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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day to the Mother of a Lousy Daughter

When I was very young I read the children's book Harriette the Spy (or was it Harriet? I can't remember now). The book inspired me to start keeping a journal. Even in the worst of times I have kept a journal.

At one point I wrote down what I wanted to be when I grew up:

1. a famous actress
2. a famous singer
3. a famous something or other...pick one...

What I never wanted to be was a lousy daughter, to grow up to break my mother's heart.
However, by the time I was 33 years old I was a widow, a drunk and barely employable. When I was 35 my mother, trying to help me get my life back on track, offered me a room in her home. I took it because I was so tired of sitting in the dark in my lonely apartment, night after night, drunk and loaded and cryin' the blues.

That poor woman did not know what had hit her.

The literature for my 12 step program describes people like me as tornados roaring through the lives of people who love us. It also cautions us against the mistake most of us make: we think all we have to do is get sober and stay sober and this will so thrill our families that all will be forgiven.

Uh....no

My mom WAS thrilled that I was sober; however, she was also concerned with the fact that I was barely holding onto my civil servant job, barely paying my own bills, barely contributing to the house payment and upkeep of the home. For her, my recovery began the day I handed her a money order for 5 grand to pay back (with interest) the money she loaned me when my husband died. Mom had tears in her eyes because she knew that handing her that check meant I could stand a little straighter, look her in the eye and smile and not be so darned ashamed of myself.
I think that every parent wants their child to be happy but more importantly they want their child to be able to walk through life with grace and dignity. My mom is a part of The Greatest Generation. She grew up during the depression on a ranch in Oakley, cutting apricots for money to buy shoes for school. While she did not want me or my brother to have to work in the fields, she wanted us to WORK and pay our own way and be PROUD of who we are...and I had not turned out to be the daughter of her dreams.

There are times today I think of all the wasted years, the years when I was such a lousy daughter, and I wonder if my mother ever holds even a teeny-tiny grudge. I wonder if she thinks about how much better my life would be today if I had sobered up at 25 instead of 35, or if my children had lived or if I had managed to live the dream I had had for myself since I was a little girl.

So, being the girl I am, I ask her: "Whaddya think, Ma...should I stay or should I go?"
This lousy daughter is so grateful I never had a lousy mother. I know I tired her out. I know I caused her pain and grief and sleepless nights.

But I also remember the day I called her and said, "I found the lot and picked out the house. We would be right around the corner from the rest of the family. Mom, will you come live with me?".

And she said yes.

I have had many opportunities over the past 18 years to become the daughter she deserves. Today, while I sleep. she will attend a barbecue and be fussed over by grandchildren. Tonight, we will attend Holy Mass together before I have to go to work. Money is tight right now; I can only give her a card and a spiritual bouquet....but I can also give her the daughter she didn't have for so long.

She doesn't have to be the Mother with the Lousy Daughter any more.

Thank you, Mama! Happy Mother's Day!

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