I know today is Mother’s Day so I thought it was apropo that I write something about my mother.
As I have mentioned before, I came from an abusive family and growing up in an un-nurturing environment was a challenge at best, but let me be clear there is a caveat when it comes to my mother.
I remember my brother’s comment regarding his feelings at the time dad passed versus those he had for mother “she did the best she could with what she had” (the rest of that statement will come later and I promise it will NOT be on Father’s day).
My mother was born in the little town of Esquinapa, Mexico in the state of Sinaloa, just south of Mazatlan, where the hardships of her life began ( and interestingly enough where my first child was conceived).
She did not speak fondly of those days.
They were poor and she would have to care for her father who died of tuberculosis when she was 10 and care for her two younger siblings. Imagine that for a moment. Being a child, your mother has to go to work and the helpless feeling of seeing your father whom you adore, waste away til death and you can do nothing nor afford to do anything.
Her father, from what I gathered was possibly a fisherman, but in truth I don’t know for sure. Her memories of him were of a nurturing male, wanting her to go to school and to have a better life than they had at present. Sometimes he would take her out on his little boat and the two would have these magnificent talks of what her future would be like. Finishing school was at the top of the list. That was never to be.
At times they lived on the beach in a little make shift lean-to of palm leaves. No house or roof over their heads, the equivalent of being homeless today I suppose. Whether that was before or after his death was never stated, but sometimes I got the feeling she longed for those carefree days, so I’m thinking it was more than likely before.
After his death, life became quite difficult. Life without a man in any country in those days was horribly hard. My mother left school and abuelita would make tamales and send her out to the streets to peddle them. If anyone has ever been to Tijuana, Mexico, imagine a little street urchin hustling Chicklets or whatever it is they do these days. I’m certain that was why mother was so generous when one of these sad faced children approached us. I looked at them as scammers. Whether or not they were didn’t matter, to her they were reminders of how it had been.
Later, as she got older, mother would pick up milk from the local farmer and along with a childhood friend, the two would trek into town to deliver to the homes of the more affluent. Mom remembered peeking into the window of a home once where a little girl about her age was taking piano lessons and wistfully wishing it was her.
In my memory, there were few happy moments with her that I can recall, and when I made mention of this, she said I didn’t understand. She was right I didn’t understand. There were a few though as follows:
The picture on the right was taken either on Rosarito Beach or Ensenada, B.C. around the same time as the first picture above with my dad, on one of our occasional “camping” trips.
She loved her friends and she loved my brother but we girls were the bane of her existence. Given her above history that of her father being her ally and her mother the taskmaster, it is no wonder.
Sometimes she would liken me to my abuelita but never in a favorable way.
She would occasionally get angry at me for being convivial as though it were a bad thing and then later turn around and say, “you always make me laugh” and that I’m “always happy” in a good way. I believe mother wanted to be happy and sometimes we were privileged to see “happy” as in the following shots.
It tickled and surprised me to see this side of her, but then she was with “her boys” and I know how much she loved them.
Here she is in her garden with her flowers. Her passion was growing things and learning about them. She had many books and magazines with notes and scribbling’s and although she never finished school, she knew a great deal. Then there was Martha Stewart. MS was her idol. It was MS this, MS that. I know she contributed to MS becoming a very wealthy woman. She had her books and cooking accessories and I’m sure they didn’t come cheap!
The fact that she spent so much time learning was odd in a way because when I was a child, she would constantly accuse me of being “lazy” when she found me in a corner reading. Go figure.
Mom could be sweet and generous, a side we seldom experienced personally but observed in her interaction with others especially her grandchildren. With them we saw her effuse the love we sought for ourselves.
Mom constantly pushed us to be better, to finish school or to go for that better job. She constantly strove to give us all she ever wanted for herself when growing up. A better life.
When mother’s Alzheimer’s was finally diagnosed, I would learn that mother had also suffered from bi-polar disorder and depression. After much discussion with her doctor about what our lives had been like he speculated she may have also struggled with paranoid schizophrenia with perhaps multiple personalities, but it was hard to know for sure since her Alzheimer was advanced to a stage that blurred the evidence. I wasn’t totally surprised because when the movie “Sybil” came out, I recognized some of the same symptoms in my mom and did some research. Mother was famous for turning on a dime, behaving one way with us and then when the doorbell rang or whatever, becoming another person to deal with whatever was at hand. But, in those days and surprisingly even before HIPPA (health information portability privacy act), doctors would not discuss these things with children. Earlier on, before my grandmother died, she asked me in Spanish, “Take care of your mother, she’s a bit crazy” (In Spanish, it doesn’t sound so harsh, but it confirmed my suspicions). She knew.
Sadly we were never engaged to help her or to get help for ourselves.
So on this Mother’s day I dedicate this page to you mom …
“I understand now. I know you will never know how much we wanted to know you and have you comfort us, but know this I love you and know that God is taking care of you now and has made you better. I hope you are happy and that He has given you a nice big garden to work in. Happy Mother’s Day!!”