Laughter among the sorrow

6 09 2009

My mother and I had quite a tumultuous relationship through out my teens and early twenties. Due to her alcoholism, she became unable to care for me, the youngest and last of her children. It was 1960 and d-i-v-o-r-c-e was not something that folks spoke about in the open. I felt abandoned by my father when he left us and divorced my mother but when my mother turned me over to the care of my older sister, I felt doubly abandoned.

At the age of thirteen, I moved back with my mother. She was a single, working, alcoholic mother and my life was thrown into turmoil. I began to act out in anger. It was crazy because I loved my mother deeply. If I did not love her so much, I would not have been so devastated by her rejection. What I had learned was this; when you don’t care about a person, their actions may make you mad or upset, but they do not have the power to destroy you. I thought I could UNlove her and for the next several years, I did whatever I could to try to hurt her. I wanted her to feel as much mental anguish as I had experienced over the years. Little did I know that she had her own mental anguish to deal with. I could not see past my own pain and hurt. Self centered fear had wrapped me in a cocoon of  self pity.

My mother and father had been married for 17 years when my father blind-sided her by asking for a divorce. Dad was a full time musician working the night club circuit. Mom stayed home and took care of their four children. She gave birth to five children but my sister, Janice, died from “crib death” when she was 10 months old. Somehow, my mother lived through that but, I assure you, she never recovered from finding her baby dead. The stress and sorrow almost broke up their marriage after that tragedy.

She had finished ironing his shirts for the gigs he was going to do that week when my father told her he was leaving her. She thought he was joking at first. The look on his face told her he was serious.

From there, my mother’s life spiraled out of control. She was tormented by feelings of guilt, rejection and failure while trying to hold together what was left of her family.

After I got clean and sober and had exorcized many of my demons, I was blessed with the ability to look at life through someone else’s eyes for a change. Reconciliation with my mother became possible when I stopped thinking about me for a minute. As I learned what made this woman tick, my resentment turn to admiration. Oh, not instantly, but over time. I saw past how it all affected me and grew able to see how all her life lessons had formed some of her ideology. Her stubbornness was one of her strengths. It is probably what kept her from suicide. The way she did not pull any punches but could be brutally honest came from her disgust at being BS’d by other people in her lifetime.

There are so many things I have learned through my relationship with Mom. In this post, I want to point out how fruitless it is to hold onto a resentment with anyone. We do not know what crazy nuances have that happened in another person’s life that cause them to be the way they are. There may be some dreadful past event that haunts a person, causing them to seem cold, rude or downright mean. Perhaps they are trying to protect themselves the only way they know how, by keeping you at a distance.

I am not talking about people who commit egregious crimes and blame it on their past. That is a whole ‘nuther series of posts.

I was completely baffled when my mother called me at work one night. She was babysitting my 3 month old daughter while I worked at the local bar across the street from our home. She was drunk and crying and I could not make out her words. I left work like a shot and ran home to find her leaning over Fawn’s crib, sobbing. She was saying, “Please let her live to be more than 10 months old.” In my panic, I pushed her out of the way to discover that Fawn was sleeping peacefully. It took a moment for me to realize that my mother was re-living the horror of finding her baby girl, lifeless and blue in her little crib 20 years earlier. I still can’t imagine how she survived that whole ordeal.

My mother was a pretty amazing woman. If I had never let go of my own selfish hurt and pride, I would have missed out on ever knowing that.

My dear daughter Fawn, THAT is just one of the stories of your Grammy. There are many more. A lot of happy ones and, of course, several funny ones. But the truth of life is that there is laughter among the sorrows. That is life.


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4 responses

7 09 2009
Vicky

Thanks, it’s good to be reminded that everyone has things in their life that they have to live with and endure. What is that song that you like, Heal the Wound but Leave the Scar, is it? So true.

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7 09 2009
carolyn

i want to comment… but i don’t even know what to type.

i learn lots from you coni.

i hope when i grow up i am a little like you…. just because i know you.

i love you. 🙂

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7 09 2009
Fawn

Grammy was one of my favorite people. I loved her ability to be brutally honest & yet NOT mean…

I’d love it if you would do more of these posts passing on the stories of our family (yours too please ~ my mind easily blurs the line between fact & fiction). This way I can keep a copy for our kids.

I love you

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5 10 2009
Donna

Yes, I want to hear more stories of our family as well.

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