I was drawn to write you for the first time in ages, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is because of Mother’s Day, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. I can’t believe you have been gone 36 years. You died when I was 26, so you’ve been gone longer than you were with me.
Growing up, I wanted to be just like you. From where I sat, you were always the perfect lady. We had home cooked meals, you baked fresh butter cookies that you would sometimes let Gene and I decorate, and the house was always immaculate. As I got older, I realized it was all smoke and mirrors. You were covering up a lot of secrets that were going on when nobody was looking.
I did the only thing I knew, which was to pretend to live in the fantasy you created for the world to see. The happy face I presented was a facade covering up my reality. My real life was too painful, and I had no coping skills. How could I – you didn’t know any to teach me. You showed me by example that the most important thing was for the world to think we were the Cleavers, and they did.
It worked for a good part of my life. I followed in your footsteps into addiction. At 38, I hit a bottom and found the rooms of recovery, but I continued living in my little fantasy world. The problem is that Narcotics Anonymous teaches that you have to change everything. That meant getting honest. Talking about what my life was really like growing up was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I felt guilty saying what really happened because you weren’t here to defend yourself. You had died more than 12 years before.
It has been a long and painful journey, but today I know that you did the best you could with what you knew. Life wasn’t fair to you from the day you were born, but you made it through. Yes, it was with the help of alcohol and pills, but you weren’t taught anything that gave you any other choices.
I remember the moment in 1997 at the Wailing Wall in Israel that I held my hand on the wall and said I didn’t want to be like you. I had the chance to break the chain of addiction in our family, and I was going to do that. Today, gratefully, I am my own woman. I have been drug-free for over 25 years and no longer live in the lies I grew up with. For decades I was hurt and angry that you weren’t the mom I wanted you to be, the one I believed all my friends had. I’ve learned to get past my anger and love you today for being the best mom you had the ability to be.
I wish you were here so I could buy you a beautiful card, take you to dinner, or do whatever else you wanted. Perhaps for the first time I truly want to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. I love and miss you!