A sweet and a not so sweet memory


Sometimes grief makes no sense. Random memories pop into my mind. But maybe they aren’t random at all. I’m learning there are some memories and feelings I have to work through in order to transition to the next stage. Addiction complicates those memories and feelings. Addiction makes you question everything.

Lately, two childhood memories of mother have been swimming at the forefront of my thoughts. One sweet one and one not so sweet.

My not so sweet memory…

“I love you more than anything in this world,” mother told me. This was something as a child – mother had always told me as far back as I could remember. It made me feel special and loved. I was her only child and I believed her when she said it. In a teeny tiny way I think it helped me look past the hurt she and her drug use spewed all over my young life….if only for a second. It was something she only said to me. Those were words saved just for me. Something special. Because I was special.

On the day mother married her third husband, I asked her… “Do you still love me more than anything in the world?” I’m not sure why I felt the need to ask her the question. I don’t remember ever asking her before. Mother replied, “I love you and ‘B’ more than anything in the world.” When I heard those words, my heart ached and my stomach hurt. I asked, “You love him as much as you love me?” She tried to explain in some sort of logic. But I was too young and far too wounded by a long history of mother’s actions that her explanations didn’t mean much to me. But for some reason those words hurt. How could she love this man – her third husband as much as me? Her first two marriages had already ended. Had she loved them more than anything in the world too? If she passed those words to everyone…they weren’t special. I wasn’t special. I was crushed. All of these years, that moment, that question, her answer – I’ve never forgotten.

My sweet memory…

Mother had just recently completed a treatment program for her addiction. I think I was in around the seventh grade and was on about my fourteenth school move (surviving crazy 15 schools in 9 years) . It didn’t matter that I was comfy and leading a stable life with my aunt and my cousins. My mother thought she could handle being a mother now so she wanted me back. She had a new husband, her fourth. I believe they met in treatment which from what I’ve seen doesn’t always make for the best relationships. I never remember full details only snippets and feelings. I don’t remember the move from my aunts to my mothers. Only that they (mother and her new husband) tried to entice me with a nice big bedroom and the man pretended to be nice. Maybe he was but I didn’t much like him. He seemed fake. Like he talked out of both sides of his mouth. I didn’t want the bedroom, the new school, or a new step-dad. I was tired and emotionally exhausted. I was tired of being the new girl and having to make friends over and over again only to lose them in a few short months. I was tired of having a mother, pretending, believing, hoping things would be different…only to be crushed again.

It wasn’t long after they were married that that man (the fourth husband) in an angry fit – crushed multiple bones in mother’s hand. He was a big man. She had tiny hands. I’m not sure what made him so mad that he would cause such harm to her. Maybe they were both messed up. Thankfully, I wasn’t there. I don’t remember where I was or how I even found out. I just remember I ended back up with my aunt and cousins. Thankfully my aunt was always there to take me back when mother couldn’t do it anymore or got herself in a big mess.  Over the years, mother had multiple surgeries to correct that finger but it was always deformed because of his abuse. Mother wasn’t married to him very long. He just faded back out of my life – the same way he came in. Just like the others. I didn’t like him anyway. Something about him made me nervous. Strangely, he died not long after mother did. He died in prison. He was serving time for drug related crimes – unrelated to the abuse he unleashed on mother. When she died, her little finger was still deformed. A constant reminder of that fourth husband.

Before they divorced and he crushed her hand…soon after starting the new school, report cards came out. I think I only attended that school for a semester or less. It wasn’t long regardless. I opened up the report card to find a “D.” I have no idea which class. My memory fades in and out.

When I brought home the D, I expected to be grounded, scolded or something. I felt bad. My aunt and uncle whom I lived with when I wasn’t with mother expected good grades. I don’t ever remember having grade discussions with my mother. We just never had those talks.  When I showed mother my grades, I had a lump in my throat and a knot in my tummy. I was disappointed in myself. I knew I was better than a “D.” But I had a lot of instability and craziness in my life too. Most days, grades weren’t at the top of my list. When mother saw my D she didn’t scold me or get onto me or anything. She simply looked at the report and comforted me for my own disappointment. She comforted me. Then she asked me if I wanted some ice cream. Her kindness and gentleness eased my tummy and my own disappointment. We drove to Braums and we both got Chocolate Sodas.

I’ve pondered and analyzed why these thoughts are swimming around in my head over thirty years later. The truth is…it was a dumb question. One that mother couldn’t have answered correctly. She was an addict. I was her only child. Of course she loved me more than anything in the world but she didn’t know how to put into words or make me understand how she could love someone else in addition to me without ever taking love away from me. I get it now. She was just trying to answer the question the best she knew how – being true to herself and hopeful in a new marriage. Mother didn’t know how to love herself. How could she truly express love to me when she didn’t truly understand it herself?

I think of that D and the kindness and love my mother showed me. Maybe she felt somehow responsible for the D. But I know this…I appreciated her kindness and I have never forgotten it. That long ago day when a D earned me a chocolate Soda and a sweet memory of my mother.

To this day, Braums is a favorite place. I have taken my boys there many times and sometimes we get a chocolate soda. Every single time I order one…I think of my mother and the sweetness she showed me that day.

Finding the sweet side of crazy!





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