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2004-05-17 8:35 PM
I am a liar.
Around ten years ago, I moved to Bellevue, Washington from Ventura, California, leaving my friends, family and mother behind. Not long after that, she went out to Pennsylvania to live with my older brother, Jim.
On the long car trip cross country, she developed gangrene in one of her feet and a significant portion of her foot had to be removed.
She had diabetes.
Not long after she moved to Pennsylvania, she had a stroke. Every time I spoke to her on the phone after that, her voice was slurred.
Her husband left her alone on this earth in 1970 and she scratched and kicked and fought her way through life ever since. After we kids were grown, some of us left her alone, too.
I was one of them.
I told myself that she was seriously ill at first, and probably didn't have too long to go. My mother was a master of inferred guilt, and I avoided it whenever possible. It was just too damned painful. Finally, after losing track of her entirely, along with the rest of my brothers and sisters, I told myself that she was dead. I even told that to people who asked. It was easier than explaining, after all.
Like I said, I am a liar.
A day before I wrote the mother's day journal entry, my mother, Sarah May Haines passed away after a stroke. I found out about this tonight, from my sister Kathy. You may have noticed that there are a few comments in my last journal entry from Jim and John Haines. They are my wonderful brothers from whom I've been seperated for far too long.
My brilliant neice Megan found me via the internet. She told her mother and Kathy contacted me with the news this afternoon.
You know, when you tell yourself something often enough, it's very easy to believe that it is true. If you tell yourself that you mother is dead, so that you can relieve the guilt of not trying harder to find her, it's much easier to look yourself in the mirror every morning.
Now, I did try to find her. I have five returned letters marked, "No such person at this address," sitting in my closet to prove it. I consulted phone books and called many S. Haines' and Sarah Haines' in the area my mother last lived; all to no avail. She was gone, and it was easier to believe that she had passed away than to struggle to find her.
After all, if I found her . . .well, I knew she didn't have very long to go. Pain is easier to deal with in small, uncertain doses.
Now I know that she really is gone, and I can start to truly mourn what I've lost.
I've lost the woman who walked to the busstop with me to keep the bully from beating me up for the fifth day in a row.
I've lost midnight fried chicken dinners.
I've lost the woman who supported me during one of the most trying times of my life. Hell, she supported me during almost all of the trying times in my life. She wasn't much on hugging or blatant displays of affection, but if you crossed one of her kids you would see the rage in her eyes.
I've lost the person who backed me up, even when she knew I was wrong. In private, she'd disagree with me. In public, it was the Haines family against the world.
I've lost waking up to her terrible singing voice, screatching, "You've got to get up, you've got to get up, you've got to get up in the morning . . ." Man did I hate that.
I've lost all the silly songs she used to wander around the house singing. One of her favorites? "Does the bubble gum lose it's flavor on the bedpost over night?" Another? "Yes, we have no bananas . . ." Actually, I haven't really lost them. It's a habit I picked up. It drives my wife crazy. (Thanks, mom.)
I've lost the woman who--though she abhored cigarettes--would blow smoke in my ear when I had an earache.
I've lost the woman who kept my airway open when I got a chicken bone caught in my throat by shoving her fingers between my clenched teeth until we could get to the hospital. The hospital, by the way, was fifty miles away. Last time I saw her, she still had the scars.
I've lost the woman who used to love sharing afternoon coffee with me when I grew up.
Was she perfect? Not by any means and I won't insult her memory by saying she was.
But she loved us. Don't ask me why, but she did.
I could've been a better son. That much is certain. But I'm not going to sit here and second guess what I've become.
She made me this way. She raised me and taught me to think for herself--much to her chagrin in later life--and gave me independence and there's no way I can thank her enough for it.
They buried her with my dad in Texas last week. I hope he treats her well over there. He married a young woman fresh from the farm. She turned into a pit-bull who wouldn't stay down, no matter what the doctors told her. My dad's gonna have his hands full over there.
My mother did some reprehensible things in her life; things that I thought I'd never forgive her for. Not just to me, but to my brothers and sisters--especially one sister (I love you Suzi!)--but it's time to let those things go now. She really didn't know any better.
Dad left her with eight kids, almost no money and very few skills on raising a gaggle of children (a murder of children would almost be a better term . . .we were all a handful; headstrong and independent) and she somehow made it work. You're right Jim, it's a wonder she held it together as long as she did. I wasn't saying that she didn't deserve to lose a portion of her sanity; just pointing out that she did.
But then again, all of us have a bit of that insanity in us.
It's how we survived. Her last present to we children is contact with one another again. Let's not lose it this time, okay? I'm in if you are.
Mom, thank you. I'll miss you.
Give Dad a kick in the shins for me, will ya?
Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of the Abyss
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