A dark chapter excerpt from my memoirs when I was about thirteen years old:
Alcoholism had been a key factor in my parent’s divorce, and our mother’s addiction didn’t end after he moved out and fled Alabama for marrying a fourteen year old girl. Her drinking got worse. She despised our father for a lot of things, but what had crushed her ego the most was him marrying a teenager younger than my two older brothers and only a year older than myself. Our father was thirty-eight years old.
Most nights, my mother drank until she could barely walk to her bed without falling down.
I awakened one night and heard her mumbling in the living room. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, so I got up to check on her.
She sat in her rocking chair that creaked in harmony with the hardwood floor. Her words were slurred. When I asked what was wrong, she blamed God for all her misery. Her whole life had been nothing but failure. It was His fault. God hated her and she despised Him. Gina and I were in church every Sunday morning, evening, and on Wednesdays at the time. Church was our escape from our home-life.
I tried to reassure my mother that He was not her enemy. She spouted off more vile bitterness. I pointed out Job in the Bible and she responded with, “What kind of god would treat his own servant like that?”
I shook my head and went back to bed.
Since it was summer, I stayed up later most nights to collect moths at the safety light at the edge of our property. She kept drinking. We only had food because we were on food stamps. Our father didn’t pay child support and the system back in the late 70s had a difficult time finding a deadbeat father to make him pay what the court had decreed. Everything then was paperwork. No computers were used to track people. I made money picking up aluminum cans and mowing yards. The money I made, she took, seldom allowing me to keep any. So, involuntarily, I was the reason she could buy liquor, beer, and cigarettes.
We heard the lie constantly from our mother. “When I get that insurance settlement, I’ll pay you back what I owe you.”
Over the years, she built up a huge tab with Gina and I. A tab she never paid back.
One night while I had been collecting moths and beetles at the light, she was drinking herself deeper into her brooding despair. I hated to listen to her slurred speech when she got like that. No one could talk to her when she was drunk, and I kept my distance from her as best I could.
Her bitterness toward our father spilled over to me that night, not because I resembled him in appearance, but because I had his name. I came inside and sat on our old couch. She ranted about various things and then her rants became personal for reasons I’ll never understand. I was an innocent bystander caught in her convenient bullseye.
She staggered into the kitchen to get something and when she came back into the living room, she wobbled in front of me. I was trying to watch whatever was on the television.
“You’re just like your father,” she slurred, pointing her finger in my face. Her accusation I took as a direct insult because I wasn’t anything like him and vowed never to be.
Our father drank a lot before their divorce, but I’d never seen him drunk. Never. Perhaps he was better at hiding it or he had a higher tolerance. Regardless, I never saw him drunk.
Her comparison of me to him pissed me off. I looked her dead in the eye. “Well, seeing you in your current condition, I take that as a compliment.”
My mother drew back her hand and tried to slap my face. I caught her wrist with her hand just inches from my cheek. She shook with anger. Her face contorted and her eyes narrowed. I imagine her anger escalated because she knew how I felt about my father and that being like him instead of being like she currently was, my words stung worse and cut deep.
I released her wrist, still looking her in the eyes. She brought her hand back again, and I could’ve easily blocked it just the same as before, but I let her strike me. After she hit me, I got up and went outside, not saying a word.
That moment forever changed my view of her. I lost any affection for her. I couldn’t even pity her. She’d continue spouting her dissatisfaction and disdain for the whole world and God, even after I was outside.
I lay on the old wagon bed that had belonged to my great grandfather and stared at the stars. I probably stayed there for a half hour, thinking and wondering about why I’d been placed into this particular dysfunctional household. My father’s absence was slowly callousing and bothered me less. I thought about him less and less. My mother had struck me for absolutely no justifiable reason. I didn’t hate her. I despised her actions. I despised what she’d become. She had no reason to blame me for her drunkenness or the fact that we were in our current financial state.
Physically, she was able to work, but she refused to, because she hoped to get an insurance settlement for a car accident from nearly six years earlier. Mentally, however, she was a shambled mess. Her striking me had crossed a line I never expected. Blaming me for what our father had done and was doing … was unreasonable. While some might say it was due to her alcoholism, I argue that drunk people more readily allow their true natures to emerge. They cannot hold back what they really are. Their real inhibitions get displayed and they act on what they’ve held secret.
From that day, I lost my compassion for her as a mother. Even now, I know that night was when she no longer was my mother. She severed the tie.
I got up from the wagon bed and went to the back door. She had locked me out of the house. To teach me a lesson, I suppose? What lesson, I wasn’t sure about. I had done nothing to draw her anger toward me until she verbally insulted me and I responded in kind.
I walked around the house to my bedroom window, which I purposely kept unlocked. I pushed the window up and crawled through. My bedroom door was partway ajar. I peered through. From where I stood, I could see into her bedroom. The light was out, but the glow of her cigarette indicated that she was still awake.
The outside security light spilled into my room, allowing me to see without having to turn on my bedroom light. I stretched out on my bed, reached down to my cassette player on the floor, and lowered the volume. The cassette was one my father had dubbed and left me with a box of a hundred more mixes he’d made. This cassette contained only Creedence Clearwater Revival songs. I clicked the play button and “Someday Never Comes” played. For the first time, the words made so much sense to me. When the song ended, I pressed rewind and played it again. And again and again. (Thank goodness for CDs today, right?)
After the song played through the fifth time or so, she staggered into my room, rubbed the side of my face, kissed my head and said that she was sorry. I said nothing in return. I had no words for her. I had no feelings toward her at all. I was hurt and not really angry. Her words and her apology meant nothing. I was cold and empty inside.
As the song indicates, some things in life we’ll never understand. Some questions are never answered. We can spend a lifetime trying to figure out why people behave the way they do or why they mistreat us, but the answers aren’t readily available. We might never know. It’s best to live our lives without fretting over reasons we might never discover. After all, someday never comes.