My strength


One of the last times my mom & I got together and had a good talk, before her mind went, was about a year ago. It was an accident that she & I were together alone. We had made lunch plans and invited a few people to come along with us. But when I got there, it was just the two of us. We sat down at a booth anyways and I ordered a cocktail while we looked at the menu. We made small talk which eventually turned into a pretty heavy conversation by the time the food was completely consumed.

We ordered our meals and I got myself another cocktail. I was feeling a little like I needed it at that moment. I certainly wasn’t drunk but I had just enough of a buzz to be able to say what I needed to say in order to protect myself if I had to.  We talked. I had brought up a story about a man I had recently met.

 

He was an elderly man. Maybe in his late 60’s or early 70’s. It is my nature to be friendly to most people. But this particular man, he was an immigrant from Greece I believe, he had a very thick accent. But I understood his English. I was especially friendly to him out of respect. He flirted with me & I playfully flirted back. I was working when we met and he slipped me his business card & told me quietly in a whisper that he would like me to call him. That he would like to spoil me. I took the card and graciously thanked him and without even realizing it, I agreed that I would call him. He was very happy and smiled as he left out the door. I felt a little strange about the man, but I figured that would be the last time I would ever see him so it didn’t seem too important t the time. I went back to my desk and continued working.

The next day, I was helping customers and handling phones and tending to whatever I needed to at my desk when I look up and see that elderly man again. I was surprised to see him, but I still greeted him with the same flirty, friendly conversation when he came in. He was there to return what he had purchased and purchase something else. At least that’s what he announced loud enough for the entire store to hear. But that wasn’t why he was there again, he leaned in close to me & told me in that same whisper that he came back to see me, that he cannot stop thinking about me and he wanted my phone number. That he was going to call me to talk to me about how he would like to spoil me. So, me being the type of person that can’t ever seem to say no if it means I might disappoint someone, I told him to just wait for a few minutes while I helped the other customers. In the process of tending to a phone call, I snuck into my purse and grabbed my business card with out anyone noticing. The curiosity of what this man has to say to me without anyone else being around is too fun to just ignore. So I slip him my business card and he thanks me & leaves. I go back to what I was doing at my desk. Maybe an hour goes by and I hear my cell phone ringing in my purse. I think nothing of it and keep working. But the phone just keeps on ringing again and again. I look at the number and it’s one I don’t recognize. So I slip out away from my co-workers and accept the call, thinking it may be one of my daughters or something else that needed my urgent attention. I say “hello?” and it’s that man. He asks me if I can talk. I let him know that I won’t be off for a couple more hours and that I will call him on my way home. We hang up and I go back inside & the rest of the afternoon was quiet. I close up the office for the night and I am escorted to my car since it’s a bad neighborhood and by 6 p.m. in the Fall it’s pitch black outside. I get in my car and begin the hour long commute home. I had my music up and I was feeling good. Work went well. Money in the bank. My kids weren’t hounding me for anything. I just enjoyed the drive home, even in heavy traffic. I completely forgot about the promise I made to that man about calling him on my way home. But it wasn’t too long after I pulled into my garage and went inside my house that my phone rang. It was him again. I answered the call quickly and apologized for not calling him yet even before he had a chance to scold me for it. He accepted my apology and asked me how I was. He then went on to say how beautiful he thinks I am and that he would like to have dinner with me. I said that I didn’t know about that. He then went on to ask me what my measurements are and added that he wanted to spoil me with Victoria’s Secret bras and panties and new dresses and shoes and flowers and chocolates and jewelry. I was flattered but felt a bit awkward about the whole thing. I immediately thought “what does he want from me?”. Obviously, he’s a man. Men want sex. And here I was flirting with him, giving him the impression that he could possibly have a chance at having sex with me. Plus, I gave him my number! What was I getting myself into? I told him “no thank you” and he begged and begged and told me he needed to see me again, that he thinks he loves me and I felt horrible about it so I told him I would think about it and let him know, just hoping that it would buy me time for him to lose interest in me & just go away. It worked for the moment and we hung up. I felt bad, but at least I got him off the phone and maybe my plan will work. Well, the next morning, on my way to work, he called again. I didn’t answer it. He called several times that day, leaving me long messages, asking me to call him. Telling me he loves me. That he bought me gifts and wants me to have them. I was really uncomfortable about it now. The calls didn’t stop. For months. It’s been nearly a year and a half now and I still get calls from him occasionally. But it’s died down now.

I learned my lesson on that but what I really was caught off guard about was my mothers reaction to this story. She told me that I needed to meet the man. That I should take his gifts. Maybe even have sex with him, that he could possibly take care of me financially the rest of my life.

I couldn’t believe it. She said it straight-faced, even with a harsh tone. As if she was insisting that I meet him.

She told me in that same tone, that I needed to stop running around with losers and pick a good one that has money and marry him as soon as possible since I am not getting any younger. She added that she was disappointed in me that I haven’t figured that out yet & that I work too hard when I shouldn’t have to.

I was shocked & hurt. I started to cry. I always cry.

She didn’t change her tone and almost looked at me with disgust because I was emotional about it.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It all made sense to me right then & there. All those times my dad would tell me that he never had to worry about me & my future, that I was sitting on my retirement. I never understood it fully until that moment. I heard what he said, but I never knew my parents were actually serious when they said it. They fully believed that all I had to do in life was be pretty and give up sex in exchange for my financial security. I was hurt. I felt cheated. Cheated out of having a life rich with accomplishments and successes. Rich with a beautiful family that loves one another because they are good, morally correct, hard working, compassionate people that everyone enjoyed to be around. Instead, I was raised to use a man for what he can provide me with in exchange I would just be his whore he’s purchased, to be treated as such. And I’m supposed to be okay with it???? And here my mom sits, right in front of me, disappointed that I am struggling financially, as a single mother, because I divorced my husband because I was unhappily married and clearly in it for the financial stability rather than in it because I loved him. I tried to keep my composure and was respectful to my mom and played along as if she was right. I threw in my disapproval of what she was saying in a tactful way, but in order to avoid making a scene there by yelling at her through my tears about what I really thought of her plan for raising a daughter, I kept it in and we paid the bill and walked outside. We exchanged a hug and said goodbye.

I got into my car and watched her pull away. I could see the look of victory on her face as if she just proved to me that she has been right all along, and I’m glad she thought that because it meant she still believed my lies. I smiled as I sat & thought about what a lowly waste of skin someone must be to raise a child to purposely take advantage of another human being and I was proud of myself & my strength to not have followed her lead. I couldn’t and wouldn’t ever treat any man the way she treated my Dad. That example alone, made me do just the opposite for my life.

I love men & I don’t see them as a way to survive or to benefit in anyway. I have never dated a man that has more than me. I prefer that they don’t. But in her eyes, I liked dirtbags. Or losers. But to me, they were men with rich character & loyalty to the people they love. They had nothing like I had growing up, but they had more than I could ever buy with any amount of money.

I feel robbed. I was robbed. It makes me angry but like always, I find the positive in it. I am a better person inside than she ever was and stronger too because I didn’t follow along with that path. I chose my own path and it’s been hard. A lot harder than the path she chose. But that’s not admirable to me. What’s admirable to me is the fact that I don’t need anyone’s handout. I don’t need to give up my sex to a man I don’t love. I don’t have to wear a fake smile or pretend that my life is happy & fun. I smile because I am happy and I love men for who they are. I have my own shit and I don’t need anyone to pay my way. I think that’s more admirable. I’m stronger than I think a lot of others are. Things I’ve been through would bring a lot of other people to their knees. I don’t know exactly where it comes from. But I’m proud that I have it in me.  My life has been beautiful and fun once I was able to find my strength to leave my husband and figure out everything on my own. It wasn’t easy. But worth every bit of struggle.

So mom, there you have it. That’s what I really would have said if I were a rude uncaring daughter. Kinda the daughter you tried to raise me to be. But I have class and that’s not something you can teach, it’s also something you can’t ever take away from me.

80


My mom would have been 80 tomorrow. To honor her, my kids and I are going to BBQ together here at my house. I never had a funeral or anything for her so this will be our chance to appreciate her and all that she was for us and anyone else that knew her. We didn’t always see eye to eye but if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have my beautiful daughters to fill my life with now. Today is Mike’s birthday so I’m gonna get him a little something too since that guy has my back no matter what. I feel really lucky to be who I am. I don’t need much anymore, just good people to fill my days with.

Happy birthday Mom. We will never forget you. You are missed. It sure is weird having all your things at my house now. Did you know that the inside of your grandfather clock smells like you? It took me a while to get it up to the right time and it looks and sounds beautiful in my entryway. Not sure I will end up keeping it there but it sure reminds me of you every time I hear the chimes. Thank you. I love you Mom.

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Saying goodbye


It was good. To get to go into my moms kitchen cabinets, pull out every piece of history I found in every dish, wrap them up and place them in a box to bring home with me as my oldest daughter and I sat on her kitchen floor laughing, crying, and telling stories about my mom. It was just the two of us and the person who was there to supervise us. She was a compassionate, helpful older lady. She was given a copy of my list of items I was authorized to take and she went through the list and helped gather the items throughout the house for us. We only had 4 hours to basically disassemble nearly 80 years of memories. I called a good friend once I realized we had more work than time and he came to help with the larger jobs. He showed up quickly, and in a stretch limo with his dog. My mom lived in a mobile home park that was exclusively for mature adults and all throughout the time we were there, other residents would stop out front and comment about the “hearse” parked outside of the home. We realized that it made them uncomfortable because the park there is essentially an above-ground cemetery where each plot is only temporary housing for the bodies. The final step in these elderly peoples lives before they inevitably die. We made light of it & just worked as quickly as we could to get packed up so we could get the limousine out of there fast. Dishes and photos and televisions and radios and pillows, towels, make-up, slippers, puzzles, reading glasses, bird houses, trinkets my children had given her from the time they could create, even things I made her from years ago, all shoved here & there and loaded up for us to remember her by. We made good progress in 4 hours but realized we will have to go back for another trip on Monday. With my truck, my daughters truck and his “hearse” packed full & secured, we took off towards my home. I was in the lead. I felt all the eyes on us as we slowly rolled out of that park, with the big mattress crookedly bouncing in the bed of my truck as we drove away. Once the three of our vehicles were out on the main road, I drove slow, I didn’t want to lose anything. I looked back in my side view mirror just as I started up a steep part of the road and saw how somber our convoy looked, just like that feeling you get when you see a funeral procession creep by and I realized right then that that was all the closure I needed. I felt something leaving me. Like something was lighter in my life. And the people that were there with me were the ones coming with me to help me start a new chapter in some way. I didn’t cry but tears did fall from my eyes a little. It made me feel good to know I had these 2 people in my life this day. And his silly limo with his dog hanging out the passenger side made it even more dignified.2014-02-12 16.21.07

So Monday…will be my last load before the rest is taken by my brother. Then the place goes on the market for it’s next living corpse.

I got home with all the stuff and unloaded most of it before dark. Not sure where I am going to put all of it yet. I’m sure things will get stuffed into my cabinets for my children and grand-babies to find and treasure once I’m gone. I just hope I have at least as many years left to make new memories with them as my mom had. I really felt an urgency to get busy living yesterday. To get busy with what I am here for. Whatever that may be.