The Best Gift I Can Give My Mom for Mother’s Day Is…Forgiveness
Two weeks ago, I got a message from my mother. It said: “Hi Charing; I hope all is well with you. I am writing to let you know that I will be moving to Florida in two weeks.”
If folks remember back to the whole Tracey Morgan situation with his mother, I wrote very candidly about my own estrangement from my mother. I would like to say that we had a major falling out that could have been easily resolved with some time but truthfully it was a gradual thing that occured over the years and eventually became inevitable. So when I saw her email message, I had a lot of mixed emotions.
First, why was she emailing me? Emails are so impersonal. I send emails when I want to call out for work and don’t feel like faking the sick voice over the telephone. Neither my house nor my cell phone numbers have changed so why didn’t she just call? And secondly, why was I the last to know? Of course, I know the answer to that, I mean we are on the outs, but it still didn’t hurt less to know that she is moving some 1200 miles from the place that she was born, raised, reared us – her children -and where her family continues to reside. And all I got was an email.
I didn’t know how to respond: should I point out to her the frosty way she chose to tell me, thus rehashing old arguments and bitter feelings? Do I ignore the email and continue to be upset that she is moving away before resolving the differences between her and I? Doesn’t she care or even love me? My freaking head was pounding. I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes as all the old memories began to resurface. I really needed to talk to someone. Someone, who could be sympathetic without making me feel guilty for these feelings I was having. Not too many folks understand. Not too many folks want to understand. Mothers are sacred and to speak ill against them is the equivalent of talking ish about Jesus. But I do have one ally, who understands. And that is my baby brother. So I called him:
“I kind of let go a while ago expecting Mom to be the mom we wanted her to be. I’m at the point now where I just let go of that dream so that I can move on with my life. My advice to you is to do the same. Just wish her well, say you’re happy for her and let go,” he said.
Four years younger than me and yet so full of grown man wisdom.
The sins of parents are among the most difficult to forgive. Growing up, my brother and I learned very early on that our lives were an impediment on my mother’s happiness. How do we know that for sure? Well, she told us that in so many words – most of which were not very nice. She yelled and screamed a lot, called us names, withheld affection and would punish us harshly for little things like not washing dishes properly and sometimes stuff that she made up in her head (and I’m not exaggerating). We were scared of her, constantly walking around on eggshells, not knowing for sure what minor infraction might set her off. While on the phone with my brother, he and I recalled, almost amusingly, about how happy we were the times she wasn’t around – like the hours between the time we got home from school and the time she got home from work. But once we heard the key in the door it was like all the happiness had been sucked completely out of the room.
We also talked about how we remembered her being very melancholy. Like coming home from work and going directly into her bedroom, where she stayed the rest of her night locked away from us. Sometimes through the closed door, we would hear her cry. We never knew why. And although we were concerned, we dared not to knock on her bedroom door or else risk “getting in trouble.” Likewise, we don’t remember her having many friends or her doing much besides work – with exceptions of a few boyfriends, who would suddenly show up and move in. Those times she was happy, which meant that we were free to be happy too. But those moments of euphoria were short-lived as those relationships would quickly turn sour for a number of reasons including drug problems and abuse. She then would go back to being sad and depressed again.
We talked about how we know very little about our mother personally. I mean, we knew her birth date and other pertinent information, you know in case of emergency, but the rest of her life, down to what she was thinking, was totally a mystery. In fact, anything I learned about my mother, I learned from observation only or through second hand information. Like how I learned from my grandmother that my mother and I never got along, “even as a baby I remember her trying to pick you up and you screaming your head off. And then I would pick you up and you would get quiet. That used to upset your mother,” my grandmother once told me.