Strange how I don’t remember having a favorite color when I was little. I look at this picture and wonder if this is why red is my favorite color. I am, after all, sporting my brand new E.T. shirt with the red sleeves. But really, I wonder if red is my favorite because it reminds me of my mom. [I feel so for removed from that little girl in the picture that I just accidently typed “her mom” in the previous sentence.] My mom had a red wind breaker jacket she’d wear to the beach. I loved that thing. I wonder what I did with it. I remember wearing it, but maybe seeing it caused too much pain so I got rid of it. I don’t know. I can’t remember.
25 years ago I was 9 years old. I was getting ready to enter the 5th grade with Mrs. Perkins.
25 years ago everything changed for me.
She died. My mom, that is. Did I mention that I was only 9?
It amazes me how much I remember of those days leading up to her death. The black hole I lived in. The dark thing that followed me where ever I would go. I’d be playing at the old gym or be at my best friend’s house, but really I was wondering if my mom would ever come home again. I looked at my friends and wondered if they even remembered that my mom was sick in the hospital. Then I’d think, “Why would they? She’s mine, not theirs.”
When I was 17 I wrote an essay about my mom’s death for my college prep english class. They read it out loud, but I didn’t hear it because I left the room. I couldn’t bear to watch them hear what I had written. It was too gripping and still too fresh for me.
Here’s an excerpt about the day she died. Don’t judge me. I was 17 and the teacher gave me a perfect score. I think she didn’t want to hurt me by correcting my grammar!
“There were times when mom would tell me she was going to die. I would yell at her saying, ‘No, don’t say that! Don’t lie to me! Don’t you love me? Please don’t die! I love you!” Then I would run out of her room crying. I’d sit in the waiting room reading books about God’s love. If He loves me so much why was He taking the person I love most? What did I do wrong?
The dreadful day finally came. It was the day I felt her dying. When I woke up that morning I felt something strange in my heart. Yet I wasn’t sure why. Later that day when I was at the teen center, dad came over to ask me if i wanted to go see mom. I turned to him and very calmly said, ‘No, because I don’t want to see her die.’ I could feel something inside of me dying, just as mom was dying.
That evening while I was at a friend’s house we were sitting down to eat when I suddenly freaked out. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I do remember screaming and feeling sick. Two men picked me up and carried me upstairs to bed. The next thing I knew it was 2 1/2 hours later. Dad was ready for me to come home.
[note: I can still remember him standing at the door and all the people in the room were silent. I looked at him. We didn’t speak. I pushed past him and raced home.]
For some reason I half expected my mom to be home, but I was greatly disappointed. When I walked in the door I say my sister and her husband there. I quickly glanced at the clock wondering where they would leave their kids at such an hour. I asked if something was wrong. My sister couldn’t speak. He husband said, “Mom died.” I let out such a cry of anguish I’m sure the heavens and earth shuddered. I became a little girl without a mommy.”
I now know that there are worse things than losing a parent, but for me, at that moment, my heart was shredded. That moment in time defined so much of who I became. A couple of years later I started my first diary. I wrote in there that I knew it was my fault my mom died. I was a naughty girl. I was even hateful. Nobody knew what to do. Maybe nobody told them that adopted kids are damaged.
I remember screaming at her and calling her “Grandma” because I knew it would hurt her feelings. She was my grandma, but she made the sacrifice to adopt me as her own. I was reminded of the pain she must’ve felt on the day Sage yelled at me, “How long have you been my MOOOMMMM???” What he was saying and what I was saying was, “Can you love me through all this pain I feel? Will you keep me? Will you give me away? Well, how about I piss you off so much that you finally give up on me?” I did that to my mom. I did that to my dad. And I did it to my husband. He asked me if I did that to him and I told him that I do. [I’m not here to talk about my failed marriage today.]
This picture is the last picture I have of mom and I together. There aren’t many pictures of us together. I’m sad for that.
I have very few memories of her. I remember her singing ‘Goodnight, Irene’ with her friend Lois while I was lying awake in bed. I loved listening to the two of them together. I remember how she baked and cooked and fed us well. She’d make sure she had a hamburger ready for me when I came home from a softball game or practice. I stuck my tongue on the metal part in our fridge once. I got stuck. She laughed. She had an army of prescription bottles on our shelf. Our house was always clean and often smelled of pine sol. Her long fingernails really stung when she’d flick my tongue. I learned to keep it in my mouth or stand further away when I wanted to stick it out! I remember that my dad only physically disciplined me twice in my life. Both times it was because I had said something bad about mom. My dad always got up early, started the fire [if needed], got my breakfast, made the coffee. I asked why mom was so lazy. He slapped me. He actually slapped me. He had never done anything like that. EVER. I didn’t know she was always so sick.
Was my mama perfect. From what I’ve heard of her, she was far from it, but I know she loved me. There are times I wonder what my life would be like if she had lived. How would I be different? It’s okay. I’ve known for a long time that God has had a plan in this. It took me about 6 years after her death to stop being angry at God for taking my mama away. I don’t pretend to know why, but I don’t even need to know why.
In this past year I have wanted my mom. Well, I don’t even know if it’s MY mom I want or just a mom. I don’t know what my mom would say. I know she had been hurt and broken in her life. I know that there have been times that I was crying in bed and I wanted to call my mom or dad. My dad actually comes to mind sooner since he has only been gone 9 years, but I can accurately predict what he’d say. I have no idea what she would say.
25 years later and I still wake up crying on this day.