DO NOT SPEAK ILL OF THE DEAD – ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH -“My Mother”
My mother’s hand that smoothed my hair behind my ear to soothe me
also slapped me hard across my face because she couldn’t stop herself.
My mother’s hands, that worked so hard to feed and clothe us and keep a roof over our heads,
also choked my sister because she was five minutes late getting home.
My mother’s hands brought beautiful music from the keys of a piano, and though she was never able to read a note of music, she played in night clubs and even cut a record back in the day.
My mother’s back would bend under the weight of the horrible sadness she carried with her everywhere she ran and run she did. She chased a better place, some where that would bring her happiness, for seventy nine years until the last one, when she was too debilitated to travel, to move again.
My Mother’s eyes would cloud over with misty memories of her youth, traveling with her musician husband, all over the country. She could remember every outfit, with matching accessories, she had ever owned. Those same eyes could stop a mad man in mid-step at twenty paces and would freeze a child in absolute terror of what was to come when she looked into your room or watched you playing outside.
My mother was married six times and never gave a thought to the fact that she was the common denominator in each of those failed relationships. But this woman took care of my step-father, her fifth husband, when he was hit by a train and was left a quadriplegic. She went against doctors and administrators of the VA Hospital and fought until they agreed to release him into her care and provide all of his medical equipment and prescriptions – something that was unheard of at the time. He could not cough without her pushing on his diaphragm or have a bowel movement so she literally went after what he could not expel. Not pretty to read about? You should have had to do it. She took care of him for five years at home with no help. This same woman tried to beat me in the head with a meat pounder because I was leaving her and going back to my abusive husband.
This woman planted yellow roses and ripped my clothes to shreds. She drove in an ice storm to buy a present for under the tree so I could believe in Santa one more year and she burned a stuffed teddy bear I’d had for seven years when I made her mad. She could whip up a meal fit for royalty when you’d swear there was nothing in the cupboards to eat and she forced my sister to eat everything on her plate when she vomited trying to eat liver, everything.
She was my protector when kids would chase me home and beat me up and she would beat me until she’d fall on the floor exhausted. I was the favored child. I won’t write of what all she did to my sister.
She once got in a drag race with a kid from my school and beat him three blocks out of four and she criticized every idea, dream and hope I had as a child telling me men were no good and life was nothing but pain and sorrow, so I’d might as well get used to it.
She didn’t hug us and when we got older and tried to hug her she would stiffen and pat at our backs or leave her arms dangling at her sides. She was so jealous of my sister’s art talent she would destroy anything she made and make one herself. I was lucky, I had no talent.
She bought me my very first banana split when I was eleven years old, telling me I could get anything on the menu. Until then my biological father controlled the money and we had cones, but never ever anything more.
She had my sister sent away because she ran away but she threw her out. She moved my boyfriend in with us then I was fifteen and he eighteen and ours were the only two bedrooms on the second story of the house, but she couldn’t figure out HOW I got pregnant.
She always let me come back home when I was left somewhere by my husband and always got me set up in an apartment. And she always told me I was stupid for getting married and staying married and having children.
My last step-dad used to call her a piece of work. She was that. He adored her and took her abuse as part of the package. He cared for her as she was dying those last three years and nearly died when she did. When I last saw her alive at the hospital, she had blood flowing from her mouth, a sore on her leg that would not heal and would have required amputation of her lower leg and foot, if she had lived and she had been on dialysis three times a week for over twelve years. She had six major heart attacks, high blood pressure, gout, anemia and a host of other physical aliments. But she took her medication as she pleased, when she pleased … if she pleased. They scoped her and found ulcerations as large as a man’s hand that were causing the bleeding, but I know what actually killed her.
She had my step-father load their car with all that it would hold and at seventy-nine, she headed out with a map, less than three hundred dollars and a tank full of gas. A lamp she refused to leave behind was forced next to her leg on the floorboard of the car. It was ornate and spiked and it rubbed the sore in her leg that never healed. My step-father was almost as old as she and he was confused and frightened by the interstates and Mom would scream at you if you got afraid – it was a weakness. They met a man in a gas station and paid him a hundred dollars to drive their car to New Mexico and they boarded a bus. He stole their car and they had to call back home and have my step-father’s brother send a flat bed trailer for their car when the police found it abandoned in Texas and we sent them money to come back on the bus and rented an apartment for them and furnished it. She could no longer run, no more dreams of moving to a better place. That and that alone is what killed her.
She wanted her body cremated and it was. She wanted the ashes spread on her Mother’s grave and her husband wanted them spread on his Mother’s grave so they were divided, but as when she had control of her body, the day was windy and the ashes took flight on the wind and went where they were carried.
I hope she has finally found home and peace.
I am not so much worried about the quality of my writing of this, but of pushing the Publish button. It is out and it has been held in too long... much too long. So excuse any trite sayings or run on sentences. It is finished.
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