December 28, 2011

Journey Back #3 - Twelve Years

Christmas Eve was the last night I ever saw my mother alive.

She gave me these ugly wooden cat book-ends as a gift that year. She thought I could use them at school to hold my books up or something. They were lame and I made sure she knew that I thought so. Her gift made me angry. She didn't know me. She didn't even care to know me. She didn't know I hadn't liked anything to do with cats since I was eleven.

I was eighteen now and all grown up. Had she missed that? Probably. She had missed a lot the last two years.

My mom smelled like a bar that night. I had grown to hate that smell and I had grown to hate her too. It was evident that she was trying to act cool. She wore this fancy black dress that hung loosely on her thinning frame. She was trying to pretend that she was okay and that she was really happy with her boyfriend and that it wasn't awkward that we were all there together.

Days later, I was with my sister over at my Gramma's house for a visit. I was between semesters studying vocal performance at school. Christmas was over and I was finding things to do until I was able to get back on campus again. Being back in San Antonio felt painful and hard. It reminded me of how sick my mom was and how miserable I felt. Going away to school felt like the greatest thing that had happened to me in my entire life. College was where I could forget about the realities of what had happened to my home. It was where I could just have fun and sing and be me. I was anxious to get back.

Robin was supposed to pick us up that day, but she came to get us early. When I got into the truck, I could tell by the look on her face that something was wrong. But I shrugged it off figuring that she was just in a bad mood. The ride home was quiet. My little sister babbled on about things, and my step-brother was still and looking out the window. I sat there wondering why things felt weird and tense and started making checklists of all that I needed to do before heading back to school the following week.

When we got home, my dad's truck was in the driveway. He had gotten off early as well. It crossed my mind that perhaps we were all going to do something fun together. Maybe we were even going to take a trip or go see a movie.

But my dad had a look on face too that told me something was wrong.

He asked me to follow him into his bedroom and closed the door behind us. We stood there in the dark. Deep green curtains covered the windows and very little December sun poked through. I could see that whatever he had to say was difficult. I felt scared and wanting for light.

"What daddy? What's the matter?" I asked.

"Mommy died today." He started crying and pulled me in to give me a hug. Or maybe it was him that needed the embrace.

I started crying too. But only because I thought he said 'Poppy.' I was confused about what could have happened to my Grandfather and was distraught at such a sudden news. I was about to ask him a question, but he continued -

"She died in her sleep. Mike went in to wake her up and she didn't move. Her heart just stopped."

That's when I realized he didn't say Poppy. He must have said 'mommy.' A million different thoughts and feelings went through me in that moment - one of them being gratefulness that Poppy was still alive. Another of them was wondering why my dad had said 'mommy' instead of 'mom.' My brain felt like it was running a million miles a minute with thoughts and questions. I tried to access more tears but they felt difficult to produce.

Part of me felt relieved. And the other part felt nothing. I wasn't sure what to do with myself. At that moment I just wanted to run away.

How the rest of the day unfolded feels like I blur. I remember sitting next to my dad as he tried to explain my mom's death to my five year old sister. I remember her cries because all she knew was that she couldn't see mommy ever again. I remember Robin's tears and her telling me the next day that she thought I would hate her now since I didn't have my mom anymore. I remember going back over to my Gramma's house and seeing her tears. I remember later that night escaping the house and going to see my friend Courtney - needing to get out and breathe. We went to Sonic and got mozzarella sticks and chocolate shakes. The food kept me numb and unfeeling.

And I couldn't cry. My mom was dead and I had no tears.


Sometimes it feels like the memory of her isn't real. As if I made her up or she was an imaginary friend of some kind. Who she was often feels like a distant dream. And I know she is a part of my story, but some things feel harder to remember than others. Pieces of my childhood with her in it are fragmented and I can access feelings more easily than actual memories.

My Grandparents recently cleaned out their shed and found dozens of pictures of my mom. And of me when I was a toddler. There were several of my brother also when he was sick and in the hospital as a baby. Looking through them still evoked much feeling. I felt anger and resentment and discarded the pictures easily. They were hard to look at because it had always felt like she had loved him more.

I found myself almost ravaging through them hoping to find something of my mom and me. I just wanted to find something I had never seen before - maybe some kind of proof that she had loved me. I'm 30 years old and I still want proof of her love. Maybe it's because I still don't believe that she ever really did. Or maybe it's just the ache of wishing my mother were alive and was never an alcoholic and I would know that I was loved. Either way, I was hoping to find some magical picture of the two of us that would make me feel better.

The photo I really want, I've never seen. Her holding me as a baby right after I was born. If it exists, I've never seen it.

It's both beautiful and sad how I still have the same questions and the same tears as I did as a child. I just wanted her love and attention and affection. And it's okay that I wanted it - I was supposed to have it. Needing a mom to love you as they were designed to, is good and normal and natural. God made it so that we were born to need that.
Apparently, it's time to invest in a scanner because I've taken pictures of pictures before and had them turn out fine. These however, are blurry. Though it somehow feels fitting. I can't remember these moments. They are before the age that my memory begins.
I've never seen these photos before. And they are already precious to me. They are snapshots of moments that happened in real time where my mother played with me. I have one real memory of a day when she played with me, but to have pictures as proof of where she was spending time with just me - enjoying me, swinging with me, holding on to me - it does something for my motherless heart.
This one is my favorite. Even though you can't see either of our faces. I'm pretty sure she was helping me walk, but it also looks as though she was dancing with me too. This picture makes my heart ache. Oh I wish I could remember being this small with my mother's hands in mine. To hear her voice and what her words might have been.

Maybe it feels silly to say this, but these new handful of photos of mine, kind of feels like a gift from her. A reminder from heaven that she really did love me. She did enjoy me and play with me and treasure me. Maybe a little bit of the proof I've been searching for.

It's been twelve years.
And it still hurts.

It's been twelve years.
And I'm still searching for proof.

It's been twelve years.
And I still miss her and what we never got to have.


  1. Sitting here with tears running down my face. ((hugs))

  2. Your story always pulls at my heart. I can't help but think of the memories that you hold and the memories that you desire to hold.

    I have no idea what is "normal" lack of memory from being a child and what may be tied to the tragedies that you experienced but I hear your desire for more. I hope your heart is tender as you wait with anticipation for memories that are good.

    I can only imagine her immense love for her firstborn! As tragedy entered her life in ways I bet she never imagined, her survival left you alone and feeling unloved. I wonder what your experience would be had she anyone speaking into her life the way that you have now and the way that you DO for others.

    Love you,friend.

  3. I am glad that you have been given a small glimse of her love for you. I wish things could have been different. It is hard I know but I hope that you will continue to live life even in the midst of sorrow and you