A Daughter’s Love

As told to Alex Daddis

Tiona (right) and her mother (left) are all each other has had for 24 years. [Photo provided by Tiona Rodrigues]

My dad was never in the picture. My mom would always be like, “Call your dad!” but I never had a relationship with him. I used to go to his house on weekends, but it was because my mom was forcing me to. I never really wanted it myself. He never paid my mother child support or gave her a dime. She never asked for it.

Because she is a single parent, I spent all of my life with my mother. We have a lot of good memories. We always went on vacation to Florida every year to see my family. We’ve always had fun. We went to Punta Cana to celebrate my graduation. She wanted a relaxing trip, she’s not party crazy like I am.

I haven’t lived with my mother since my senior year of high school. I went to live at college and then moved in with my aunt and uncle. I talk to her a lot but only see her about three or four times a month. I’m working three jobs and she works nights. Our relationship is currently strained because of issues with her boyfriend. She doesn’t pick winners; she picks the guys who need her. She always had me to care for and once I left for school, a part of her was missing and she needed someone to watch over.

I never got good vibes from this boyfriend. My mom’s had two serious boyfriends. I met them both. We have an open relationship. I tell her stuff, she tells me stuff. The first time I had sex, I felt I was “old enough”, so I told her about it a few weeks later. She said “I need a cigarette!” I was like, “Mom, I’m 22!” She didn’t want me to become one of those girls who sleeps around, but she never had the sex talk with me. My cousins did. My mom was like “Eh, you’ve learned it from them.” And that was it.

My mom goes out a bit, but I don’t mind it because she had me when she was 21. It’s not that I took away her fun, but she doesn’t have any responsibility now. She’s an adult with an adult kid. She can go out and have fun if she wants. Sometimes I say, “You’re a mom. You’ve gotta relax.” But she’s very “eh” about drinking. Her mother was killed by a drunk driver when she was 14.

When I was 14, I remember once my mom was pissed off because her doctor wouldn’t refill her birth control prescription until she got checked out. I was at my aunt’s house doing social studies homework one day and my mom came in and talked to my aunt alone in her room. She came out and said “Ti! I need you downstairs really quick.” I went downstairs and my mom said, “I have cancer.” The first thing that ran through my head was “Oh my God, she’s gonna die.” I instantly started crying and freaking out. It was definitely hard because she was my only parent. Like if she dies, what happens to me?

She wrote a will saying if she died, I would go to one of her brothers. If he didn’t want me, my other uncle. We didn’t plan after that because you hope that someone will take you.

It was stage one cervical cancer. My grades plummeted that marking period. My mom was punishing me. I was like, “You know you have cancer, right? I can’t focus on school.” For the most part, she kept me out of the loop. It was bumped to stage two, but they caught it early enough that she didn’t need chemo.

This coming January, she’ll be ten years cancer free. But she won’t get checked, she hasn’t since her surgery. I’m having a hard time with that. I just say “So you’re okay with leaving me without a mom?” I think she’s nervous — like what if she has something? She’s gonna do what she wants and that’s that. She doesn’t have great health insurance, so I offer to pay for it. She won’t go. I guess she figures she can’t get sick again because she no longer has a cervix. She’s a heavy smoker and doesn’t take care of herself. Sometimes she doesn’t even eat. But she always tells me I need to exercise.