Mom’s Lessons in Love No. 3: if you leave the relationship, remember all that you will give up–the presence of a man

After his first “visit” (which easily lasted two weeks long), I notice that he left black garbage bags and CDs in our living room. I ask my mom about it but she doesn’t answer my questions. The answer comes when I see a website about a marriage license left on the computer. They are married and we are doomed. Turns out his garbage bags are filled with his worldly possessions. He has no car, no license, and his electrician jobs ebb more than flow. He drinks every. single. day. “Women aren’t good for anything but having periods and laying on their backs” he said to a thirteen year old me. My previously open-minded Mom becomes more disconnected from reality as she lets The Drunkard drive her car, get into accidents, and rack up tickets. She allows him to dehumanize her gay brother and his partner as being “unnatural”, call my sister and I bitches, and convince her to become a Jehovah’s Witness. The irony is that he can’t even get baptized as his lifestyle does not align with Witness scripture. She does it anyways.

I have never felt so worthless in my life. How will I learn to love the young woman that I am becoming when my mother is always making underhanded comments about my appearance/behavior and allowing other people to do the same? Maybe I shouldn’t expect much. After all, she doesn’t even love herself.

Now that he is in our lives, he wants to move us into a house where we can be a family. Initially she says that we are going to move to Salt Lake City, Utah. I tell her I won’t go anywhere with that man and she tells me that she will beat me for talking to her that way. As usual the violence continues. He beats her because he is the “king of his domain” and the “captain of our ship” while she beats me for insubordination especially when he tells her to. He calls her his queen and he is her king. I tell myself that if a man ever calls me ‘his queen’ I will run as fast as I can.

I have no time for meaningless titles, shared addresses, and split visions on life. Husband, wife, mother, and father. What have they ever meant to me but disappointment? I refuse to live a life filled with disappointment.

Fast forward a few months and Mom gets rid of Xsu Xsa, the dog who hates him. We move into a rental house a week after she mentions it to me and their relationship continues to deteriorate. They fight all the time about any and everything which sends Mom’s Lupus into overdrive. School really is my only escape and that’s not saying much because I hate high school. I’m a smart, awkward Black girl trying to juggle depression and low self-esteem which would be tolerable if I was a ‘normal’ teenager. But I’m not. One evening I awaken to the sound of our car pulling up in driveway. As usual my heart races and my head pounds as I try to mentally prepare for another night of drunken hell. He stumbles in the house and hears Emperor barking in my room. He angrily opens the door and starts yelling. I yell back at him. At that point he lunges to attack me and my dog growls to warn him that he will defend me. This only makes him angrier so he tries to strangle Emperor. Just as he is about to throw a blow to my head my mom frantically runs down the stairs and tries to talk him down from his drunken rage.

They go upstairs to their room and the argument continues. However, this evening it is particularly awful as it sounds like he is about to push her over the banister. I call my sister who lives nearby to come and get me because I am sure that this ‘is it’. Tonight he’s going to kill her. I just know it. She arrives and we argue. Before we know it, he has pushed both me and my sister down a flight of stairs. When the police arrive she lies and says that “he helped us down the stairs”. As usual, the police don’t do much but my sister decides she is officially done with my mother and all of her drama.

I can tell it is a turning point in their relationship. Heck, it’s a turning point in ours. My mother has clearly chosen the path of darkness and she’s too far gone to save her anymore. The best we can do is to save ourselves.

Have you read all of Mom’s Lessons in Love? If not, read Mom’s Lessons in Love No. 1 and No. 2.

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Dear “Folks Who Have Hurt Me”…

‘No’ might make them angry but it will make you free. -if no one has ever told you, your freedom is more important than their anger.  Nayyirah Waheed

 

Dear “Folks Who Have Hurt Me”,

l will not tread quietly around your feelings while you walk on mine.

I will not allow you to take credit for my successes while counting on my failure.

I will not let you minimize my pain while clearing your conscience.

I will not ‘stand strong’ so you can forget about all the times you ignored me while I was weak.

I will no longer utter the phrase ‘you did your best’ when I know it was your worst.

I will not suck it up, I will not let it go, and I sure AS HELL won’t take it anymore.

I won’t pretend, I won’t pretend, I won’t pretend….

…I’m sick of that shit.

You are now on notice.

Sincerely,

The Girl That Won’t Take It Anymore

Mom’s Lessons in Love No. 2: men are fickle, so make sure you always have a replacement

Mom’s finally had enough. They are separated but he still comes over drunk every night to bang on every door of the house, no matter how late it gets or who has to be to school/work in the morning. However, this time is different because he punches the glass door in. The police take him to jail but no worries, Mom has a back-up man, ready to take his place.

Men are so damn worthless that you can replace them at the snap of a finger. Just be slightly attractive. No, scratch that—be available.

She leaves her planner at home sometimes. She uses it as a diary to document her escapades. “Fun night with Richard, left panties in the backseat. Went to Richard’s office, had sex.” Richard, the married lawyer. Sigh. But there’s hope for me it seems. My dad is suddenly taking interest in my life. I’m playing soccer and softball and he actually wants to see me play. On one of the rare weekends that I am at his home, I hear a woman’s voice. Is that…my mother? It is. They tell me they are working on getting back together and have planned a trip to Vegas. But they don’t end up going because PLOT TWIST: she goes to on vacation with Tony in South Carolina. My dad backs away from me again.

Why do I try to trust those that never have loved me.

Tony is an old man with grey hair, can, and smokes in the car when they sit outside in the driveway. He passes it to her. Since when does she smoke? She takes my sister and I to his house in the middle of the hood. When we return she tells us to pack our bags because we are going to stay there for awhile. Oh goodness, how will I ever pick a book from my beloved collection to take for “awhile”. She says don’t worry, we’ll be back. Reluctantly, we pack a few things and leave. We never return and I never see my things again. On Tony’s street, women push their children in grocery carts down the street. This can’t be my new home.

I will never settle down. I will always be a bag lady, at home but home-less. I’m so tired.

What I thought were cigarettes turns out to be weed. Tony says he smokes it everyday because of his back problems from his military in the service. He has a lot of grown children that live outside of the home and says that I have too many opinions. It’s not a surprise as all of her other men say the same thing. His mama, Ms. Ruth lives a few houses down. She feeds me when they forget to, which often happens. She tells me I’m smart and she likes having me around. She makes me banana milkshakes and allows me to watch the neighborhood through binoculars on her enclosed front porch. She’s the only adult that is looking out for me.

I want to believe in humanity, please let me just believe in humanity.

My mom’s Lupus flares to the point where she can no longer work as a nurse. She becomes even more depressed and volatile. Fortunately she sees a therapist who prescribes medicine which she rarely takes. She doesn’t say it but I’m sure she was told that she is bipolar. It makes sense, all of her direct relatives (with the exception of her father, Papa) are afflicted with some sort of mental illness. Her team of doctors tell her that she needs to be on the liver transplant list. I know this is the beginning of the end. I am twelve years old. My father still skips most of his weekends because he has “things to do, places to see, and people to meet” as he often tells me on the phone. What does he care that I eat infrequently, bathe my mother after I walk home from school, and hope the lights stay on this time?

I must fend for myself. You thought you were taking care of yourself at ten? Well, it’s time to really step up to the plate. You can’t fail.

At some point, they get engaged and Tony promises to build us a house in South Carolina. That never happens and their relationship devolves like the rest of them into a chaotic, volatile mess.  I am forced to escape to my oldest sister’s new apartment with our puppy, Emperor. I never get to say goodbye to Ms. Ruth. Several years later, I hear she is very sick. I don’t pray but I send positive energy her way and if she is to die, I send comfort. Thank you Ms. Ruth. I will forever be thankful for the year you kept me alive. Mom says she’s going to move to start over. Just me and her. No more drama, she promises. We move into the same apartment complex as my sister and for a couple weeks everything feels alright. She’s still winding down her relationship with Tony and we don’t have a car but who cares, it’s just us girls starting fresh. She even adopts another dog, Xsu Xsa to make it feel more like home. Several weeks after they officially break up, I walk into my Mom’s room to find a man, Jay in her bed. Shocked, I run across the parking lot to my sister’s apartment and cry for the new life that has once again been destroyed by a man. Mom calls and chastises me for opening her door even though she is the one who told me to after I knocked. She says, I need to grow up and stay outta grown folks’ business.

I really hate her now and every man that walks the face of the Earth. If men would just fall off the face of the planet, I’m sure I would live a happy existence. I will never be so desperate for a man that I chase after them.

Their relationship runs its course and several days late, she tells me about Bill, an old white entrepreneur who finds her blackness “exotic.” He promises he’ll move us to one of his houses in Florida. He only visits in the evening. I begin to wonder if she does things with him for money. They don’t seem to have much in common. Not to fret, he is just a passing craze as she’s already lined up Fletcher, a journalist at a local newspaper. They go on dinner cruises, shop, and whatever else she decides to spend his money on. She doesn’t find him attractive but he will do. To supplement her fun, she simultaneously dates a retired police officer, Reggie. These men care nothing about me, they enjoy whatever time they spend with her and then they are out. As Lupus is chronic, she is extremely ill off and on. They never visit when she’s “on”. They leave me to take care of her.

A man will never be worth my time, they pick you up, take you to dinner, whisper a few sweet words, give you some money, and when the clock strikes 3AM, they drop you off. If you need or want any more than that, you better go to your nearest animal shelter because surely an animal can provide more.

Just when I don’t things can get any worse, in comes “Matthew”. She interrupts our Lights Before Christmas walk to talk to him on the phone. She pretends that we always spend a lot of time together. Clearly she’s only thinking of the days she vomits, spontaneously bleeds, sleeps, and watches Judge Judy. But who’s counting? After she gets off the phone with him she tells me that Matthew is a an attractive electrician who has lived all over the place and she really likes him and blah blah blah. She says he’s going to pay a visit. Of course “a visit” means a sleepover. That night I hear them having a heated argument. He threatens to kill her amongst other things. Her relationships usually spiral out of control but never this quickly.

I know we are in grave trouble Mom won’t listen to me. My oldest sister is the only one who will. She promises she will look after me even though she is a broke college student. She’s the only person I am confident loves me unconditionally and will protect me.

If you enjoyed this post, please read Mom’s Lessons in Love No. 1.

Mom’s Lessons in Love No. 1: self-love is never as important as the ‘love’ of a man

My brain is going 90 miles per hour, speeding by childhood memories. Abuse–so much violence that the screaming still makes my ears ring. Why couldn’t my mother just love herself? Why did she constantly seek the comfort of men? Weren’t we enough?

I am scared I don’t love myself.

Three girls, three different fathers. Each man she claims “wasn’t shit” especially not my “fathead daddy”. She can’t wait until we get out of her house so her life can finally begin. After all, she sacrificed her youth for us–we should be thankful.

I ruined her life. Why did I have to exist and make hers so much harder?

The first man after my father was well…not “after” him it was very much “during” as she was having an affair while still married to my father. When my parents broke up, we moved to a duplex and “Larry” came over to put up our blinds. Even at 5, I knew this made no sense. Who hires someone to put up your blinds? “Hush, little girl and don’t mind grown folks’ business.”

I am a nosy pest intent on ruining her chance of happiness.

Her relationship with “Larry” progresses quickly. So quickly that his mail starts to collect in our duplex’s tiny mailbox. But “Larry” isn’t “Larry”. He is really Theo. Who the hell is Theo and why did she lie?

This man isn’t the tooth fairy nor is he any other mythical figure. I can’t believe what she says.

Unbeknownst to my sister and I, my mother sends us to the same Christian school that Theo’s children attend. We meet and see them occasionally on the weekends at their father’s place. A little girl in my second grade class is one of Theo’s family friends. One day she asks me how I know them. I lie and say that they are my cousins because I am worried that people will judge my unmarried mother .

I’ve learned that lies can protect you from the outside world. I must remain humble to avoid everyone’s judgment.

I soon find out why my little friend was so inquisitive. One evening my sister and I are asleep on Theo’s couch when we hear the front door open and screaming. His wife walked in and my mom and Theo stumble out of the bedroom wrapped in only a sheet. Cursing and yelling ensue as my mom roughly grabs and throws us  in the car. She drops us off at our duplex and rides back to his house to finish what she has started. The little girl in my class tells me she knows the truth about my mom. She never speaks to me again.

I am so disgusted with my mother that I question the purpose of relationships if no one cherishes them. I am scared I will become her.

Another man named Tyrone comes along. Mom says she really wants us to meet him. Me and my sister go to his house and he tries to impress us with PlayStation games and jelly beans, whatever flavor we like. I refuse them. I don’t like candy and I most certainly don’t like him.

I am skeptical of any “nice” gesture.

Mom mentions him several weeks later. She asks my sisters and I what we think of him and how we would feel if they got married. Of course, we are upset by the question and ask why she can’t be single for awhile. We learn that they got married anyway so…too bad.

My opinions don’t matter. No one cares so I need to keep it to myself, even if someone asks.

Tyrone wants us to be a real family so we have to go to church together, eat together, hell– visit his family members together. As usual, it doesn’t last long before they are fighting. He is a non-medicated bipolar, alcoholic truck driver who never has patience for anything or anyone. Countless times the police are called for domestic disturbances. You know, little stuff like trying to drop a 60 pound weight on my mom’s throat while she lay, restrained across his lap. My seven year old screams were met with claims that I was dramatic and they were only “playing”. Sure, says the tears streaming  down my mother’s cheeks and her desperate pleas to let her go. Sometimes my dad asks me questions about my home life. One day I notice a red light in the couch but it is too late. He plays the tapes in family court. My mom comes home and hits me. She tells me to never tell anyone what happens in our house. And anyways, he doesn’t really care about me. He just doesn’t want to pay child support.

I never forget what people have done to me or how they make me feel.