In thinking about how to shape this story I have come to think that having a bit of background might be helpful. You know – people don’t just up and disappear do they? OK – sometimes they do, but most often there is some sort of lead up, some back story that is helpful to know.
In the case of my ma, I think it is helpful to know that she was one of the most beautiful people ever to be born. She comes from a family of all ridiculously intelligent people, IQ’s off the charts. All of her siblings and her parents were genius types. Maybe you already know that sometimes genius types aren’t always the most emotionally intelligent people. Mix this with her “hotness factor” or stunningly good looks from a very early age, and well, you get a story of heartbreak and triumph.
From my memory, I never heard warm and wonderful things about her growing up. It was one story of abuse after another (when and if she would share a story), in addition to confusion and mis-use of the word love. Her father was an alcoholic and womanizer. Her mother was detached and for some reason did not see or protect herself, much less her kids. All of the kids, ma included, have spent time in therapy, have battled with mental illness and/or addiction. She has 3 siblings.
The last time I saw or spoke with anyone from my ma’s side of the family (prior to her disappearance) was from when I was very little – like 6. I knew of them, but did not really know any of them. In her later life, she would try to reconcile with her dad and her mom, with some success. I was already into my mid to late 20’s when this was happening, and was too stupid and formed to want to be any part of it.
My mother was brilliant. She taught English (for the super smart kids and the ones literally being left behind), Drama (still the reason I love Godspell so much), and Reading Skills. She was funny, quick, sharp tonged as they come. She was the hardest High School teacher you would ever have, and by the time the class was over – she was your favorite.
My ma was married 3 times. Once to my dad, and twice to her second husband. She divorced him once, because he was convicted of sexually abusing me. But because (I believe) of her complete and utter dedication to her children by her second husband (not wanting them to grow up without a dad) and her inability to believe in herself as a strong, capable, smart woman who could raise 4 kids (2 on her own), and because she did not know or ever experience or could allow herself to experience ‘real love’ – she married her (and my) abuser again.
This is the part of the story that is most difficult to write. Please refrain from making judgments about someone who’s shoes you have never walked in. Being a ‘battered woman’ doesn’t always look like the movies. Being intelligent emotionally and intellectually, are two different things. She made the best choices she knew how to make – with all the tools she had been given. Maybe you are I would have made different choices. We can’t know, because we were not her.
I don’t know why her marriage to my dad did not work out – except all I can remember prior to their divorce was the screaming. I don’t know why she re-married her second husband – after all we had been though – except she did. I don’t think she loved me any less. I think she just really did not ever ever know what ‘real love’ was. The purest love that she ever knew was for and from her kids, and even though I had always hoped it would be enough – I am just not sure that it was. I mean how could it be – a lifetime of shit to overcome? Love – She didn’t get it from her parents who were abusive. She did not get it from church (the first place that she was ever sexually abused outside of the home). She looked for it in books, and bad relationships. And that love, always seemed to be a page turn away.