my mother

In my last post, I wrote that my mother wants to invest in my B&B and help me run it when the time comes. I’m extremely excited to get it up and running, but I want to take a step back and stop talking about me and my dreams for a moment.

I want to talk about my amazing mother.

Her childhood could be a novel, a bestseller that could make millions. It could be made into a movie about how one single girl grew up to become an amazing woman, adored by all that know her, and loved by her three children. A woman that always looks on the bright side despite the pain that she grew up with. Just thinking about her childhood pushes her to the brink of tears and hearing about it tugs on my heartstrings, causing me to cry with her. This woman is Beth. This woman is my mother.

Even though she was young, she was always the responsible child because she was one of the eldest. My mother cooked, cleaned, and helped her five brothers and her two sisters with their homework. My grandmother was never around. Not because she was working, but because she just did not want to be there. She would disappear at any moment and was often not heard from for days at a time. She would often leave my mother and her siblings at my great grandmother’s house, claiming that she was going shopping and would be back in a few hours, only to return three months later. My grandmother was not only an alcoholic, but she was a drug addict as well. There were days when she was so under the influence that she could not control her own actions. She once was driving a car with my mother in the front seat. Unable to control herself, my grandmother drove right off a bridge. Luckily, they both walked away from it; my grandmother unscathed, and my mother harboring nothing worse than a broken arm. That did not stop the drug use, though, so any money that my mother’s family did manage to acquire was used to supply my grandmother’s ‘needs.’ She would even sell their food stamps for money.

 My grandfather was a soldier in Vietnam, and with him away from home and my grandmother not working, it came to the point where there just was not enough money. One day, my grandmother packed up a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and put them in a bag, giving them to my mother. She then left my mother and her siblings in a train yard, sitting on abandoned tracks.

“I’m going to find a job,” she had told them. “Stay here and I’ll be back as soon as I can!” And with that, she left. My grandmother left my mother and her siblings sitting in an old train yard with nothing more than a few peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They were children. They did not know what else to do, so they waited. More so than not knowing what else to do, they listened to my grandmother’s orders out of fear. They were afraid of their own mother. Three days passed, and my grandmother simply did not come back. They were hungry, but the sandwiches were gone. And so, my mother, eleven years old, herded up her brothers and sisters and they followed the train tracks back into town. They eventually reached town again, where my mother found a police station and explained what had happened. My grandmother, however, was gone for good. She never came back.

My grandfather, after a while, remarried to a woman named Judy. Life went on, and my mother entered high school. She worked hard to make sure there was enough money to take care of the family. She would wake up at three o’clock in the morning to go babysit at a neighbor’s house until school started at eight o’clock. At school, she maintained straight A’s and a 4.0 GPA and played first chair flute in band. She had even gotten a full-ride academic scholarship to Illinois State University. After school, she worked even more, often not even returning home until evening.

However, Judy was never satisfied. She would curse at my mother, yell at her, and even throw things at her; and because my grandfather was away on  business (back from Vietnam and working), he had no idea what was happening with his new wife back home, or what she was doing to his eldest daughter. My mother was thrown from her house, literally. Judy pushed her out the door and told her to never come back, screaming cruel words of hatred that were as untrue as they were uncalled for. At a later date, we even found out that Judy talked to my grandfather, claiming that my mother had followed in the footsteps of my grandmother, becoming a drug addict and an alcoholic.

My mother stayed with her school counselor for a while before finally finding a family member in the area that would care for her: my Great Aunt Sandy. My mother finished school while living with my aunt, and prepared to go on with her life. She had met my father in her early childhood, but she had moved away without keeping in contact. She told me once about how they had run into each other again after high school. She spoke of it as though it were a “Happily Ever After” fairy tale that is told to children, as though my father was the knight in shining armor that whisked her away from the evil stepmother.

My mother is now a well-known worker for nursing homes. Whenever she chooses to leave a home (due to working conditions, pay, etc.), they do beg for her to stay, but it usually takes a phone call from her to get hospitals to work with the homes she leaves. More than once, hospitals have stopped working with homes that she quits working at simply because they do not want to work with anyone other than her. But to help the elderly and the sick, my mother will go out of her way.

Because she has so many connections, after many years, my mother actually located my grandmother, and despite everything my grandmother did to her, my mother tried to contact her. However, my grandmother had died five years before. Her husband answered the phone. Apparently, my grandmother had cleaned up, but was too ashamed to face my mother. She spoke highly of my mother all the time, though, said her new husband.

My mother cried for hours. Despite everything that had been done to her, she cried over the loss of her mother that treated her so terribly. Based on professional studies, my mother should be a dysfunctional mother, just as her mother was, and even more so with Judy having been in the picture.

My mother is a family woman. She tucked us into bed every night, reading us stories and kissing our foreheads. She made dinner every evening, no matter how tired she was from work. She made sure there were Christmas presents under the tree from both her and Santa, along with stuffed stockings. She went against all the odds to turn into everything that her mother wasn’t. She truly wanted to give my two sisters and me the childhood she never had. I often want to get the courage to ask her, “If you could change it all, would you?”

If I know my mother, she would say no. She would not change a thing, because the memories she holds are precious to her. She made connections, and because of those connections, she is who she is today. She is an amazing woman who could bring tears to the eyes of thousands with her childhood tale of woe. She is a working mother that makes time for her three daughters, no matter how busy she is. She is Beth. She is my mother. And I love her.

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