed. If I didn’t go immediately, I had things thrown at me. Why did I have to ruin everything she would ask me a small, timid, six year old that just had her entire life upended. Couldn’t I see that my Mommy needed time away from me? All I ever wondered was why. What was so bad about me?
I was at school all day. Didn’t she have time for herself then? One day I came home from school and put my backpack down. My teacher had given me a book to read with my mother. I was so excited. I wanted to read this book with her and I thought I had a reasonable shot at getting her to do it too, because at grandma’s house my mother would read to me sometimes. I chattered excitedly about it. Then I looked up with the book in my hands and I knew. My mother would not read with me today. She was drunk and couldn’t even sit up. I asked if she was okay and she told me to go away. Then she puked and passed out. I stood there alone. I was in Kindergarten. I thought she might be sick. I wanted to help her. I went over and shook her to wake her. I kept asking, “Are you okay Mommy?” My mother didn’t respond.
I was afraid. How could I help her because she was obviously bad sick. I ran to the neighbor that was beaten about once a month. She came in and started slapping my mother’s face. This upset me. She said she had to wake her up. She kept hollering, “Ginny, what did you take hun?” Then she said, “Ginny your baby girl is here. Who can I call?” My mom puked again. I started looking for the address book and told the neighbor. I knew it had names of people and their phone numbers. I told her to look for my aunt Carol. After a little back and forth, she started to panic because she didn’t know which Carol in the book was my aunt and I couldn’t remember her last name since she got married.
The neighbor ran out the door and down the street about five houses to our deaf neighbor Randy. He was young, handsome, and very helpful to the ladies in the projects. He was also single so every female with in a four block radius was trying to learn sign language. I had been taught some in pre-school because of my asthma so teachers could help me if I couldn’t breathe so Randy and I had a natural connection. Over the few months we knew each other he was delighted to show me more sign language so we could talk with one another. As soon as he came in I signed “mom sick”. He went over and checked on her while the other neighbor and I tried to call every Carol in the address book.
Randy took the phone and dialed a number at one point. Then he handed it to the neighbor. He didn’t sign or say anything he just grabbed it and called. When she answered it was the ambulance. Randy signed “can’t breathe” but the neighbor didn’t understand, so I translated. “He said mamma can’t breathe.” He was feeling her chest looking for it to move or for her heartbeat Then he signed “go fast”. I translated, “He says it’s going fast.” I didn’t realize how that sounded, so our female neighbor freaked out and said that my mother was going to die soon if they didn’t hurry.
Randy sat my mom up so she could breathe better. The ambulance was on the way, so we went back to getting through the Carols. Eventually, I started making the calls because my mom was getting worse. They kept trying to keep my mom alive and I just went down the list of numbers not knowing who I was calling because I couldn’t read. I eventually got ahold of my aunt Carol’s friend. She told me to write down and dial my aunt’s number. When I heard my aunt Carol’s voice I started pouring out all my sadness and worries about how my mommy was dying and the neighbors were trying everything. It was a relief to hear her voice.
Aunt Carol told me to put the neighbor on the phone and she described what was going on and then she put me on the phone with my aunt. “You stay right there baby, I’m coming to get ya.” She hung up. Two minutes later the ambulance drivers came in,secured my mother and wheeled her out. Then it was me, the neighbor, and Randy. The neighbor wanted me to go with her and aunt Carol told me to stay. I tried to explain. The neighbor wouldn’t listen to a six year old girl. I signed to Randy, “aunt come”. He made it clear, through writing, that he would watch me until my aunt came. The female neighbor was relieved and left quickly, but not before reminding me she is right next door and to scream if I needed anything. I guess she didn’t know that Randy and me were pals already.
We chatted in sign for about 15 minutes. He asked how was school. I said ok. I showed him my book and told him I wanted to read it. He pat my head and signed someday. I looked at the pictures while he sat looking out the living room window. My aunt came quickly. She knew Randy and thanked him for watching me. Then Randy left and my aunt bundled me up in my coat before putting me in the car. We were headed to the hospital. I had to stay in the car while my aunt looked in on my mother. My uncle Gary tried to make jokes to ease my anxiety, but it didn’t really work. He was really bad at jokes for even six year old kids. When aunt Carol came back, she was crying. There was a bit of confusion, but even though she tried to keep it quiet, I heard a word I didn’t understand. “She tried to commit suicide,” she said to my uncle. “What’s suicide?” I piped in from the back seat. When they both turned around, the look of horror on their faces told me more than they knew.
“You know what kiddo, that’s a grown up word. Why don’t we worry about what we’re gonna do tonight and leave those types of things aside for now?” My uncle Gary tried to dismiss my question. My aunt Carol was much swifter and knew that would never work on me. “Yeah, we were gonna take you out for ice cream. Do you want that?”
Ice cream…when didn’t I want that? Just like that, my question was forgotten.
For the rest of the school year, I lived with my aunt. It was awesome for me because I went to school with my cousin Lea. We were in the same class and now we lived in the same house with the same bedroom. I was thrilled and so was my cousin. I still saw my grandmother every weekend too. Grandma brought a grocery bag of food over every Friday when she came to pick me up, “to help with the cost of caring for me.” She bought me clothes about once a month. She even bought Lea an outfit when I got one. Although, I missed my mother very badly and asked after her often, I was happier because I was better cared for with my aunt Carol. She did read my book to me before the end of the week too.
Unfortunately, aunt Carol couldn’t save the day every time my mother did something stupid, which is why I still ended up abandoned in Newark NJ, the forest near the poconos, and various other places my mom dumped me. It’s also why I ended up in foster care numerous times.
So when I see my sister post an “In loving memory of my mother” with flowing love as if she were a saint of some sort…it hurts. It hurts because my mother never did any of that to her. It also hurts because I wish I had a loving memory of my mother…all I have are memories of her trying so hard to get away from em that she would rather be dead or that I be dead. There are no loving memories of such a selfish person and it hurts because I feel like I missed out on so much because of that.