So today, which will be yesterday for you all, is Mom’s Day. It’s a bittersweet day, because my own mom passed away ten years ago this past March. It’s so hard to believe that much time has passed, and I bet there are plenty of readers who understand that.
I didn’t have the best relationship with my mom, but I will say that the last ten years of her life were amazing. Initially she didn’t understand the relationship Betty and I had, and in fact, the thought of it made her throw up (luckily I wasn’t there to witness that.)
Eventually she got into therapy, and realized my “gayness” wasn’t her fault, which initially she was certain it was. Eventually she began to accept Betty into her world as someone who cared about me, and cared about her. That’s not to say there weren’t bumps, especially “the burger incident,” and maybe one day I’ll tell you about it.
Anyway, time passed and she got to know Betty a whole lot better. She began to see the things I saw in her—the love, the loyalty, the incredibly hard life she’d overcome to get to the point she was at. (Again, that’s an entirely separate story.) But Mom began to see Betty as a person, as someone who’d endured an almost insurmountable amount of strife and struggle, as someone who deserved love and time and patience.
Fast forward to the last couple years of Mom’s life. She was so proud of me, of Betty, of US. It was an jaw-dropping transition.
I still can’t believe how far she’d come.
We had a family reunion within the last few months of her life that I wasn’t able to attend, and she actually outed us to my entire extended family (which wasn’t a lot of people, exactly five, to be specific,) BUT the fact she felt comfortable enough to do so was an amazing and shocking change.
Initially, when I came out to her in the mid nineties, she told me to NEVER tell anyone in the family I was a big, butchy lesbian who was attracted to girls instead of boys. I come from a long line of wonderful people who live a small town mentality, who’ve never been exposed to anyone gay, or anyone different from their white bread, solidly blue collar existence. They were surrounded by people Obama nailed, but was crucified for voicing—folks who considered guns and God and country paramount to how one lives their life.
The entire community turned a blind eye to the church-going righteous who lived a totally separate existence outside the confines of their place of worship. The whitewashing was complete. No one saw the exemplary teacher who coveted young girls bodies, who were so incredibly respected until they said, “you look so sexy in that swim suit,” and they’d been your mentor, your hero, your touchstone as you grew up. And that was actually mild in comparison to some of the other stuff that went on.
It was within this construct Mom stood up for me. For Betty.
She bucked her upbringing and her “black sheep of the family” label and spoke her truth. Her heart. And even to this day the thought of her bravery gives me goosebumps. It used to be that one followed familial protocol, never speaking of anything deep that might create waves, cause anyone to question the status quo. But my mom, the one who once thought it was her fault I was the way I was, stood up. Stood tall. Stood strong. She told me she’d said to the gathered relatives, “I love my two daughters, unconditionally and completely.”
It wasn’t more than a year after that Betty and I lost mom. It was the end of a hate/love relationship, and one that was beginning to blossom out of the trenches into the present. It was so hard. So hard because our relationship had been so incredibly difficult, and things were just beginning to be so incredibly different.
Later, Mom was close to dying, and she pulled Betty close to her. She whispered to her, “You’ll be together forever, and take care of each other. Promise me.”
Betty, of course, agreed. When she later told me mom’s words, we both cried. That’s what unconditional love is about, something I’d never felt from my mother until that point. And my heart broke that I would not have the chance to grow into a relationship that would be so different from the one that came before.
Happy Mom’s Day, mom. Please know how much I love you, how much Betty loves you, and how much my new family unit loves you. I’d give anything to hug you one more time.
What are some of your thoughts on Mother’s Day? The good, the bad, the ugly? It’s all a process, in one way or another.