Why my Mom is the Best Despite Everything

In light of Mother’s Day tomorrow,  I thought it appropriate that my next post be about my mother.  My mother is very far from perfect and yet I still find her to be the best mom someone could have. To me, her capacity to love is the most impressive thing about her.

My mother is an alcoholic.  For as long as I can remember alcohol has been very much a part of her daily life.  My own experience with this has had a lot of ups and downs.  When I was very young, I didn’t really realize what was going on.  As I got a little bit older, I started to notice that beer cans would be in places I was pretty sure they shouldn’t be (closets in the bedrooms being an example).    My mother’s drinking habits were often a point of contention between my parents, and arguments would happen at night and wake me from sleep.  Sometimes it wouldn’t be my parents arguing that would wake me up, but groups of people playing cards at the kitchen table with my mom, music blaring from the radio.  There were a lot of instances where her drinking caused me massive amounts of embarrassment-usually when we were in public.  I’m thinking specifically of a time when I played softball over the summer and she was the coach for my team.  The only thing I really recall was that she got in a screaming match with the mother of one of my teammates (who also happened to be one of my classmates at school).  I could probably go on about the things that I didn’t like, the things that mortified me and upset me, the things that made my childhood something I hated for the longest time, but that’s not really the point of this particular post.

One of the things I really liked about my mom’s penchant for having fun was that I also got to have fun.  She was definitely the “cool mom” as far as my friends were concerned.  She made slumber parties exciting-always a great facilitator for games.  We used to live by a golf course and sometimes she would take us to there at night so we could play the games there, which always gave a sort of air of danger and excitement to a normal game of truth-or-dare.

My mother also made sure to have breakfast for us every morning, and a snack ready every day after school.  I remember my friends often wanted to be at our house because we always had the “good foods”.  Whereas most of my friends got cereal and pastries in the mornings before school, we always had hot breakfast (eggs and bacon, hot cereal and toast).  I distinctly remember my brother and I being excited for the weekend because those were the days we got to eat the Captain Crunch and Lucky Charms we waited all week for.  And it didn’t matter if kids visiting were from down the street, or happened to be our best friends, she never neglected to feed them, too.  This is surprising to me as an adult looking back because we certainly couldn’t really afford to feed the neighborhood, but my mother would never turn down a hungry kid, hers or not.

Speaking of kids that aren’t hers, my mom has a habit of what I call “picking up strays”.  This ranges from kids to adults-if someone is in need of something, she provides it.  Shelter, food, money, help of any kind that she is able to provide.  This is where I find her capacity to love as something impressive.  I might not have always liked the people that she let into her life, for that matter, she might not have always liked them either, but she gives of herself rather freely.  And she always made a point to tell me as I grew up that I was to protect the people that couldn’t protect themselves.  I was to befriend the friendless, the ones that would get picked on by all the others.  This is something that was and is extremely important to her, and it’s something I took to heart as I adopted several misfit friends myself.  Though admittedly, I don’t feel I’m as kind as she is in my adulthood.

My mother is perhaps one of the strongest people I know.  Yes, she is an alcoholic, and some could argue that to continue to go to the bottle, for whatever reason, might be weak.  I’d say that they were ignorant and have no idea of what kind of disease alcoholism is, but still, the argument could be made.  Here are some of the reasons why I think my mother is strong, though:

Life has thrown her nothing but curve balls, and she keeps swinging.  I know her childhood wasn’t the best.  She grew up with a mentally disabled mother, a blind father, and an older brother she’s reluctant to talk much about because he committed suicide as a teenager.  She ran away when she was 15 and eventually got adopted by a family that became her own.  She got pregnant, while in the army, at the age of 20.  She married my father, a great man 18 years her senior, but that ended up not working out for reasons that are very much their own and she left him when I was 15.  It was at this point that my relationship with her had most of its ups and downs.  I was so ecstatic to not have to deal with all the fighting anymore that I enthusiastically helped her pack her bags.  When it became clear that my parents would not be working things out, though, my feelings for her grew even more complicated and for a while there, I hated her.  I wanted nothing to do with her.  As an adult I have a much greater appreciation for all the things she was likely going through at the time, but as I teenager all I could see was the hurt my dad was going through and I didn’t think I’d ever forgive her.  She’s strong to me because she made the decision to leave her only children with their father instead of taking them with her.  She’s strong because the first Christmas after she left, she saw her gifts returned to her unopened by those same children.  Looking back from where I am now, I can only imagine the kind of heartache that caused.

My mother is strong because, after all the hatred she had to deal with from her very own children, she had yet another child, and she had a heart so big that she took us back as soon as she saw signs that we were starting to forgive her (what mother couldn’t, after all?).

My mother is strong because she battled lung cancer and came out of the other side of it ready to punch life right back in the face.  She is strong because she battles breast cancer right now with a hit-me-with-your-best-shot attitude.  And though I’m sure that she has days that she wonders why all this shit always has to happen to her, she doesn’t let it consume her.

My mother is strong.

I could list out a hundred little things that drive me crazy about my mom, but at the end of it all, the thing that is most important to me is that she has helped shape me into who I am today.  She often tells me she doesn’t know where my strength comes from, and it surprises me that she has no idea that it comes straight from her (with just the right mix of strength from my dad as well).  I can only hope that as I continue to get older, as I continue to grow, that I can display the same kind of attitude toward life as she does.  Because, despite everything life throws at her, she has such a passion for it.  She loves to have fun and to enjoy everything around her.

I think, really, it’s the job description of a mother to drive her kids crazy.  Mothers are far from perfect, mine perhaps least of all, but they are only human. As you spend time with your mother this Sunday (and this goes for the Mother of your heart, too, perhaps not just the mom that may have given birth to you), I encourage you to really, deeply think about the part she has played throughout your life and let yourself be truly appreciative of the things she went through to help get you to where you are today, mistakes and all.

Do you have a crazy/sappy/hilarious story about your mother?  Share it with me in a comment!

2 thoughts on “Why my Mom is the Best Despite Everything

  1. oh lady!!! I miss the younger years spending it with your family!! Although mom is an alcoholic:( she never failed to make sure all was taken care of!!!!! We love her no matter what her struggles. She made sure all had fun. From nights at the bowling ally, sleep overs, everything. Those card nights may have been disturbing but the laughter of ppl having fun is quiet the memory even though then we didn’t understand a lot of. What they were saying lol. Love you and the rest of the family and sure as heck miss you all


  2. As with you, it took me a number of years to reconcile my feelings about your mother, and to acknowledge that my inflexibility was contributory to the situation. Reading this post has also revealed that I tended to see only the bad, and conveniently disregarded all the good that you have so eloquently emphasized in this posting. It has been 15 years since she left us, yet I have never filed for divorce…perhaps an acknowledgement that I was as much at fault for her decision to leave. This was beautifully written, poignant, and has created a comfort in those memories for both of us. Love, Dad.


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