In three days, I’ll see my mom for the first time since I was 28 – one decade ago. Here, in chronological order, are the things that have happened in my life since I last saw my mom:
- I started therapy, where I have gone once every two weeks almost nonstop since.
- I graduated Magna Cum Laude from college with a bachelors in English and a minor in Professional Writing.
- I left my marriage.
- I learned how to parent high needs twins without a partner and no money much of the time.
- I let go of my daughter, who went to make her way in the world many years sooner than I wished, but who was willing to kill herself to make sure it happened on her schedule, not mine.
- I moved from a shitty job where I was barely making a livable wage, to a better job where I made a fair wage and performed engaging work with smart, interesting scientists, to an even better job where I make a high enough wage that I can go on occasional road trips and buy my children bicycles when they outgrow their old ones (even if that involves financing it and paying the cost off over a six month, interest-free period.)
- I began to qualify for credit –both literal and metaphorical.
- I moved from my four-bedroom, 2300 square feet, three-story family home with a garden I’d carefully cultivated over seven years, to a horrible two bedroom duplex with one room that wasn’t usable, a corner store where prostitutes congregated, a nearby bus stop that was known as the most dangerous bus stop in town, and a walk to the local park that was littered with hypodermic needles, to an even better apartment in a magnificent part of town where I shared a wall with a neighbor whose sound system sounded like he was landing jet airplanes in his living room, to, finally, a whole, full, real house just a few blocks from my sons’ middle school. I’ll have been here a year in August.
- I became a grandma three times over.
- I learned how to date and, eventually, how to be kind to myself.
- I learned how to write and met some of my most beloved and lifelong friends through the corresponding channels.
- I sold an essay to This American Life.
- I had a tumor and part of my lung removed.
- Coming soon, I will have an essay published in an anthology alongside a handful of humblingly brilliant women writers.
- I became a crow-footed, gray haired, tattooed woman indelicately traipsing toward middle age with a hula hoop and an old pair of jeans and a dearth of shits to give.
- I developed a long-delayed anger toward my mother that I’m finally talking about in therapy.
So, you know – just everything that makes me the most recent iteration of who I am.
Here, in chronological order, are the things that have happened in my mom’s life since I got married and she tore me out of my wedding dress while drunk in 2001:
- She quit injecting methamphetamines into her veins.
- She met a man who owned a travel trailer and invited to “take her away from it all” – which he did. And ten years later, despite her repeated requests and quiet, whispered pleas to me during our weekly phone calls, he has never taken her back to it all, even her family, and refuses to “let” her even have a job so that she remains entirely dependent upon him.
- She quit drinking a case of Budweiser a day. In fact, she quit drinking completely.
- She got a Shar Pei named Lucy after the first Shar Pei named Lucy died of old age.
- She married what’s his name, her fifth husband.
- She began calling me every Sunday at 4PM. We talk a lot about what we each ate for dinner. Unless her “husband” leaves the room, then we hurriedly talk about what her plan of escape is. Monthly. For years.
- She quit smoking after nearly 40 years.
- She, what’s his name, and a Lucy have moved from Moose Lodge to Moose Lodge or RV Park to RV Park around the Denver area in their 30 foot travel trailer about ten times. Sometimes they’re camp hosts.
- She began volunteering at local charitable organizations. She seems happier with the work.
- Recently, she began making friends because “she doesn’t care what what’s his name thinks! She’s 57 goddamn years old and she’ll have friends if she wants to!”
- She found Jesus (and she chastises me for not celebrating Easter because “why wouldn’t you celebrate Jesus’s birthday, Gloria Collene?”)
- She learned to send eCards. She discovered Jacquie Lawson eCards. She learned there’s no limit to the number of eCards she can send and there’s one for literally every occasion. (She’s not “allowed” to have a Facebook account or her own email account because it’s not her computer. But she can send eCards from what’s his name’s email address and party like it’s 1999 any ol’ time she wants.)
- She and her new friend worked together to convince what’s his name to “let” her go on her first alone road trip since she was in her 40s so she can attend the graduation of her oldest grandson, my sister’s son Dillon, a child I incidentally gave birth to nearly 18 years ago.
On Thursday morning, I will board an airplane and fly to Oklahoma where I will stay at my sister’s house with her, my mom, my ex-stepdad who was once horribly abusive but who has settled into a milder middle age, my two nephews, one with half my DNA, two chihuahua’s, and one, possibly two other young adult people. Not incidentally, I will also have my anxiety medication with me, which was doubled by my therapist after I experienced a horrific bout of anxiety recently.
Other items I will bring with me:
- Ten years of coping skill building.
- My sense of humor.
- A giant bagful of deep, cleansing breaths.
- My best self.
- One pocketful of No Thank Yous.
- Another pocketful of polite nods.
- And, most importantly, the focus on my nephew, who I am intensely proud of and for whom this is all being arranged. Aren’t you glad, Dillon, that this circus act was coordinated for you? We’re givers.