Although you passed away many years ago, sometimes it seems like yesterday. Undeniably, you were not anywhere near the perfect mother, but I loved you and always felt loved by you. This may be difficult for some people to understand, as, for the most part, you didn’t raise me. Being a single mother with four children was challenging back then, but not impossible. Obviously this was not something you felt capable of undertaking, and I tried to understand.
I was the youngest of four, and the last to be sent away to live with friends of the family. It was a lonesome, isolating life for me and I lived for your visits. My excitement escalated as the day approached, but, more often than not, the visit would be cancelled at the last minute. I pretended to understand, but when I was alone in my room the tears flowed effortlessly. My heart ached, but I hid my tears because I feared Aunt Betty would say those hurtful words again. “See, she doesn’t love you or she would have come to see you.” I hated her words; I knew you loved me because I could feel it when you were with me.
I struggled in my daily life, wishing I were home with you, as I didn’t feel a part of this family. You promised we would be together someday and I clung to those words, hoping that day would be here soon. At school when others talked about their mothers my heart ached, I hoped no one would ask about my mom. I hesitated to tell them I was not with you, as I knew I would have to explain why and they would not understand. “Why don’t you live with your mom? Who is that lady who picks you up?” I tried to avoid their questions. I told them Aunt Betty was my aunt, but she wasn’t really, she was a friend of my mom’s boyfriend. Aunt Betty was not a kind person, but maybe I felt that way because she wasn’t you. She repeatedly criticized you and found fault with everything about you.
Finally you arrived to see me and looked so beautiful. Your arms enveloped me securely as I snuggled close and breathed in the smell of cigarettes and perfume. We often went for a drive and I sat close to you, while Ray sat on the other side. I loved to be close and touch you. At times we would go to a nearby park and you carefully laid out a blanket on the grass for us to sit. We shared chocolate bars and orange pop, my favorite. Then you pulled your hairbrush out of your purse and began brushing my hair. “You look so beautiful sweetie,” you would say. I thought to myself that I only felt beautiful when I was with you. I wished these days would last forever, but unfortunately they had to end and we both cried as we said goodbye. You always told me that soon we would all be together as a family. Your words gave me hope.
Sadly that day was a long time coming. I lived with you for only a brief time before I moved out on my own. By then I had become accustomed to being away from you and was proficient at hiding my pain and carrying on with life. In time, I got married. And soon after my own daughter was born. As I held her in my arms I knew I could never let her go. My love for her caused me to question how you could do what you did to your children. I became angry and didn’t want to see you for a while. Eventually I needed to know how you could have given your children away. You cried and begged for my forgiveness. You said you thought your children would have a better life living with other people. I could see the pain in your eyes and I forgave you. We carried on from there, but things had changed?and so we only saw each other occasionally. As much as I say I forgave you, probably a little part of me was not able to totally forget the pain and longing in my heart.
When the call came that you had a heart attack, I was devastated. I could feel my breath catch as I raced to the hospital. You looked so fragile, but still my beautiful mother. I felt overwhelmed with love and faith you would not leave me again. You didn’t speak, but I knew you were aware I was there beside you. They say the love between a mother and child never dies, and that was evident that day?and every day since. You did rally. And stayed long enough for all of your children to visit and spend time with you. But my heart broke the day I had to say goodbye to you forever. I hope you and dad have found each other. Now It’s my turn to say, one day we will all be together again. Love and miss you, Mom.
Barbara Godin is a graduate of AU and writes the “Dear Barb” column. She lives in London, Ontario with her husband, two dogs, and one cat.