Child support

A blog post has been brewing since the weekend, but I’m all mixed up about how I feel about it, and I don’t know if I can trust my own memory, so I’ve just been thinking and thinking and not visiting Mom and not writing.

An old friend’s dad passed away last week. During calling hours at the funeral home, I saw many friends from junior high and high school for the first time in years. I saw some members of this gentleman’s family for the first time in even more years. And thinking about him, my friend’s dad, really stirred up a lot of memories about my teen years. I often say I don’t have good memories of day-to-day life at my house. The routine I do recall was getting up and getting ready, going to school, which I liked, and then inevitably going to someone else’s house after school rather than heading to my own home. By the time I was about 13 or 14, my brother had moved in with my dad and my sister had gone off to college. So it was just Mom and me at home until I finished high school. Which meant it was just me at home a lot of the time.

I do not remember being lonely. I didn’t think about it at the time, but now I realize how frequently I spent time at my friends’ houses. After-school time, weekend time, night time. It wasn’t deliberate, as far as I can remember, but I just imagine now that I must have been seeking solace in what I perceived as much more normal households. I wonder now if my friends’ parents were wondering why the hell I never went home. Or maybe they knew.

In the case of my friend who lost his dad, I imagine his parents had some ideas about what I might be lacking at home. They took me to church for most Sundays over a good two or three years of high school. And drove me to church choir practice every Wednesday night, and then let me come over to their house after practice to watch Dynasty before they drove me home. I remember picking at a turkey with my friend’s sisters after the holidays one year – an indication of how at home I felt in their midst. And most embarrassing of all, they let me use a typewriter at their kitchen table to type a paper for school because I didn’t have a typewriter at my house. I say it’s embarrassing now, but I don’t think I was embarrassed then. I was thankful for the company, for the family time, for the access to a typewriter. But I also don’t know if I ever thanked them when I was a kid. I’d like to think I expressed gratitude regularly. But I really don’t recall. So at the funeral home, I thanked my friend’s mom for being so good to me 25 years ago.

I think I struggled with these thoughts because for now, I am not interested in remembering bad things about Mom. About her absence, her reckless behavior, her willingness to throw a party at our house on a school night. I am so caught up in worrying about her well-being in the context of moving to the nursing home that it’s as if I don’t have room in my brain or my heart for memories that make me sad or angry. Or that simply revive a part of Mom’s life that is unsavory. For my own preservation and in the name of keeping alive the good memories about her, there is no purpose in revisiting this distant past. But the thoughts have just been there, and I know that’s in part because I hate to admit that this isn’t just about Mom. It is making me realize I have regrets about, or at least I question, my own behavior. What if she felt abandoned by me? This is a real possibility. What if she wishes I had spent more time at home as a kid? Also, what if my friends and their parents thought I was a drag to have around? Would I have been able to tell? And then really: Why even think these things? And yet in the process of trying to crowd out those thoughts, all I have managed to do is become irritable, because there is certainly no way to resolve any of this now.

So what I have been trying to focus on instead is how lucky I was to have those friends and their families to see me through those times when otherwise I would have been alone, maybe lonely, and possibly up to no good. Sometimes I was up to no good with my friends, but for the most part, I was too afraid of authority figures of all kinds to get into too much trouble.

And really, it is time to turn my attention back to Mom. I have indulged in this weird trip down a bumpy memory lane this week, and it hasn’t been any fun so I am ready to give it a rest. And it’s much more appropriate to remember my friend’s dad with a smile rather than a knitted brow, because he was a kind, smart man and I was fortunate to spend as much time as I did with him and his family.

Meanwhile, I haven’t seen Mom since Sunday. I put out an outfit for her that day that I hoped she would be changed into on Tuesday after her shower. I stopped in Wednesday morning to drop off meds, but she was already asleep after breakfast so I didn’t wake her. I’m planning to go see her tomorrow and get snapped back to the present, to the reality that matters now.

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8 comments so far

  1. Pam on

    Very vivid memories. Maybe you should let yourself feel them, instead of letting your mother take precedent. “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others,” right?

  2. momsbrain on

    Hmm, Pam, interesting point. Quit being so smart! 🙂

  3. Barry on

    Hi Emily – I really felt for you while reading this. But you are, in my opinion, inherently wise. You can’t resolve the past, as you acknowledge, but I do think it’s OK to let yourself think or feel whatever comes along. And though I obviously wasn’t there, I am sure you were NOT a drag to your friend’s family. You are way too pleasant and sweet for anyone to feel that way toward you. Really, don’t be so hard on yourself. You did what you needed to do. You have turned out to be such a gem!

  4. momsbrain on

    Hi, Barry! Thank you for saying I’m a gem. You are too kind! As Patrick noted, to me and not in comments, the time spent with my friends helped shape how I am now, in a good way, most certainly. It’s not something to regret. Which I don’t – it was just weird to look back and think about it all as an older adult. I’m glad you and I have “rediscovered” each other…if you know what I mean…after our lapse in communication. It is so nice!

  5. plettahar on

    oh, Emily, you are such a good writer. And you know, I’m sure you were not a burden to these families. There are two kids who have sort of done the same thing with my boys, because I think their home life is chaotic and they get lost I think in their own family. So with us they’ve found a bit of comfort, a place to roost, a place to feel normal. I really do feel for you and I’m so glad you had those other people to care for you when things were bumpy or sad. We all need safe harbor.

  6. momsbrain on

    Plettahar, I’m glad to hear the story about your current experience with the kids who visit you. Safe harbor – yes!

  7. Surgeon in my Dreams on

    There was a family in our neighborhood that sounds about like the ones you spent time with. I too would stay at their house much of the time. Many times, they would even have to wake me and take me home so I could go to bed. They had 4 boys and the mom used to say I was their adopted daughter. I’m sure she knew from the neighborhood gossip why I never stayed home, and she was always very kind to me.

    I wrote her a letter a few years ago, telling her how much it meant to me and thanking her for putting up with my presence.

  8. momsbrain on

    It is so nice that you wrote that letter, Surgeon in my Dreams. I wish I had done that, too.


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