“OF COURSE we skipped Christmas, why wouldn’t we?”, laughed my Mother on the other end of the phone, late last week. “We thought we had all the time in the world!”
Yes, it’s definitely ironic that 2019 was the one Christmas my Mother and I decide to “skip” in lieu of busy schedules and plans, isn’t it? Naturally we had also made promising plans of a joyous spring reunion, and then . . . THEN THIS SHIT SHOW OF A TOXIC DUMPSTER FIRE HAPPENED.
So you take that guilt notwithstanding, and pepper in a little carpe diem and a touch of Mother’s Day weekend, and then you throw in a whole lotta just missing my Momma, and you have my sober pink Irish ass on a road trip. My Mom and I are tight, y’all, and I just decided to drive to see her for the night – we were distant and that was way better than nothing and of course, NO HUGGING. That’s actually kinda funny because we (Mom and I) are not really huggers (IF YOU KNOW US YOU ARE LEGIT SNORTING) and I’m not sure if it’s our yankee-ness, or our “Michigan Blood” as my Grandfather would say, or if we just don’t like being touched so much. Don’t even get us started on Grandma, shit, we called her The General for a reason, you guys. Well, let’s fast forward to my ass in a folding metal chair sobbing in a church basement for one year straight and BOY DO YOU GET HUGGED IN RECOVERY I TELL YOU WHAT. More irony here is that my work environment is totally PRO-HUG as well and thankfully I was already having to just GET ON BOARD with the hugging otherwise I’d have been even more extra and again, don’t get me started. This is a whole other fucking sidebar, but suffice to say the minute I get on board with all the hugging there’s an incredibly contagious and sometimes fatal virus causing a global pandemic so AGAIN WITH THE IRONY.
ANYHOOO, all that shit to say, I went to see my Mom. We did nothing special and it was delightful. We sat on her back porch (six feet away yessir) and shared a fire pit and a lot of laughs with my stepdad who is as upbeat and spontaneous as she is, so they’re an adorable, but formidable, package. Like a baby scorpion.
She made a SHRIMP CASSEROLE and I know, I shuddered when I heard those two words together because there is totally a reason that you don’t bake shrimp for long and my Mom can “ad lib“, as she herself says. More importantly though, she made a yummy chocolate cake and we watched the news while we knitted and lamented the crisis, and then shuffled off to bed. We do not fuss around so much, Mom and I, so it was a typical visit all in all, but there was definitely a shift, and I could feel it.
When I say I could feel it, I mean it – I was teary pulling into her driveway and I could feel a lump forming hard in my throat before the Jeep came to a stop. Jesus, I thought – HERE WE GO. One thing I can tell you FOR SURE is that sobriety will make you weep. You think you cried when you were drunk? Holy shit, wait until you sober up and START FEELING THINGS. I will cry watching a butterfly, or making eggs, or smelling my cat’s head. Seriously. It used to bother and embarrass me but as of the last six months or so, I’ve decided to just let the tears fall – wherever I am, with whoever I’m talking to – if that’s how I feel, then so be it. I can’t control it anymore and I’m tired of trying, believe me – I’m no actress. As a drunk I was naturally a liar, but I wasn’t necessarily a good one. I was mean, that was my real “specialty”, and now I’m a big ball of raw, exposed and frayed nerves, essentially. It hasn’t happened in public. . . yet, so I have that to look forward to, but I guess I can be glad that Gay Pride will probably be canceled because that parade gets me EVERY DAMN YEAR.
I accidentally sobbed at Christmas this year when I handed my stepdaughter her present from me, which was a handmade knitted afghan that took me around two years to complete, which if you know me, you know that the only thing prior to this I had ever fully completed beside every vodka bottle that was ever in my hand lolzzz (sometimes the jokes write themselves, you guys) is nothing, the punchline is nothing, of course. Anyway, I had this quippy little thing to recite about not being a warm and snuggly stepmom, so that I hope this would keep her cozy in college, yada yada yada and what came out instead was a ridiculous and complete slobbery mess. As soon as I turned to hand her the wrapped package, I was speechless. I still remember the looks on everyone’s faces as I choked on my first words and started to hack through it, in rushed sobs. Pride, guilt, joy and remorse all bubbled up so quickly that I fought it desperately, but only briefly, and then just decided to let it rip, for lack of a better word – I mean, why not? Aren’t we all exhausted from trying to be something we’re not? Aren’t we all tired of bottling everything up and pushing it all back down and safely away? I’ve found that it only multiplies exponentially, over time. I might feel things a little harder than some these days, but that’s all right with me, I’m feeling something.
Now, another thing I will tell you for sure is that those tears (in whatever situation) are almost always out of gratitude, not regret, so let that lead you. The tears for my Mom were exactly that…gratitude that I have a Momma that’s still around, and that I can drive to see, for starters.
The next morning Mom takes me out in her new convertible. Well, it’s a vintage model, but new to her, and it’s adorable and so is she – behind the wheel. She popped in a CD (yes, a cd) of an old bluegrass band we used to chase around and I looked over at her as she CRANKED it up at 9:30am and she laughed and shouted, “to get ya in the mood”! That certainly did it, and we cruised the streets and reminisced around our old haunts and honkytonks because back in the day, we were quite a duo. She and I found a bar once because a gentleman was outside face down on the front sidewalk/lawn with a backpack exposed and there was a kitten’s head sticking out. We were regulars for over two years.
Anyway, it was a grey chilly morning and it was “spittin’ rain” as Mom says, so we forwent the ragtop, with another promise of a glorious summer reunion. We drove around for the better part of an hour and when we got back to my Jeep, I packed up my duffel bag and took a big tupperware container of macaroni salad (my favorite dish of hers) and stuck it in my road cooler for my trip home. It may not be voted the best macaroni salad on Pinterest, but it tastes like love to me. I looked at Mom and my throat tightened again. She looked up and knew that look immediately, I mean, she’s my Mom. The quizzical alarm on her face was quickly replaced with a knowing bittersweet smile and she ever so slightly tipped her head, as if to give me a second to compose myself, but I didn’t. I just laughed and said OH I CRY AT THE DROP OF A FUCKING HAT NOW, MOM and I snotted loudly into my kleenex and she said OH HONEY and THEN she said I was like her little girl again, and you wouldn’t think those simple words could bring a fifty-two year old woman to her knees but they did, and yet I was able to hold my shit together until I got onto the road because I couldn’t even process or deal because who prepares you for shit like that when you get sober?!? I know the light had disappeared from my eyes, but I had no idea that she thought I had actually lost my actual essence, to the point of non-recognition.
Fuck. I had NO IDEA that MY healing would help HER heart. I mean, I knew it would, in that way that all Mother’s want the best for their kids and want to keep them safe and healthy and all that shit, but I hadn’t really processed what she was going through, in her own crazy ass head, as I was only dealing with my own melon of lunacy. It never occurred to me that she may carry guilt about my alcoholism, and that she may have her own prison and pain, surrounding that topic. I knew she wanted my liver to heal, and for me to get help, but I hadn’t realized the level and depth of her loss and fear. So, in reality, two hearts were healing that drizzly morning.
She stood petite but mighty in her gravel driveway and my heart hurt out of joy/love/gratitude. I got a second chance. My Mom is right here, right now, and if she collapses in the next five minutes, she knows exactly how I feel about her and what’s more, she knows I am okay. At one time, I don’t know that she thought she’d be able to exit Earth sure of that – probably not up until the last couple years, really, because the first two years of my sobriety I was still certifiably shit house rat crazy. And when I’m not okay, Mom, please know that I will be.
I owe her that, and so much more, y’all. It’s a good thing the women in my family live past 100, and let’s remember…she just got a convertible.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom