In a movie every character is important. Every line has meaning towards developing a character or moving the story forward. If one character doesn’t play the part correctly then the story will fall apart. Next weekend is Mother’s Day.
Mothers are the main characters in most life stories.
Since I was little I knew different aspects of my mother. Everyone always let me know how smart she was in school. I could see myself her being beautiful and compassionate. The one thing I have never really known is her backstory or the difficulties she faced before I was born. I’ve pressed her to tell me histories and fill in the blanks but she has always been hesitant to share. Last week she sent me an email with a personal story from her past. I found it interesting, emotional, and reflective. She made me think about how our stories are woven with other people. How endings are beginnings in disguise. And of course, I wanted to share it.
Here is what she wrote:
“For every damn thing I went through in my youth and as a young adult, I’m talking stressful or traumatic events, I just had to suck it up. Truthfully, I never realized there was an option. That’s why I have a difficult time relating to the younger generation who feel the need to cuddle and drink hot chocolate when things don’t go their way. I don’t think cuddling and hot cocoa are necessarily bad things. As a matter of fact, had I been able to cuddle and drink cocoa I’m sure my behavior would have been much better. That’s all I have to say about that.
There are things that have been erased from my memory. I’m sure that is a self-preservation quality of my brain. Other things I have absolute clarity about. Moments I can replay in my head in slow motion; smell scents, see sights, and experience emotions. These moments are often turning points. One in particular is an event that put me on a path to hope. You may not have realized it had you been around then, it took some time for hope to grow into something more. This is the event I wish to share today.
A series of events led up to this moment. There were incidences that made it impossible for me to continue to live in the circumstances I found myself in. I knew something had to change, I could no longer cope. I was smart enough to know if I simply left home, I would be retrieved and returned. I was a minor, the law would be on the side of the adults. So, I turned myself in to DCS (Department of Children Services). I was picked up shortly after I made my call by two men in suits who transported me to a juvenile facility. I don’t remember the name of it, but I recall some of the residents. I remember the facility’s van taking me to school, quite an embarrassing circumstance for a 15 year old. I stayed in this facility while my situation was being investigated. I waited for the court date that would determine my fate.
I can’t remember how long it took for the day to arrive. Memory block. I do recall several people testifying including my case worker who recommended I not be sent home. When my turn came I was, thankfully, escorted to judge’s chambers to testify in private. I didn’t have to speak in front of dissenting adults. The judge started by commending me for my good grades and positive teacher recommendations. We talked a minute about plans for the future, etc. Then he asked the question “What do you think will happen if I send you home?”
I have no idea how my face appeared or what my heart looked like as it lay there on the floor. I do remember turning my head to look out the window. It seemed to turn very, very slowly. The view was not great, merely a red brick wall. Looking back now it seems symbolic.
I couldn’t find my words. My mind was trying to focus but all I could think about was how sure I was I would take my own life before I went back. The only time I was seriously, dangerously, considering suicide. I’ve never told anyone about my thoughts. I can’t explain it but for that moment I was absolutely sure of the answer. However, the only words I could squeeze out were “I don’t know.” The conversation basically ended there.
I was returned to the courtroom to hear my fate along with everyone else involved. Judge WBH saved my life that day. In truth, he and my brother and sister-in-law saved my life. You see, my brother had offered me a home and the judge saw fit to accept his offer on my behalf. The rest of the day was a blur but I was thankful not to have to return to the unnamed facility. Some of those residents were certifiable!
I’m sorry to say, even though this was a life altering day, it didn’t change the bad behavior I had indulged in for some time. I’ve never asked my brother if, not having told him this story, he regrets bringing me into his home. It cost him something. At times, it cost him lots. I was too young to appreciate him. There is no way to repay someone for saving your life. You pay it forward and hope that is enough.
There have been a series of wonderful people in my life. People willing to help with no consideration for the cost to themselves. I shall tell their stories one day. There would be no other stories to tell had my slow motion panic gone unnoticed by a judge who cared and who had an alternative. The one day I didn’t have the ability to suck it up, I didn’t have to.”
All I could think as I teared up at the thought of the whole story was this… It is hard to thank someone for saving you. For being a link in your safety chain. There is usually a thread of guilt or shame woven into the situation. Nothing you say seems to be enough. That is okay. Love is an investment and it doesn’t always pay back right away.
On Easter weekend we went with my mother to my uncle’s house for our annual hunting of the eggs. My cousins and their children were there. Together, with my wrecking crew, there was a yard full of laughter and fun. We played whiffle ball and hunted eggs that were stuffed exclusively with loose change. We sat around telling funny stories and relating to each other’s parenting woes. As always, it was a beautiful time with people we love. Now I know the story could have been completely different.
So, to who it may concern, thank you for my mother.
Oh and Happy Mother’s Day!
-Underdaddy to the rescue.