Elisa A. Escalante/ LCSW/ 5-15-2023
We take for granted the things we have always had, that we never had to lose. In this case, it does not feel like a privilege, but a ‘right.’ But, it’s never a right. We are entitled to nothing.
I have a recollection of puzzle pieced memories as a toddler. My life was very much fragmented, as I spent years in what can be referred to as ‘kinship foster’. But, it wasn’t formal or by the books. It was a decision that my biological mother made after she divorced my Dad and was granted full custody. To drop my brother and I off at random people’s homes while she took off for days or weeks at a time. A toddler doesn’t know very much at all. I just knew that I missed my Dad (USMC and always working), I missed my Mom (Why did she always have to leave?), and I did not know these strangers very well. Sometimes it was distant family, sometimes it was random ‘friends’ of hers. Were they happy people? No. Most of the time they seemed angry/ agitated at our existence. I mean, who wants to look after kids that arent’ theres? Some of them had their own kid’s to feed and take care of.
Sometimes our mother did give it her best. But, her best fell short. My brother and I fed ourselves when she was passed out in drug comas. We were exposed to a lot of things early that kid’s should not be exposed to due to lack of supervision, especially when we were left with strangers. The only time our Mom stuck around was when we were living with a new boyfriend of hers. Of course, her ‘picker was broken’ as they say in the mental health world. They were rarely good men, none of them were our father. One of my Mom’s boyfriends liked to physically abuse me. I believe he was a drug addict too, I feared him. He would hit, pinch, pull my hair while he appeared to be in ‘a daze’. When My mom walked in on this one day, I did catch a glimpse of what looked like ‘Mom instinct’. She confronted him, he denied everything as I recalled what he did to me. My brother recalls that when she dipped out on him in the middle of the night she pulled a fat stack of cash from his wallet.
When my Dad finally found us (this was before cell phones so it wasn’t exactly an easy mission for him while he was serving in the USMC), our Mom relinquished custody. My grandmother stepped up and offered to help, as my Dad could not single parent a 5 y/o (me) and an 8 y/o (My bro) while serving Active duty. So, off we went to Grandma’s. What our father assured us would be ‘a few months’ turned into five years. Living with grandma and Uncle. I actually saw my Mom only a few more times after this. Once in TX, once in AZ, once in CA, and then once again in AZ, on her death bed. Everytime was awkward and heart breaking. It always appeared that she was trying to be someone she was not (A domesticated lady), and eventually she would sprint away to her safe haven, yet again. And in her absence people assured me it wasn’t her fault or my own, it was ‘the drugs’. Honestly, people just didn’t know what to say. Especially on my Dad’s side, as most of the women have strong motherly instincts. So they could not understand my Mom at all.
I went from heartbroken to numb. By the time I was 11 going on 12 it was full on anger and then numb. When you cannot have someone, but you also cannot bear to miss them any longer, you go numb. What else can you do? You can’t make someone stay that does not want to stay. I believe that my mother had post partum depression along with other mental illnesses from her childhood. And of course, there was no denying she was a drug addict. Alcohol, meth, heroine and perhaps even more. I know she was abandoned by her parents at least once or twice and had to stay with other relatives. I know both of her parents were alcoholics too. Then to put the cherry on top, being a military spouse is insanely hard. I believe she was living a lifestyle that wasn’t meant for her.
Then at the age of almost 12, I inherited a stepmother. She was the polar opposite, she was extremely attentive, extremely in our business. Always there, always present. Sometimes to a point she drove us crazy. We had ups and downs. But, no matter how much we did not get along sometimes, one thing I reminded myself of always was “Your Mom refuses to be with you, she (Stepmom) is here, and she is doing what your Mom never did for you”. A villege raised me and my brother, and my stepmom was the last one in the picture before we became adults, but I like to think she helped fine tune my personality. She held me to what felt like impossible standards, but at the end of the day, I proved her right. I could be everything she believed I could be.
I spent my life secretly knowing that eventually I would get a call about my Bio Mom on her death bed. And it happened when I was just 20 years old. I remember thinking I would have this whole speech prepared. A speech of confrontation and anger. But when I saw her dying, all the anger went away. Why the hell would I want to confront her in her final days? Instead my Brother and I shared our life stories with her, and our future aspirations. She did smile wiht pride. I think it helped her to know that we ended up being okay, despite the damage she may have caused.
I have many triggers because I have PTSD. But one trigger on this topic, is people that are not grateful to their mothers. Especially when their mother’s are actively present, and have always been there, for better or worse in sickness and in health. People like to think that it’s ‘not a choice’, and parents must parent. But then again, there are many foster kids and orphans in the world still. There are many kid’s that come from broken homes and rarely get to see one if not both of their parents. People take for granted what they always got to have. It feels like a ‘right’, but honestly, its just plain luck. What cards did you get dealt? Maybe you hit the ‘good parent lotto’. Or maybe, your parents never wanted you and tossed you away without a care in the world.
Mother’s Day is always a day that I try to numb out. I usually get engrossed in other projects. My mother died in August of 2010. And i’ve spent the last 13 years dealing with a lot of conflicting emotions. It angered me, how even my closest friends could not acknowledge that this loss hurt me. I’ve even had some people believe that ‘because we were not close, that it must not be that bad’. In retrospect, I had to grieve my Mom before she died, and I had to grieve for her again after she died. Because she was actively killing herself for many years. With the lifestyle she lived, the lifestyle I had because of her, and the loss, it led to a lot of unanswered questions. Why did she leave? Why did she rarely come back? Why wasn’t I enough? Could I have done more? Could they have done more? Could we have been a family? How different would my life have been? Could something have prevented this? Will I be the same as her? (One of the many reason’s I do not want kids, is because I do not want to find out)
I don’t want to mess up anyone’s Holiday, Mother’s should be celebrated. Especially the good/ present/ attentive ones! But I have to admit, when I see those meme’s/ posts with the words “There is no love like a Mother’s Love”….. OUCH! This is not everyone’s truth. I wish it could be, but it’s not. For those of you that had a Bio Mom’s love and attention for most of your life, give her the gratitude she deserves. And for those, like me, that were abandoned by their Mom, but were able to get their parenting elsewhere, show those bonus parents your Love. Happy Mother’s Day to my Stepmom and Gram; the ladies that raised me for the longest periods of time. And to my Half brother’s Mom! (For teaching me about the uncomfortable topics when no one else was around) Happy Mother’s Day to my Boyfriends Mom & Grandma too. 🙂 And I am grateful to my Bio Mom for giving birth to me, and for the small slivers of time we had together, you did have a way of making me smile.
One thought on “Mommy Dearest”
Struggle with this every year..more this year. Just tried to skip it & didn’t hear from those most important.
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