It was three years ago today that my mom lost her fight for her life. There are days still that it seems like it has been so much longer than three years because she is not here with us any longer, and there are times when the images in my mind are so clear that it appears as if she should still be with us.
It saddens me in
either way to know the pain with which she suffered in the end, and to
know it was not very different from the pain which she suffered for so
much of her life, both physically and, more so, emotionally. Her
physical sufferings with breast cancer and then hospitalizations in the
years which followed from the radical treatments of irradiation she was
administered back in 1970 were omnipresent in hers and our lives.
Doctors noted often that she was a true survivor and ultimately
commented, in later years, that she was among the few who had survived
so long with such radical treatments. She had difficulty in conceiving
and underwent surgeries to be able to have me. She took copious amounts
of estrogen in the form of DES prenatally to ensure fertility (and my
more likely outcome as a feminine male).
life was difficult for her as she had been in an abusive first marriage,
having bore my sister through that relation. When that marriage ended,
she remarried to my father but was scorned by my father's mother and
relatives for having had a child from a previous marriage. My father
was in the middle of all of this, torn to pleasing his mother and torn
by the love he held for his wife. And my mom felt the brunt of the
jeers and jabs from this. For years, my sister used a different last
name, that of her legal father, for she could not be adopted legally
while he was alive. In essence, my mother disappeared without a trace
and no contact was ever established between my mother and sister with
him ever again for fear of the physical violence and outcome which would
have ensued. And so I never knew my sister was not the offspring of my
father and was never given a truly believable reason as to why she held
a different last name until it was many decades later. My sister swore
that secrecy as well, not wanting to be dealt the ramifications of that
information being made known.
My mother's marriage to
my father was better than it was had been with her first husband. My
dad did love and care truly for my mom, but he also had a temper and
became physically oppressive when provoked. For that, my mother walked
about on eggshells for the most part of her life, ensuring that all his
needs, those of the house, the finances and of my own needs were met.
My sister, with a 13 year difference in ages, moved out by the time I
was 5. I was basically an only child from then on and stayed quietly in
my world of play for many, many years for fear to provoke my father's
anger. Far be it for me to denounce my dad entirely for he was an
excellent provider, a master of finance and of savings and a loyal
husband who never wandered nor cheated. My mother took these positives
in light of what she did have in her previous marriage and balanced it
out with the gift of her life, who she felt was me.
mother and I used to take day trips together while my dad was at work.
Sometimes a bus or subway ride to go get pizza for lunch at a Papa
Gino's, or a train ride to the seacoast resort town of Rockport to go
get an ice cream. These are all memories I shared with her and which
will never be forgotten. Still, today, I can not pass by a place where I
spent a day, an hour or even a moment with her, and not remember, or to
shed a tear.
I helped her at home with the
cooking and baking. I helped her to lay out patterns for dresses,
chalking the fabric and cutting. She let me learn how to sew those
dresses on her sewing machine....those which I secretly wanted to wear
but, at such an early age of 10 or 11, did not freely express to her.
She helped me with proof-reading all of my assignments for school and
helped me type them up. She encouraged me in school and in all my
endeavors. She showed interest in my widely varied hobbies and my
travels. She LIVED through me. I was her window to what could have
been in her own life but which she sacrificed to temper the often
turbulent home world in which I grew up so that I may find peace in this
world and to excel. I never forgot this. I would not be where I am
today, sitting here typing this, had it not been for her.
am so sad she is gone. I can't even finish typing this without
stopping for the emotion. I deal with it, like I deal with everything I
have always dealt with throughout my life growing up and when under
stress. I was the class clown from an early age, the jokester, the
comedienne. The more serious life became, the more I found escape into
this comedic realm to hide within. That outward shell has always tried
to hide that which can be hurt within and for the most part it works,
although not everyone may have known this or understood it of me. My
writings, when I am serious, often fly in the face of what the comedic
and jovial Christen appears to be on the exterior. Inside there is a
world of difficult and dark memories all bundled up with the positive
memories held with my mom. The dark memories come back only when I
allow that inner wall down. I don't cry tears for the loss of my mom
for her passing, I cry tears for the pain she had to endure in living
the life she was handed and in her abilities to withstand that sacrifice
of her own life, her own dreams, her own independence for the sake of
me. I only hope that I did make her as proud as she said I did, because
she meant the world to me, and she often told me she felt the same. I
was the one who saw her take her last breath and to feel her pulse
slowly fading to an empty stillness. Collapsing to the floor in tears,
my only thoughts were of her finally having some peace in her life and
knowing that at least there had been some meaning to her life through
what she shared deeply with me. That gift will never be forgotten
until I take my very own last breath, and then still, God willing, it
will continue to carry it on eternally.