Today is my mother’s birthday. She’s 61 this year, though you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. The gift of great skin, which she blessedly passed on to her children, among other things.
When I think of my mother, I tend to be overwhelmed by a mixture of varying emotions. As a family, we’ve been through a lot, courtesy of an absent, emotionally unavailable, and promiscuous father. So my mother raised us, me and my sisters; weathering our tumultuous personalities during puberty and sometimes until now, watching as her children each chooses their own way, trying to be the best mother that she can.
Make no mistake, my mother is no saint. She is a woman, with her own emotions and sins and regrets and flaws and passions. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sometimes she gets caught up in her own life as we, her children, get caught up in ours. Sometimes we drift apart, sometimes we fight and argue and yell at one another, sometimes we disapprove of each other’s decisions whether vocally or in silence. And yet through it all, she’s my mother still, and I love her.
I remember living with a guy once. I was 17 and rebellious and I ran away from home on the day that I met him and simply didn’t come home for several months. When I finally notified my family about how and where I was, my mother came to visit. She knew I was gay, since I came out to my mother’s side of the family as soon as I started dating, and at the time I thought she was okay with it. Turned out I was wrong.
During one of her visits, she brought over two female Jehovah witnesses, who apparently told my mother that my homosexuality is “an aberration against God and a sin and treatable”. And treat me they did. With an exorcism of sorts – hand-laying, loud praying, the works. I was stunned senseless. And I went to a place I was very comfortable and familiar with: hysteria and high-drama. We stopped talking for some time. I just couldn’t forgive her. I felt betrayed, misunderstood, and unaccepted. Suffice to say that in my teens, I was a very angry child.
Looking back at it, though, I can’t feel the same rage I used to. I guess perspective is something that living and age give you. She felt like she was losing me and sought to understand me by means that she understood. She’s a mother; not a saint, but a woman. And for that I forgave but couldn’t forget. And at that point, I stopped being so open about my orientation to her.
Several years later, something else happened. My mother met someone. I didn’t mind – none of us did. At least until we met the guy and I just couldn’t like him. I tried telling my mother but she wouldn’t listen. Maybe she was in love. Maybe she was lonely. She continued on and made some bad judgments. I can’t and won’t go into detail because this part is her story to tell, not mine. All I can say is that it was a major occurrence which residue is still felt to the present moment.
At least something good came out of it. My mother and I somehow reached a kind of agreement, an understanding, that in our lives we’re allowed to make our own decisions no matter how much the other may feel that they’re a mistake; and that however badly circumstances and conditions leave us shattered, when the dust settles we’ll always be there for each other.
I watched her sleep for several minutes tonight, and right when the clock struck twelve I woke her up, wished her happy birthday with a tight hug and kisses on her cheeks. I told her I’m sorry for not being able to give her anything yet. She just looked sleepily at me and smiled and said, “Just mention me in your prayers.”
And now I sit here thinking, remembering, recollecting. Reliving the days and the memories that we’ve shared and hoping so hard that there’ll be plenty of other memories to come, together with this wonderful woman who is not a saint, but my mother. And I love her.