English: Broken glass, off Queen’s Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, Northern Ireland, April 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over. ~ Octavia Butler
Today is a special day in our house. Seventy-one years ago, my mother, C., was born to Curry and Inez in New Orleans, Louisiana. For all intents and purposes, she was raised by her grandmother, Irma, and spent time with her father. She was a happy child with numerous cousins to play and hang around with.
When she was a mere 18 years of age, she married. I was the first born child to C. and J., five days before Christmas in New Orleans. I was their first born of three girls. My mother is an amazing woman who single-handedly raised me and my 3 siblings, when my dad made the poor choice to leave our family–on my 5th birthday. Although I didn’t realize it for decades, this incident had a huge influence on my life and the person that I was to become.
After my father left our family, we had to move in with my great-grandmother. My mother, a very beautiful woman, who married young and never had the opportunity to attend college, had few job prospects. She had three children to care for so she soon accepted a job as a cook for the New Orleans Catholic Archdiocese, where she remained for over 40 years. Although we were poor, my mom always worked 2-3 jobs to make sure that we had food on the table and clean clothes to wear. Although she could have easily qualified, she steadfastly refused to apply for or receive any type of government aid. (The exception was the free lunch program that we had to apply for through the schools and were automatically accepted.) She is a proud woman and remains so to this day.
Her life has not been easy. She has seen a sister taken from her by violent means, her mother by a drunk driver, her beloved grandmother by cancer, her son by congestive heart failure following an earlier diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 23, and numerous other losses that she has handled with grace. Most recently, Hurricane Katrina, as well as health issues, made it impossible for my mom to return to the only home that she has ever known, the only one that she ever cared to know–New Orleans. Yet, in spite of all of this, she has never lost hope or faith.
My mother came to live with my husband and me because of serious health issues, but I think that I have gained much more from her presence. It is the first time that we have lived under the same roof since I left home the Summer after I graduated high school. I can’t say that I left on great terms, and I certainly did not understand her and what it meant to be a parent; especially, a single parent of four. The passage of time and parenthood have mellowed me and I think that I can say, made me wiser. With that, our relationship has been transformed. It has matured into something that I never thought possible, a friendship, and a close one at that. My mom is my confidant, (okay, there are limits.) friend, and at times, just my mother. For the first time ever, I think that I can say with certainty that, I get my mom and she gets me. Even ten years ago, I never thought that I’d utter those words. I know that I am blessed to still have my mother with me and that is why I couldn’t let this day go by without saying “HAPPY 71st BIRTHDAY” to the very first love of my life, my Mom.
Not since I have been sick. For many reasons, I withdrew from my friends, because I thought that I was protecting them. In hindsight, I regret it. I would not have been able to (still can’t) provide a balanced relationship, but especially when you are really ill, you need their friendship–if only for connection with the real world. Blessings.
Afterwards, I couldn’t get the question out of my mind. It was like a itch that I just couldn’t reach. and it suddenly dawned on me that I had some unfinished business.
Before I was really sick, I think that, for the most part, I was all that I’d want in a friend. When I became really ill, I changed, and I guess that changed as well. For a multitude of reasons, I totally withdrew from my friends, because I thought that I was protecting them and was doing the right thing. I was in so much mental, emotional and physical pain that I did not want to subject anyone to that part of me. So, I choose to go into isolation–for years. In hindsight, I regret the decision, not only because I needed my friends, but at a much deeper level I think because I didn’t trust my friends enough to choose for themselves. They never had an opportunity to see the bad and the ugly because I made the choice for them. Perhaps my decision was less about them than about my own fears that if they saw me at my worse that they would run like hell and no longer love me. Whatever their reaction, I should have allowed them to choose for themselves. I should have remembered that as the photo reminds me, true friends are stronger than darkness. I trust that they will forgive my lapse in judgment. I think that they will. Blessings.