I want to disclaim that I am not sure where this piece is going, or how it will get there. I can only say it needs to come out of me in whatever fashion it wants, in whatever form it decides to take.
There are so many times when you are faced with where you’ve come from. Each time is a challenge, each time is a test. Mostly, though, each time is a testament to where you are.
Just now, a few moments ago, I found out my mother died. We had no real relationship in the last decade, save the actions and reactions I’d have to certain things. As much as I tried to distance myself from her, there was always something there that reminded me that she was never really that far away, despite the distance I tried to put between us.
My mother didn’t have an easy life it seems. She was born an Army brat to a tough German father who lived quite often in the old methods of old days. I would hear stories of switches being used, of abuse in the household and the fact that it was “the way it was”, as if there could never be any need to change it. I was told my Grandfather wanted a son, and as such she was given the nickname “Mike” despite not being born with the desired parts.
Yet, I could never be quite sure of what was truth when it came to my mother. My life was filled with a steady stream of lies, and I learned how to be quite a good liar from someone I considered “the master.” I could watch her feign illness to get sympathy from a relative, or to end a conversation she didn’t want to have, or to begin a conversation with someone who wanted so much to be somewhere else.
I learned much more egregious lies that are better suited for another time and place. Those lies affected me greatly, first creating a master liar in me who distrusted everything, and then creating a man so in love with the truth he could embrace nothing else. I haven’t rejected lying, I’ve simply replaced it with such a love of truth that nothing else fits between the spaces in my life.
I can thank my mother for that to some large extent. I’m not a guy who is honest because I was taught to be, I’m honest because I was taught not to be, and I learned the destruction and sadness that dishonesty creates firsthand, not from a textbook or words of some great master somewhere.
I learned violence from my mother. The first time I got beat up was by her hand. I learned a great lesson in the beatings and painful words she’d hurl at me with reckless abandon. While the little boy felt the pain in both body and soul, the man realizes a great wisdom in such a perspective. Mom, there are few people out there who could match your intensity when angry or your wit when words were all you could use as a weapon. At least I haven’t met any.
Yet, out of that, I now stand firm in my own perspective, and strong in my own wisdom. No man could match your fury, and no insult could challenge me as much as the ones you offered me. I have risen beyond those limitations in no small part because you taught me the power of my own thoughts, the strength of each and every agreement I make, and the focus necessary to create a truth much different from the one I was taught.
I was taught loss from my mother. Whether it was the relationship with my biological father that was prevented, or the loss of everything I ever knew as a child as I grew beyond my youth, you taught me loss well. Your lessons are seen in the relationships destroyed by my own dysfunction, in the friendships I keep at arm’s length, and in the empty spaces that now permeate my life. Your lessons were seen in the self-destructive agreements I once made, in the patterns of denial and desperation I once cut into the cloaks and shrouds of a boy afraid of his own shadow.
Yet, I learned a great love of aloneness. I’ve learned new agreements along the way. I’ve learned a new way of living that was not taught to me out of some book or from some perfect family, but rather taught to me by walking in the brier patches and sharp, rocky inclines. It was my falls that taught me to stand, my sadness that taught me great joy, and my willingness to lose everything in order to find the things most important to me in a life I only wish to live well.
It was you who not only gave me the strength to stand, but also the ability to think beyond what anyone else would teach me I am.
Recently, I had the great fortune of telling someone how much I love my life, and how certain I am that I would not change a thing. I was able to, with not much description, explain how the painful past brought me to a place of great joy, how the loss brought me great gain, and how each and every moment led to a great perspective in the next. You were in each thought, dear mother, and I discovered that I was not angry with you at all.
Instead, I was very grateful. Grateful because you were the “far from perfect” mother. Grateful because you taught me all you had to teach. Grateful because in all of the mothers the universe could have picked, it picked you. Did I often pray for the Brady Bunch parents? Absolutely, but I know that my life would have been one boring hodge-podge of illusion….something I certainly don’t delve in much today.
Now, as I sit in my writing chair with tears streaming down my face, I understand that I have always loved you. While distance was the best choice for us in this existence, we were always close. Each time I got angry with my own little ones and decided to hug them instead of beat them. Each time I let my kids be who they were instead of creating them into something else. Each time I remember myself not too long ago…
And while you weren’t the bandage that healed the wounds, you certainly gave me the drive to find them.
You were not a bad person in the grand scheme of things. You created greatness. I don’t judge you as harshly as I once did, and I see you as someone who has a great value. Each time I pick up my proverbial sword to do battle with equally proverbial demons I raise it to you, for you not only taught me how to wield that sword but you also taught me how to love within the battle, and how to silence those voices you once gave me. Both the silence and the voices were your greatest gifts to me.
You gave me a stick, dear woman, and I no longer beat myself with it. Instead, I decided to paint with it, and while the stick is mine, you did, in fact, give me it. What a great gift it turned out to be.