A Seed

My parents are long divorced and I grew up living with my dad most of the time, and due to a wedding, eventually lived with my dad and stepmom most of the time. I went to my mom’s on the weekends, not every one but most. My mother spent one weekend in particular crying over some boyfriend who had turned out to be an a**hole.  According to her, the boyfriend’s phone records (which she had been obsessively combing since his return from a recent vacation) indicated that he had been spending hours talking to someone in Florida, which meant he had met someone while he was there, which meant it was a woman, which meant he had cheated on her, which meant he was cheating on her. She made these points to me with angry waves of her arms. She told me through sobs that he admitted he had hooked up with a prostitute while he was there. Appropriateness has never been my mother’s strong suit. She told me it wouldn’t be such a big deal if he had “just f*cked someone” but now he was clearly engaged in some kind of actual relationship with this “whore.” So either the mystery woman wasn’t a prostitute at all and he had met an “ordinary” woman in whom he was interested, or he was interested in a hooker. A lose lose from my scorned mother’s point of view. But instead of making it about him, about this scummy link in a long chain of boyfriends that came and went as if my mom’s home had a revolving door, she made it about her. She was unlovable. She was insignificant. It was his fault she felt this way and she would show him just how badly he had hurt her. This is my perspective anyway,  over 20 years after the fact. Maybe she had other reasons, but knowing her as well as I do – due to spending thousands of dollars on my own therapy to understand her to understand myself and the damage she had done to me that led to damage I did to myself – I think my instincts regarding her vindictive behaviour are fairly accurate.

She’d been crying on the couch all day, not that that was far from the ordinary weekend routine, but this time she wouldn’t let me answer the phone. The caller ID indicated over and over that it was this guy. I’ll call him Joe for the sake of being able to tell this story without humiliating anyone and/or getting myself sued. Joe Smith. Truth be told, I liked Joe. Well, maybe I didn’t like like him, but I hated him substantially less than some of the other goofs, creeps, losers, etc she brought around other times. Joe had been calling non stop on this day, over and over and over.

The phone would ring, my mom would shout at me, “Mandy! Check the phone! Do NOT pick it up!” and I would obey.

I’d say, “It’s Joe. Again.”

She’d scoff and go, “F*** him. That c***s*****,” or something equally hateful and crude, followed every time with, “Do NOT pick up that phone!”

Finally bedtime rolled around – not that I actually had one, I would just get bored or tired and go upstairs to my room to sleep – and this is when things got even more strange. It wasn’t abnormal for my mother to lay on the couch all weekend, in the same clothes under the same blanket. It was, however, extremely out of the ordinary for her to get up and change her clothes. To tuck me in. That last one was completely unheard of. In fact, I only have this one memory of my mom tucking me into bed. Wait. No. There’s one other one.

The other time, she lovingly tucked me into her bed, not mine (at another house we lived in before, not this one). Then I heard the front door close and I watched from her bedroom window as she walked to her car and drove away to go dancing at the bar. I cried all night. I was 5. But that’s another story.

So on this night, my mom technically tucked me in for the second (and last) time that I can remember, and it disturbed me. She rarely noticed when I left the living room to go to my bedroom, so weighed down by her own depression and buried so deep in her sinkhole of misery. I ate a bowl of cereal, went upstairs and crawled into bed. Within a few minutes, she was sitting on the edge of my bed telling me how much she loved me. It was awkward. She was in a beautiful black satin nightgown I had never seen before, instead of the usual baggy t-shirt, and she was stroking my hair and smiling. She had also tied Franny, my black shaggy mutt of a rescue dog, to my door handle with her leash, which was also odd.

“I love you so much, Mandy. You know that, don’t you?”

“Uh… Sure,” I replied, horribly uncomfortable.

This is not something that happened. My mother was rarely soft spoken, almost never tender, and not often loving (unless she was feeling guilty or wanted something). I just wanted her to leave. My young mind didn’t sense anything was wrong, let alone Wrong with a capital W, I just thought she was being weird. My mother’s behaviours and moods swung wildly so often that it wasn’t my first instinct to think much of it. I was the type, and still am to a point, to just freeze in uncomfortable situations and hold my breath until they’re over. I remember my body tensing up as she touched me, my breath tight in my chest as I unknowingly held it in. I remember this now, but didn’t notice I was doing so at the time.

The breath-holding was another thing I didn’t know about myself until my therapist told me I did it. After waking me prematurely from hypnosis (during which I had been working through some particularly painful memories of my mother) and my asking why she had, she let me know that she was worried I was going to pass out from holding my breath while I was under. She mentioned something about symptoms of PTSD.

Anyway, my mother finally left my room, and I was evidently relieved and relaxed enough to fall asleep.

Fast forward. I woke up, startled and drowsy, to the sound of Franny, my dog, going ballistic. She was barking and growling and tugging on her leash so hard that my door kept banging the frame.

“Franny, what the hell?” I mumbled, and sat up on the edge of my bed, rubbing my eyes. “Mom?” I tried to shout, my sleepy voice cracking. “Mom!” I yelled again, louder. No response. Franny, still going apeshit in that unreasonable way only dogs can, kicked it up another notch and was full-on snarling at the hallway outside my bedroom.

“Mandy! Mandy!” I heard from somewhere in the hall, or maybe on the stairs. “I need you to come downstairs!” It was Joe. It was dark and obviously the middle of the night, but he wasn’t whispering. He sounded wild. All I could think in my haze was that my mom was going to be so pissed when she found out he was here.

“Yeah, ok, Joe. Be right there,” I said groggily. “C’mere, Fran.” I tugged on Franny’s leash and scratched her soft floppy ear when she was finally within my reach. “It’s ok, girl, c’mere,” I whispered to her. She didn’t exactly calm down, she never did, but she shifted her energy from aggressive to loving and was licking my hands like she had never loved anything more in all her little life. I heard the phone ringing downstairs and wondered who would be calling in the middle of the night, especially since Joe was already here. What the hell was he doing here, anyway? Usually if he was here for the night, I wouldn’t see or hear him or my mother at all. They disappeared into her bedroom and I watched hours of Baywatch reruns.

The phone was still ringing. “Mandy! Come down and answer the phone! I need you to answer it!” Joe wailed up at me from what sounded like the kitchen.

“Wait here, Fran. I’ll be right back,” I told my dog as I kissed her head.

I went downstairs, feeling my way down carefully in the dark.

I just realized I’m holding my breath again as I write this. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. I paid big money to learn how to breathe properly, would be a waste to pass out now. Deep breaths.

Ok.

I made my way into the kitchen to answer the phone, which was still shrieking, Joe’s repeated shouts of, “Mandy, get the phone!” louder now since we were finally in the same room. I froze. Joe looked up at me from his crouched position on the kitchen floor, where my mother’s body lay motionless. She looked lovely in the dim light from the street lamps, in her beautiful nightgown. Her long brown hair looked like a soft dark halo around her head. I wasn’t scared, but I was confused. What was she doing on the kitchen floor? By this point in my childhood, my mother had already blurred the line between “normal” and strange behaviour considerably, but laying in the middle of the kitchen didn’t seem like her style.

“The phone, Mandy! The phone! The phone!” Joe yelled at me, startling me. I jumped and obediently ran to the phone and grabbed it, my sense for where it was combining perfectly with enough of that streetlamp glow to make it easy to find.

“Hello?”

A woman’s voice on the other end of the phone said, “Hi there, this is _____ from the Poison Control Centre. I’m looking for Joe Smith, is he there?”

“The what?” I asked.

“I’m calling from the P—“

“Give me the phone!” Joe interrupted, still hunched over my uncharacteristically peaceful looking mother. I passed him the phone and he snatched it desperately out of my hand. “Yes hello?” he said into the wrong end of the receiver. He quickly and one-handedly, while using his cheek to help hold it, flipped it over to its more useful orientation. That was when I realized that his hands had been on my mother’s face and neck the whole time I had been standing there stupid, thinking how pretty my mom looked sprawled out on the linoleum. Now he just had one hand on her, two fingers under her nose and his thumb against the side of her throat.

“Yes hello? Hello? This is Joe. … Yes. … I don’t know. … Yeah, it’s faint but it’s there. … Ok. Ok. … Where? Ok, when? No, just me and her daughter. … Ok. Ok. Thank you. Thank you. We’ll leave now.” He threw the phone receiver on the floor and the attached coiled cord drug it sluggishly towards the counter where its stubborn base stood. “We have to go,” Joe told me, trying to pick up my mom’s limp body by tucking his arms underneath her armpits.

“What? Where are we going? What the hell is going on? Mom’s pissed at you, what are you even d—“

“Mandy, listen. Listen to me.” He gently laid my mother’s head and shoulders back down, rushed over to me and knelt down. “Your mom took some pills. The ambulance is going to meet us on the highway. They’re going to help her but we have to hurry.”

I should mention that at this time my mom lived about an hour out of the major city where my dad and I lived. My mom lived a small town with no hospital. Years later I realized why we had to meet them on the highway. Halfway. To save time. That night in the back of my mind I only wondered why the ambulance didn’t just come pick her up. Didn’t ambulances pick people up?

“Mandy, do you understand? We have to go.”

“Ok. Ok, Joe.”

“It’s going to be ok,” he said, maybe to me, maybe to himself, as he went back over to my mother, who still hadn’t moved. He began again trying to pick her up. She was, still is, a tiny woman – 5’2” and at the time about 90 or so pounds. Once he got his arms underneath her he lifted her easily and headed for the back door.

I remembered Franny. I ran upstairs and untied her leash from my doorknob as she whined and did that happy shuffly little dance dogs do when their owner comes for them.

“I’m going to let you out, Fran. I have to take mom to the ambulance with Joe, ok? You be a good girl, ok?” She had jumped up on me and hadn’t stopped licking my face the whole time I was talking to her. I held on to the wall for guidance down the steps in the dark as Franny tugged me along gleefully by her leash. We made it to the back door and I stepped into my shoes. I swung the door of the house shut behind me as I walked out and saw Joe leaning in the passenger door of his car, probably buckling the seat belt he’d stretched across my mom. I clipped Fran’s leash to her driveway dog line, and she bounded away, tail wagging, sniffing whatever dogs sniff along the fence between our house and the neighbour’s house, blissfully unaware of the nightmare going on around her.

I watched her until Joe ordered me urgently, while jogging around the front of the car to the driver’s side, “Hop in. You’ll have to sit behind her and keep your hand on her face, ok? Ok?”

“Ok,” I said, exhausted and bewildered. I crawled into the back seat as Joe started up the engine. He was already peeling backwards out of our driveway while I was still trying to put my seatbelt on.

“Got your hand on her face?” he asked me over his right shoulder.

“Yeah,” I said, as I reached around the seat in front of me and felt for my mom’s face. “Why do I have to touch her?” I asked Joe.

“It’s your job to make sure she stays breathing. If you can’t feel her breath, tell me, ok? Just keep your hand by her nose and make sure she stays breathing. We’ll meet the ambulance, and she’ll be fine, ok?”

“Ok,” I said, nodding. My tiny fingers, probably the size that my daughter’s are now, rested delicately under my mom’s nostrils, feeling for that steady warm puff of air. My mom had talked of (see: threatened) suicide regularly and frequently enough as long as I’d known her (so, my entire life) that it wasn’t quite background noise, but it was back there in the white noise of childhood with the other things grownups say to kids, like, “I swear if you leave your shoes in the middle of the floor one more time…” or, “Don’t make me say it again…” Yeah yeah yeah. Except in my mother’s case, it was things like, “I should just kill myself. You’d be better off. Everyone would be better off,” and, “Maybe if I was dead you’d finally love me as much as you love your dad.” On and on. Etc. Etc. I’d learned to drown it out. Not for lack of caring, just for lack of understanding on my part and general follow through on hers. She rarely kept any promises so I’d already learned not to trust her. I was too young to understand her constant threats of suicide and what they could mean. I was just too young to understand. She was always worked up about something, so I never took her seriously. I didn’t know what suicide truly meant. I was just a kid.

I have to remember how young I was when this happened. It was never my job to look after her, but I still sometimes wonder if it was. I mean, I was the one she was telling, as inappropriate as it was. Did I fail miserably at some responsibility I hadn’t known was mine? These feelings formed wordlessly and without context in my mind, and I wondered if my mom was going to be mad at me for something, as Joe sped down the highway towards promised flashing lights that he must have been praying to see soon.

My therapist has insisted none of this was my fault, and that’s it’s not my job to try and save everyone as an adult (a self-imposed pressure I still struggle with, in both healthy and unhealthy ways). But I still find myself thinking about this night. Obviously. I mean, here I am writing, and here you are reading. It’s lingered a long time.

I realized I didn’t feel anything on my fingers.

“Joe? I don’t think I feel her breathing.”

“What?!” Joe slammed on the brakes and pulled over half-assedly at an awkward angle, not quite on the side of the road. “Let me see!” Joe demanded. I moved my hand out of the way. We were both silent. I watched him looking at my mom, though all I could see in the darkness was his right eye, the lights of his dashboard reflecting in it. Hazard lights. His eye lit up over and over. He leaned his ear towards her and held his hand gently across her face. “It’s there. She’s breathing. It’s just really soft. Feel it?” I reached back around and felt for even a hint of warmth underneath my mother’s nose.

Joe already had the car back up to whatever crazy speed he had been going by the time I responded, “I feel it. I think.” I wasn’t sure I could, but for whatever reason, I trusted Joe. What choice did I have?

“Good. Keep your hand there. She’ll be ok,” he reassured us for the millionth time. Finally, because of the absolute blackness of the night, I could see the distant foggy glow of lights up ahead, moving toward us.

“The ambulance,” I whispered. Joe sped up, either seeing the lights himself or hearing me, I’m not sure.

The rest is blurry. I remember someone lifting my mom out of the front seat, either Joe or a paramedic. I remember Joe choking out the words, “Oh god, she pissed herself. She pissed all over the seat.” I think now that it was in that moment when it really hit Joe that his girlfriend could be dying, or already dead. Something in his tone, the way he said that, expressed a type of panic I hadn’t heard from him until that point. He had been frantic before. Out of control. Now he sounded calmer, but more afraid.

I don’t remember seeing my mother loaded up into the ambulance and I don’t remember seeing the ambulance drive away. I do remember standing in the light of Joe’s headlights, just standing there, and feeling him scoop me up in his arms, my legs dangling somewhere around his knees. I remember feeling his face buried in my little shoulder as he finally sobbed. I hugged him back but I didn’t cry.

I have no memory of Joe putting me down or our driving to the hospital, but I remember being there. I have no idea how long we had been at the hospital at that point, but Joe and I were in the waiting room, or a waiting room, this one didn’t seem big enough to be the only one. Joe asked if I was hungry or thirsty and I said thirsty. He bought me a can of Sprite from the vending machine and handed it to me with what I guess was an attempted smile but looked more like a wince. After one sip, I felt instantly nauseous. I ran to the bathroom across the hall and threw up violently and repeatedly. Once the Corn Flakes I had had as a bedtime snack earlier that night were out of me, I continued to dry heave until I felt like I was turning inside out. I don’t know how long I knelt on that hospital bathroom floor, retching air into a filthy toilet bowl, but eventually the nausea passed.

I washed up and went back to the waiting room and sat down next to Joe.

“You ok?” he asked.

“Yup,” I replied, downing the rest of my Sprite. I meant it too. Truth be told, I wasn’t feeling much of anything. Nothing had sunk in. My body knew I was upset but my mind didn’t. I guess I must have wondered if my mother was alive or dead, but I don’t think I had the mental tools to properly consider the situation. I was still living moment to moment, in that incredible way only children get to do.

I was trying to keep my burning eyes open by watching the TV in the corner. Some muscly guy in his underwear that I didn’t recognize at the time (but who is now known as The Rock) was shouting things I couldn’t hear (the TV was muted) into a microphone. I was entranced. This guy had something that took me away from where I was. Wrestling wasn’t something I was familiar with at the time or ever really got into, but over the years I’ve become a huge fan of Dwayne Johnson the person, always feeling like he was a friend of mine somehow. Right now, as I write this, I think I finally understand where that feeling comes from. He was, however unknowingly, there with me on one of the scariest and most pivotal nights of my life. He offered a little girl a few moments of respite from a traumatic reality, by just being himself. By grinning that huge grin and being entertaining, even on mute. What an odd gratitude I’ve subconsciously carried for the man all of these years. All along I’ve thought I just liked the guy for superficial reasons. It all makes sense now.

Anyway, the guy in his underwear finally left the ring, someone less engaging took over and I fell asleep on Joe’s shoulder.

I woke up suddenly, some unknown amount of time later, and felt a wave of worry. My dad was supposed to pick me up Monday morning in time to drive back to the city for school and to go back home for the week (I guess this all happened on a Sunday night). Because of my mother’s crippling depression and inability to get off the couch most of the time, let alone drive for hours, my dad was almost always the one to drive me back and forth when I went to see my mom for the weekend. But we weren’t at my mom’s. We were here. At the hospital. I was desperately worried that my dad was already on his way to get me from a town an hour away, and cell phones weren’t yet common at this time. I shook Joe, who had dozed off as well, and told him my concern.

“It’s ok,” he said. “Your dad won’t have left yet, it’s still night time. We can go leave a note in his mailbox so he knows where to get you, ok?”

“Ok,” I replied. Looking back, I’m so lucky it was Joe there that night. Sure, he had cheated on my mom, but this suicide attempt would’ve happened some other time for some other reason if not this one, I’m sure of it. And he was kinder to me by far than some of the other tools she brought home.

As Joe was looking in his jacket pockets for something on which to write a note for my dad, a nurse came in to the waiting room and inquired, “Joe Smith?”

I looked at Joe. Joe looked at the nurse, his eyebrows raised in anxious anticipation.

“Yes?” Joe asked her, with some understandable trepidation.

“She’s awake if you’d like to come see her,” the nurse told us. Joe turned to me. I nodded. We stood up and he held my hand. Now I wonder who that gesture was for, me or him. It doesn’t matter. I held on and we walked towards the room where my mother was.

When I saw her I was repulsed, but mostly in a child’s way. She looked scary. She grinned at me and her teeth and lips were black from the charcoal they had tubed into her stomach to pump out the poison. I was well-trained, or maybe just experienced, enough by that point to do whatever she wanted me to. To always give the answer she wanted to hear. To love whatever she loved and hate whatever she hated. Because even without black teeth she frightened me. She was volatile, and could easily go from zero to a million in a split second. From laughing hysterically to sobbing uncontrollably. Sometimes, on a “good day”, we would be on our way out the door to do something fun together, maybe a bike ride or a walk to the corner ice cream shop, and she wouldn’t be able to find her keys as we were leaving. Before I knew it, she would be shrieking at me at full volume that at least she didn’t beat me like her parents beat her. There were no guarantees with my mom when it came to a mood, but I’d learned it was best to go with her flow, to keep her happy when she was happy. So when my mother, dressed in a white hospital gown freckled with black vomit, held out her open inviting arms to me, I went towards her. It had nothing to do with what I wanted.

She pulled me into a hug and whispered in my ear, “Listen to me. Don’t tell your dad, ok? Tell him the doctor gave me too much medicine and I got sick. Ok? Tell him whatever, but don’t tell him what I did.”

“Ok,” I replied. Yes, ma’am. Whatever you say, ma’am.

Funny that she assumed I knew what she had done and that I might spill the beans to my (already well aware of her mental state, having been married to her) father. She took for granted that her child already understood the concept of attempted suicide. She didn’t feel a need to explain. I think until she told me not to tell, I wasn’t exactly sure what had happened, but as soon as she told me to lie to my dad and tell him it was an accident, it was clear to me. She had done this, whatever it was, to herself on purpose. She had done this to me on purpose. And the thing that mattered most to her, for some still unknown to me reason, was what my dad would think. She didn’t apologize. She didn’t ask if I was alright. She told me not to tell my dad that she had intentionally taken an entire bottle of prescription medication. I still struggle with this detail of this story. I apologize almost daily to my 9 year old for far less consequential infractions on my part, on the slightest off chance I’ve hurt her feelings in some way. My mother gambled on the fact that Joe would suspect what she had done after not answering his calls all day and drive out to our house to check on her, versus the alternative that I would be the one to find her – no doubt full blown dead – in the morning. Not even an “I’m sorry.” Not even an “I love you.”

My therapist must not have been very surprised when, after sharing this story during one of our first few sessions together, I eventually told her I had a history of relationships with emotionally unavailable men, and emotionally abusive and manipulative men. She must have seen it coming when I told her I had a deep complex that when people claim to love me they must be lying for any number of possible reasons, to get me to do something or to trick me in some way. They can’t possibly mean it. My own mother told me she loved me right before trying to leave me forever. These beliefs have cost me many things in many relationships, and they’ve cost me even more in my relationship with myself. It’s not fair the seeds that get planted in us without our permission.

I was going to carry on, but maybe there’s no point. My mom lived. She’s still living. I think I’ve gotten out of my system what I needed to get out of my system by finally writing this out.

After the nurse took us to see my mom, Joe and I left the hospital and dropped off a note in my dad and stepmom’s mailbox with Joe’s address on it saying that’s where I would be. My stepmom ended up being the one to come pick me up and I got in trouble for not having my lunch with me. Now we had to stop at home so she could make me one and I would be late for school. She called me a silly girl and was obviously frustrated, maybe with me, maybe with my mom’s consistently irresponsible parenting. I don’t think I said anything to her on the car ride home.

Once we got to our house, my stepmom quickly began making me a lunch. That was when I told her why I had spent the night at Joe’s. I told her my mom was in the hospital. I told her the doctor gave my mom too much medicine by accident and it made her sick.

She set my lunch kit down on the counter, knelt down by me and held me very tightly. She said softly, “I’m so sorry, Mandy.” And now, because I’m and adult and not a little girl, I know she knew, both what had actually happened and that I was told to lie about it. I’m so grateful she made me feel then like she believed me. I was so relieved in that moment that she did. It meant I had successfully accomplished what my mom had asked me to do, and I’m nothing if not loyal. I also know now that my sweet stepmom must have meant it in more ways than one when she said she was sorry. She told me if I wanted, she could take me to the hospital to visit my mom after school. I said ok. I never had to go back though.

After school, my mom called me at my dad’s. It was a short conversation.

I took the phone from whichever parent had handed it to me.

“Hello?”

“Hey, I’m at Joe’s. Did you tell your dad what I told you to say?” my mother asked me. I told her I did. She made a few jokes and laughed the whole thing off, told me she’d see me the next weekend at her place. No big deal. Done and done.

Over the years I’ve discussed that night with my mom, very tentatively of course, and every time she’s downplayed it more and more. It’s gone from “attempted suicide” to “a stupid cry for help” to “that time I took those pills or whatever.” I doubt she will ever understand the profound and lasting effect that night and her depression over the years had on me. I doubt I’ll ever share with her all the pieces of me I am still trying to rebuild and replace as I find more and more broken ones the deeper I go on this never ending and ever changing journey inside myself. It doesn’t even matter if she knows. I don’t need her to know. It’s what happened. It’s done. I forgave her long ago. Besides, she was never a bad person, just a sick person. A damaged person. Unfair seeds were planted in her too.

I’ve driven out to that small town many times since then. I’ve parked in front of that house to see how it feels. It’s felt a little different every time. The first time was very emotional. The last time, only a few weeks ago, thankfully hardly hurt at all. I had always told the story of that night in a very detached way, never really letting it surface. I’d kept the entire event locked up since it happened, mostly because I was too young to process it properly. When I finally tried to feel it, at the advice of my therapist, it was painful. Many feelings came up that I didn’t know I had carried around most of my life. I had no idea how much of me – my choices, feelings, personality – was anchored to this one traumatic event. I was so hurt. I was so angry. I couldn’t understand, being a mother myself now, how a parent could do something so selfish. I was furious that after trying to kill herself over a man she broke up with shortly after the overdose, she didn’t make any attempt to choose better partners. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that after her daughter had to make sure she was breathing for 30 minutes while in a car racing to meet an ambulance on the highway in the middle of the night, my mother was not determined to be a better parent or happier, healthier person. To get help. To change anything. To do what I’m doing. I’ve had to heal these wounds and let these frustrations go because they should never have been mine to carry. I don’t want to be burdened with regrets I feel on my mother’s behalf, and I don’t want her to be burdened with responsibilities I’ve chosen to take for myself. All I can do is make the most of my life, be the best mom I can be to my daughter and the best version of myself that I can be in all aspects. The idea that my mother felt so little towards me when I feel so much towards my little girl has been a struggle to understand, but I am now in a place where it’s no longer personal. It was never about my ability to be loved, only about my mother’s ability to love. That may be the lesson that’s been hardest to learn. I’ve had to unwind and untangle a lot of my threads to see that one clearly, and I’ve had to let my heart break for the little girl my mom once was too.

Oh yeah. Franny. That crazy dog. My mom gave Franny away at some point because “she barked too much.” I never got to say goodbye. I came out for the weekend and she was just gone. I’ve forgiven my mother for that too, not that I had to because it wasn’t done to hurt me, it was just inconsiderate. But it did hurt, and I was angry, so I forgave her – for me.

A few years ago, my mom was visiting (she has lived in another province for about 15 years) and we were out shopping and saw Joe across the store.

My mom grabbed my arm and said while pointing him out, “Ha! Holy shit, it’s Joe! Remember that guy? What an asshole.”

I almost laughed. I mean, technically, the guy saved her life. As I’m writing this, I’m still shaking my head. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly understand my mother.

“Yeah,” I said. “I remember.”

And then I let it go.

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