behavior, daughters, family, life lessons, mothers, relationships, values

Mothers

My childhood memories of my mother consist of her constant worrying about whether we’re safe, warm, and not hungry. I remember those annoying mitten holders I was forced to wear on the sleeves of my winter coat to make sure I always had my gloves. Or those annoying snow pants I had to fight my way into. When my brother came home from school with his eye practically hanging out the socket from getting beat up by bullies, I remember the way she jumped into her car, tires screeching to confront them. I also remember thinking my mother was going to prison, but it worked out fine. ; ) She put her own health on the line, working constructions jobs to keep food on the table. All these things she did for us. She’s the type of mother I want to be one day.

What I don’t understand is how someone could just throw their flesh and blood away without a passing glance. For nearly a year, my mother has been raising her niece’s, my cousin’s baby. The whole saga started last January when she received a call that my cousin was giving birth at the hospital. It came as a surprise to us since we’d just talked to the girl, who’s in her early twenties back in October and she hadn’t mentioned anything about even being pregnant. Since the girl’s mother, my mom’s sister had just moved out of state, my mother went to see about her and the baby.

Mom immediately fell in love with the 3 pound preemie and promised to do everything she could for her. Since my cousin was close to getting evicted from her place and the government was in her business because the child was born with drugs in her system, my mother came to the decision to take care of the baby until she could get herself together. I was skeptical at first, fearing that Mom was taking on too much, like she tends to do. With my mother, myself, and my two sisters sharing an apartment, it was a group effort but we all did our part to take care of the baby from the time she left the hospital.

Knowing the mother could barely take care of herself, Mom paid for everything the baby needed out of her pocket, from clothes, to diapers and furniture. Mom provided while all the girl and her family could offer were thank you’s. Mom isn’t the type to worry about getting paid back for her efforts, she does it because it’s the right thing to do and God will see to her having what she needs. The sleepless nights and 3 am feedings belonged to my mother, who’s staring down the throat of 60, works 40 hours a week and goes to dialysis 3 times a week.

In the meantime, she coached my cousin on getting support for the baby, including WIC for the formula, and making sure the baby got part of the father’s income from the government. My cousin came to get the baby late in the spring and 3 months later we got a call from her saying that she needed us to take the baby again.

The relationship with the baby’s father was taking an abusive turn and she was moving out of town to be with my aunt. The baby was returned to us in deplorable conditions. Her eczema was out of control, diaper rash had run rampant, and the clothes my mother sent when she gave her back the first time were filthy with most of them having to be thrown away. Once my mother got her home the poor thing guzzled three bottles of milk until we could go get more formula.  The vouchers for the food and milk that the government gave for free had not been used and the lump sum of money my cousin received for her child, definitely wasn’t spent on her.

 

My cousin left with promises of sending a portion of the baby’s money every month for expenses, but that’s one promise that hasn’t been fulfilled. Since she skipped town we’ve only seen $100 of the promised money and we haven’t heard from her in nearly two months. When she does call it becomes an ‘I’m a bad mother’ docudrama worthy of Lifetime TV where she wants to rope you into feeling sorry for her. The focus turns to her, not to the baby she left. I see that the longer she’s away from her child the more disassociated she becomes, the bond between mother and child broken.

The baby is doing just fine and approaching her first birthday. She’s smart, loves to talk, and is happy as she can be. But kids grow up and one day she’s going to have questions. How will her mother explain why she abandoned her and took off with the money that was intended for her care? How will she tell her daughter she didn’t do all she could to make sure she was taken care of? Isn’t that what mothers are supposed to do?

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daughters, family, fathers, life lessons, mothers, relationships

Kids Grow Up

I am an adult child of divorce. I was about sixteen when my parents decided to end things. To make a long story short, my father wanted to do what he wanted and my mother wasn’t having it.

Kids aren’t stupid and they know who looks out for them. I watched as my mother, a housewife for eighteen years, pulled out the newspaper the day after he left and went to work the next day. She worked jobs she shouldn’t trying to put food on the table.  Recycling plant, cleaning toilets, construction; it didn’t matter, if the money was green she took the job. We may have had utilities off from time to time, but there was always food on the table, even though it may not be the gourmet cuisine you wanted. We learned how to make food last on a limited budget and we were never on any public assistance. The struggle bonded us deeply.

Now my father on the other hand was living the life he wanted with no responsibilities to tie him down. He went and married the woman he was seeing while he was married to my mother, about two months after the divorce was final. He went and bought that brand new red Mustang, not the type of car you would expect from someone with three kids. He wouldn’t call to check on us, but to brag about where he’d been on his vacation. He couldn’t come for his scheduled visits but he made sure we saw his shiny new sports car. He could care less that his kids were hurt, scarred and traumatized, it was all about him.

The same could be said for his parents. We were their only grand children, so on Christmas they doted on us with the huge gift boxes from Hudson’s. My grandmother would go all out with the beautiful hand knit sweaters and name brand items for kids. After my parents split, that was it. No Christmas gifts, no birthday wishes, nothing. As we struggled, no one called to see if the kids had shoes, coats, or even food. We were cut off completely, even though they only lived eight minutes away from us.

Now, the time in the hour glass is in our favor. We’re stable adults now, no drug use, no illegitimate children, my brother had his growing pains as a young black male growing up in Detroit, but these days he’s a workaholic and he’s fine. We’re as close to Mom as we’ve ever been.

Mr. Sherman on the other hand is another story. Having worked for Ford since he was eighteen, he makes a nice salary, but you can never tell. His life is a never ending spiral of dysfunction. The divorce from wife number three was final a couple months ago, so I know he’s looking for his next flavor of the month. He has no choice but to flit from woman to woman because he has no bond with his children and has to assimilate himself into their family. He’s the type who likes to rewrite history, like he was Cliff Huxtable; I have no problem reminding him what a terrible father he was.

Our relationship with him is awkward, like we’re operating at two different frequencies. When we talk he makes juvenile jokes, like he doesn’t realize we’re grown adults now. He doesn’t know me. He can’t tell you my favorite food or color. He’s even clueless about me being a writer, which I plan on keeping that way. Whatever he is, I’m stuck with him.

The ‘accessories’ on the other hand are optional. We eventually reconnected with my grandparents a when we learned after about fifteen years when we learned my grandmother was dying of cancer. We visited the hospital a couple times, but I felt the coldness, like I’d wandered into some random stranger’s hospital room. How pathetic is it when your own grandparents have to ask if you have any children? After a knockdown drag out debate with my brother and sister, we attended the funeral and started visiting with my widowed grandfather again.

Every week or every other week, we’d visit, go out to dinner or a movie. We even invited him over to dinner a couple times and my sister called him every day. A couple years later, a few of her daily calls went unanswered and he called back when he felt like it. He had a new woman in his life and little by little we could feel that chasm opening up again. My sister trying to be nice tried to give him another shot, but the writing was on the wall for me. Dear old sweet granddad used us as placeholders to keep from being lonely until he found another wife. After that I was done with the Sherman family completely. It’s been about two and a half years and I haven’t looked back.

Which brings us to the very reason I’m so pissed today. Sunday my father calls with his normal chit chat which results in him holding the phone in silence and me trying to come up with conversation because he doesn’t know what to say. Before he ends the call, he tells me to call my grandfather on Tuesday, cause it’s his birthday. Huh?

Today I had a missed call from my father and I know what he wants. If I didn’t know what he wanted, the text with my grandfather’s phone number is a clue.

I’m not calling him. Call me cold, callous, heartless, whatever, I’m done with these people. I’m not a toy you can take out of the box and play with whenever some one feels the need. My grandfather has kicked us to the curb twice; once as children and once again as adults, after we gave him a second chance. This isn’t the Oprah show where the long lost relative is hiding behind the curtain. Fake isn’t in me, so I’m not doing the loving granddaughter routine, pretending every thing is fine and make him feel better. I don’t think so.

People need to know that kids aren’t stupid. They may be little and defenseless and can’t do anything when you break promises or break their hearts. But they grow up. Be careful what you throw away.

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