it was 3 years ago when I checked my voicemail and heard the voice of the woman’s name I already knew. My mother had left me a message. The solitary prayer I’d prayed and shared with anyone willing to listen for decades had been answered.
I didn’t hesitate to return her call then asked if we could video chat so I could see her face. To my surprise, her 2 other daughters also showed up and the 3 of us laughed, cried and compared our clearly similar features. Now I saw carbon copies, all pretty women, with my eyes, my “good” hair, similar noses. Even our giggles were similarly youthful.
That would be the first and few of the joys I’d be allowed to freely express with them.
Elated, I headed to my Facebook page and posted how Carolyn had asked for my forgiveness, and that my reply to her was simple; I’d forgiven her long before I’d ever met her. I was proud, overjoyed and certain she’d feel welcomed, appreciated and whole having found me after seeing that message.
During our next phone chat, she shyly but firmly corrected me, informing me that she was a private person and it was evident her only concern was who in her church might discover one of her secrets. Me.
Not wanting to hurt her, but injured myself, I swiftly removed the post and wondered to myself what kind of church she attended that wasn’t full of forgiveness or compassion. I was raised in church; my father was a Mason and my grandmother was an Eastern Star. Church for me had been a place of healing and it was where we were uplifted. It sounded like this was a church of judges, not a place to spend great amounts of time. But I didn’t say that, lest I give yet another reason for discontent.
Around this time one of her daughters contacted me. She was concerned with her mother’s state of mind and asked what I’d expected from the relationship. I hadn’t thought much of it, just so glad she was in my life. And I hadn’t searched for her for many years; she’d found me.
But then I remembered Carolyn’s son had primed me well before I spoke to her. He told me how every year since he could remember around the beginning of February his mother would become helplessly depressed. We knew now it was because that was around the time of my birthday. I found what I wanted.
I wanted this to be the first year in a long time when that didn’t occur. And it didn’t. Late the next January I got a birthday card; I sent her one as well. But while we were sharing and speaking very frequently, the jabs and ill-intended comments multiplied.
Several times I’d asked if we could meet. I’d be glad to fly down South on my own dime, just to see her. I just wanted to sit on the same couch, bench, floor…or maybe across from a table. The two of us. Just to look at her as she was speaking. That would never happen.
I was allowed, once I was comfortable, to call her mom but every now and again in my ever-increasing mania, I’d slip and call her mommy. I didn’t even hear it. It just naturally slipped out as I was communicating whatever I was telling her at the time. I haven’t called ANYone mom in decades so this was new to me, too.
The phone would go silent. No matter what we were discussing she’d become inaudible and the only comment she had was about my calling her that. She’d sneer, tell me I sounded childish. I’d apologize and skulk away to call a friend and cry to her. And cuss. And rage. And cry some more.
And I tolerated that and so much more for almost 2 years. While I kept my cool with her, my coworkers were noticing the changes in me. My sleep lessened, I was late for work on a regular basis. Trying to love her while walking her tightrope was killing me.
The final straw was being told to just call her Carolyn. Well, that, and her repeatedly finding a way to work into the conversation how proud she was that all her children had the same last name. As if she weren’t even talking to her own child. Instead, I chose not to call her at all.
Just this week I was catching up with an ex-coworker and friend. She asked how things were going with my new family. She articulated what she’d noticed when we were working together that I hadn’t realized until several months later. And I told her then what I’m sharing here.
It might be easy to feel bad for me. Yes, the mother who raised me did allow her men and friends of those men to abuse me; share me, traffic me. Yes, she profited from it. And yes, I fantasized and prayed for the day my real mother would be in my life.
But the mother who raised me is my real mother, and she had a lot in common with the woman who didn’t. My mother got her ass beat on a regular basis, right before my eyes. Too afraid to defend herself, how could she defend me? I have cigarette burns on my thighs that anyone would imagine are birthmarks, if they ever got close enough to see. Then she’d turn around and beat me like a man, pull out my hair then tell me how much she loved me.
My mother wasn’t crazy. She was abused and suffering. I can’t say whether it’s by nature or nurture but I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 1. I know now that mental health issues have wreaked havoc in my bloodline long before I came to be.
When I got my diagnosis, I reached out to a few previous employers and apologized for what I didn’t recognize then. Every single one of them including my very first boss told me they knew I was manic when I didn’t. When I was emailing about projects at 3 a.m., talking rapidly, then disappearing for a day or two. Not because I forgot or didn’t care about work. I was and still am awake for sometimes 3 straight days, and when I’d finally crash, I didn’t hear a thing. And although I’d lost virtually every job I’d ever had, I never got a bad reference. Because when I’m on, I’m ON! There’s nothing I can’t do. I’m an asset, until I’m not.
So where’s the blessing in all this? God knows what He’s doing and how to do it. If I’d met this woman sooner, I might be dead now. I could not have handled the pain and ridicule this woman regurgitated toward me, as if I had found HER and disrupted HER life. But God knew I could take it now.
He’s increased my faith in ways I cannot describe. Because even though it took almost 4 decades to come to fruition, He knew now was the time to answer yet another of my prayers. If He can answer a prayer that took all that time to birth, can’t He answer the others at the right time, too?
I used to question why God wasn’t hearing me. Was I praying wrong? Was I asking too much? Am I forgotten, unloved, unworthy? No.
I’ve seen blessings where others saw failure. I’ve seen healing in the midst of despair. I was being blessed even as I had the audacity to curse God for giving me exactly what I asked Him for. Had I never met Carolyn, to this day I’d still be praying and hoping to meet a fantasized version of a woman who never existed.
While my mom has been dead over 30 years, my love and relationship with her is healed. We only had each other after my dad died when I was 6 and I’m sure that killed something inside both of us. But she is the mom who did her best to love me with all her broken parts, broken limbs and broken dreams. In that I am at peace.
Hurt people hurt people. I am not so broken that I cannot recognize that. In an attempt to garner sympathy from anyone who’d listen, Carolyn said she’d been calling me but that I hadn’t answered her calls. I told that person to ask to see her call logs, because I hadn’t blocked her and she never did call again. Poor thing.
And I do thank God for the confidence to disallow anyone new to abuse, shame, discourage, condemn or silence me; related or not.
For all these things and more, I thank God wholeheartedly. For my pen, my voice, my story and my grace. I am so excited to see what else He has in store for me.
As my favorite singer of all times used to croon, the best is yet to come.