2. When I was 20 she called me a whore. I had spent the night at my boyfriend’s house (who I had been dating for over a year) (and did I mention that I was 20??) – and FYI, the word whore was the furthest thing from who I was. It was her disease talking. My mom was the sweetest, most generous soul. She rarely said anything mean, ever. I’m pretty certain she was either hungover or doing what alcoholics do best – marinating in self pity and wondering what she had done the night before. I know now from my vantage point as a grownup that it was her alcoholism talking – but back then, at 20 – I was unbelievably hurt. I wish I could delete it.
3. I wish just once I could have seen her dive under the water in the pool and get her hair wet. I never saw her with wet hair – she didn’t want to ruin the weekly hair-do she got at Casa Elegante. (-:
4. I wish I hadn’t been so surprised when I found a box of letters I’d written her on her bedside table after she died. She had saved literally everthing I’d ever written for her – and this discovery really shocked me because I never knew she cared about it, I never in my wildest imaginings thought she had saved any of this stuff. My gold baby bracelet was in there too, with my name on it. She’d put it there for me to find – a little box of love. As if to say: I loved you more than you thought I did. One of the cards said:
“Congratulations on giving up smoking mom! I’m so proud of you! YOU CAN DO IT!!”
It turned out that she couldn’t. But at least she tried.
5. I wish I had appreciated how beautiful she was when she was alive. I never really saw her beauty until after she died. I think it was because her alcoholism distorted my view of her.
6. I wish I could delete the years she spent in the DP camps in Germany after the war.
7. The day I first started my menstrual cycle I was 13. I came into her bedroom and told her. You know what she did? She shrugged and said, “Oh.” So I left the room and had to figure it all out by myself. I really wish that didn’t happen.
Alcoholism warps your ability to think, and your judgement, and your heart. It poisons your soul and turns you into the worst possible version of yourself. Alcohol is a depressant so it depresses you. By that time she was just probably so depressed, and so out of touch with her own body – I don’t know – she just didn’t have it in her to deal with me. I think this is one of the reasons I don’t like to depend on other people – I prefer to rely on myself, because it’s emotionally much safer.
8. I wish I could take away all the bad things that happened to her in her lifetime so she could have lived a normal, long life and be a grandmother. I tell myself that her alcoholism was caused by grief, and her grief was caused by circumstance. So if all the things she went through hadn’t happened, she would still be here today because the women in her family lived to be very, very old. Crotchety, but old.
9. I wish she could have met Ella, her mini intellectual clone. Or Fiona, who looks exactly like her. But on the flip side of that, even though I wish my daughters could have known her, I’m so relieved that she died before they were born. The reality is that she was in the advanced stages of alcoholism, and alcoholism is a progressive disease that just keeps getting uglier and more horrible as the years pass. It would have been beyond awful for my kids to see her like she was (nobody could save her) and me like I was (obsessed with trying, consumed with sadness). Just awful.
10. One thing I wouldn’t delete: One night, when I was 16 – I had come to her in tears telling her how I wanted – just once, to come home and find her doing something normal like reading a book – and not drinking. The next night to my surprise I came home and there she was – all dressed beautifully (she had a fantastic sense of fashion), sitting on the couch with a cup of hot tea, reading, sober, a normal mom. She had this sweet look of expectation on her face – she looked so happy. I know that it was for me. That one night was for me. I was so moved but I didn’t say anything. I curled up beside her on the couch and we stayed up late talking, and drinking tea.
It was one night with my mom – not the alcoholic one, the real mom. The one I miss.
If you have a family member or friend whose alcoholism has affected you – you can get help from Alanon. I did.
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