We were alone, my mother and I; my father was never present, and clearly, I idolized her, placed her high atop the throne I’d built just for her. But unfortunately, I did not bring her down to wonderful but flawed human being as I grew to and through adolescence. For me, she thundered down, crashing and burning. I watched helplessly as my mother turned her life, my definition of her, over to a man who was far from worthy of her. Forty had come, and I was growing up, and in her view, away. Insecurity trapped her into thinking she had reached the end of possibility. She gained too much weight, chain smoked, stopped caring for herself. She had alienated everyone, including me, for him. I listened one night, devastated, as he yelled at her, calling her dumb, calling this goddess “bitch.” The devastating part was the tearful, sobbing apology that served as her reply. This man brought out the very worst in her, and she turned her anguish inward and fell into herself.
At the end of seven years, he walked out on her, leaving her shell lying nearly catatonic on the sofa for weeks on end. The longest she left the sofa during that period was the week she spent in the hospital for an angina attack. Her first day in the hospital, she missed my final dance recital, something we’d celebrated every year with her present of a large bouquet of roses and a trip to City Island, where we visited The Crab Shanty for my favorite seafood.
Sometimes parents teach us what not to do. It’s been twenty six years since he left her, and my mother was never again the woman I thought she was. Only weeks away from my own fortieth birthday, I can’t help but wonder at the “not” lessons I teach my own children. From my mother, I have learned the danger of not owning myself. Of not loving myself, of giving up. I struggle with it daily, but for this woman of forty, my mother’s daughter, autonomy is paramount not only to soul survival, but to living and being.
Tricia Amiel: After ten years of teaching English, I’ve finally begun to live my dream of being a working writer. Lucky me. I have three children 19, 19, and 9…a little poetic. Life is good. I’m also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader available for work. For additional information or to contact Tricia, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.