Happy Birthday, Mom

I posted this as part of my 30 People series in 2009 when I turned 30. Thought I'd re-post it on Moms 60th birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Clearly the first time I met Mom was July 27th 1979, although I was already pretty familiar with her it would seem.
I already had a big sister in the world and I was brought home to a single story ranch house in Clyde.
My mom stayed home with Sharen and I for the first years of my life and we played and imagined and swam until we were falling asleep on rafts in the backyard pool. She was an English teacher in her previous life. When I was 5 or 6 Mom went back to work, this time as a Children's Librarian. When she couldn't get a babysitter for me I would either go to Grandmas house or I would go to the library and "work" with my mom for a few hours. I was doomed to love reading and all things literary. I was an early reader and would haul stacks and stacks of books to a corner and just read for hours at a time in the library. There's a white noise website I sometimes listen to and my favorite noise on there is Library Lullaby because of those hours spent hanging out at the Bellevue Public Library with my mom.

My mom wasn't a perfect mom, but she was a great mom. Her imagination would run wild with us and we would play pretend all the time. When I played dress up she was the narrator to my story, she played Barbies like no one elses mom I knew. When Betty pulled me aside and told me how to ensure I wouldn't have to live with my parents I was so confused. I couldn't figure out why I would want to live with this shrill angry woman instead of my mom who played with me, laughed with me, and gave great hugs.
As it sometimes tends to happen I grew up and began to try to assert my independence. I was all sorts of messed up about my value in the eyes of others thanks to years of hearing I was a horrible nasty girl from a few adults that were supposed to love me. I believed deeply that it was inevitable that my parents would see that they were right. I had kept all sorts of secrets from them, not telling them what people would say and how they would treat me because I was afraid to hear that they agreed. They of course didn't, but I was a lost girl that was far to young to understand that. I would push back against them, daring them to leave me or to tell me that I was horrible. When they didn't I couldn't hardly stand to be in the same room with them because I knew that it was only a matter of time that I pushed them to far and they would leave or make me leave. I just knew they couldn't possibly love the ugly girl that I was inside and out. For years that was my deepest cut, my darkest fear and the lie that I just couldn't see past. There are times that it festers still in the deepest dredges of my heart.
Mom and I just didn't seem to know how to communicate for awhile, other than yelling of course.

As I started to come out of my teen years things calmed down a bit, we still argued, just maybe not as often. I went off to Youngstown and after almost two years decided to leave right before YSU invited me to leave. Mom was the first to tell me that a stipulation of my coming back home to live with them was that I must go to therapy. I had spoken to someone a few times at YSU and ended up finding a lovely woman in Fremont with a lot of cats and some birds in her office. Dr Barrett was the one of the first people ever, other than John, that I told about the things I was told growing up. She was the first person that told me, "Maybe the things these people said, maybe they're not true. Have you considered that?" I hadn't, and I immediately knew this woman was way off base. Clearly I had put on a good show for her and she didn't see how horrible I really was. So I started hiding things from her too. Playing the I'm ok you're ok game.
I started having panic attacks multiple times a day and went on medication for it. I became either hyper anxious or sedated like a zombie. There were so many times that Mom had to come get me at work because I was hyperventilating and couldn't drive. She would bring me home and we would get into shouting matches because I couldn't or wouldn't explain to her what my problems were. I had become so adept at hiding who I was that I couldn't figure out where I was anymore. I had fractured myself off into hundreds of ideas of who I though all these people wanted me to be that I started short circuiting and forgetting who I was supposed to be with what person. My brain felt like it was constantly shaking like a child throwing a tantrum, I was fairly certain I was losing my mind. This was April, 2000.

Later that month, on April 24th my friend was killed. Around 11pm Monday April 24th 2000 the phone rang at my parents house. When I answered it a woman I worked with at Whirlpool was on the phone. "I wanted to make sure you were alright, I heard someone was shot" I leapt out of bed and burst into my parents room. I told them I was going to the carryout, someone was shot. I ran out of the house in a tee shirt and undies and hopped in my car. My mom came sprinting out of the house pulling her own pants on and carrying a pair of shorts for me. She told me I wasn't allowed to go, I told her I was going. She got in the car and said if you're going so am I. We sped to the carryout and arrived just as an ambulance, with no lights on, was pulling away. It's difficult to explain the void that is left when hope leaves you when you see the ambulance lights are dark. The carryout was lit up, John's car sat out front. John and his mom had been sharing a car and for about 30 minutes I had no idea which one of them had been shot. The police wouldn't tell me anything, they would only question me because I was an employee. Denise's sister Pam showed up with her son and the police didn't want to tell her either. But I yelled at them, and Mom backed me up. When Pam heard the news she collapsed. Her son and my mom caught her and we all just stood there holding each other for awhile. I don't know how I got to Alaina's only that my mom was taking my car home because she needed to tell my dad what happened.
The next weeks and months were a complete blur.
I remember one night sitting in our living room crying and mom came in. I vomited out on her all the information and secrets that people surrounding Denise had been confiding in me since she died and I just couldn't hold them anymore, not on my own anyway. Mom wanted me to step away and not spend as much time over there anymore, but it just wasn't possible. Not being near that family during that time was like holding my breath. She didn't understand, and we argued about it quite a bit. When the carryout reopened for business I announced that I would of course be going back to work there. Mom and Dad were both adamantly opposed to that. We argued for days, knock down drag out fights about it. In the end, I told them that I had both of their stubborn streaks in me and I was going back. Bob (nicknamed Squirrel) was going to be hanging out and Rick, Denise's husband, taught me to shoot. Mom would drop in randomly to say "Hi" or bring me something she thought I needed. She was checking up on me of course, making sure I was safe and making sure there was always someone else there with me.
I moved to BG the fall of that year and there were times when I was sick that mom would drive 45 minutes from Clyde and bring me soup, or just sit with me while I stared, fever riddled, into space. Mom and Dad moved to BG in August 2002. I would go house hunting with them and was with them when they saw what ended up as their house the first time. They found Cedar Creek and dragged me there that fateful Christmas Eve. Mom drove over a Mountain Dew when I finally told her after months of sneaking to church that I had fallen in love with Jesus.

Mom and I would have weekly lunches while she was living in BG. It was a lovely time to catch up and just spend some time together. It was during one of these lunches that I yelled at her about her sister Betty.
Mae and John had both died by this point and there were some discrepancies about their estate. Mom had pushed it a little but was just talking through some of her frustrations with Betty and the way the estate was being handled. I yelled at mom. I told her that Betty had been pushing her around her whole life and why on earth doesn't she just push back. It had never been about the money, it had been about the fact that my mom and her family were given such a small percentage with no explanation. Betty tried to run a game and say that it was because of something horrible that my parents had done to Mae and John, but after over a year of attorneys and meetings nothing ever came out. Because it was a lie.
It was amazing watching mom through this process. She found a lot of herself in the fight and because stronger because of it. I had to give a report to their lawyer (whose name was Mr Rogers, how can you go wrong with a fella named Mr. Rogers!?) about the things that I would overhear as a child. I spoke for the first time to anyone that would/could tell my parents about the way Betty and Mae treated me but also the way they spoke about my parents. I told my dad first and he told me that I could never tell my mom. I did eventually though, and it was very hard for her but thanks to the trials of going through the contesting of the estate she was a stronger woman and handled it well. She said the thing she was most upset about is that she didn't protect me from all of those things. I told her she didn't know so how could she and she said, "I'm your mother, I should have known."
It was an amazing moment for me, a lot of the guilt I felt for keeping the secrets, the feeling that it was my fault and the suspicion that Mae and Betty were right all along were just lifted in that statement.
I'm by no means blaming my mom, it was just reassuring to see someone else as upset by it as I was all those years. Knowing that had she known she wouldn't have agreed with Mae and Betty, she would have tried to make it better.

In the years since Mom and I have had our ups and downs. Sometimes I get so frustrated with how we are different, how different we see things. We argue and fight but we also laugh and have long conversations about random things. It's a mother daughter relationship, isn't that how it's supposed to be?
Mom has taught me a great many things. She's taught me how to wear makeup and how not to. She's taught me how to cook and clean nd has given me a love of the written word that runs so deep. Mom has modeled for me caring for people even when you have to fight to do it. She always came back. Every time I pushed and pushed her away she came back. She fought her way through the battlefield of ugly words and accusations I threw at her if only to hold me and tell me she loved me even when I acted the worst. Mom has shown me faithfulness in being a wife that loves my father deeply. They met in the 8th grade at church camp, went to each others prom, dated through high school and college and married a week after my mom graduated. I tease them that they've ruined me for all adult relationships, but it's in a good way. Their relationship isn't perfect and they fight and make mistakes. But they love each other. You can tell just by looking at them. More to the point, they've ruined me for mediocre adult relationships. I don't want to settle, I'd rather be alone because I can do alone well.
Mom gave me an imagination to believe that crazy things are possible and that a good story is only as far away as the tip of your tongue. She's a hard worker and a good worker. Mom taught me the value of your time and effort and that if you try hard enough there is almost nothing you can't do.
I can't imagine having any other mom, even on the days that we argue the loudest. Weathering those years when I was so angry and hateful reinforced that she wouldn't ever leave and that's a great thing for a girl like me to know.

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