My mother grew up on the Southside of Chicago with lots of brothers and sisters and a father that wasn’t biologically hers, but real nonetheless; this is the grandfather that I remember and loved. At some point she forgave her real father for leaving, but only nearing the end of his life on earth. I believe this is in some way shaped the view I have of my father and why I made the decision not to hate him anymore when I found out he had cancer and could pass. Luckily he survived and is well, but I always think of how my mother handled her relationship with her father and strive to do things emotionally different.
My father was 17 years older than my mother when they got married. She always says she met him in a bar, which was somewhere she wasn’t supposed to be. Anyways, she already had a daughter from her first marriage as well as my father, who had a FEW children before they got hitched. But once they married, it was time to bring some more life into the world; first came my brother and then me.
My mother seemed to be very successful on her own in Chicago, having seen newspaper clippings of her promotions in the newspaper and watching her continue her education with three kids and a husband who worked full time. Moving to North Carolina was pure bliss for me. I loved the atmosphere and I loved that house so much, it had a huge backyard and a deck where we always had people over for summer parties filled with food and fellowship and fun. And I loved my family because we were all happy and growing together, then we moved to Texas.
Things changed when we moved. I noticed my parents arguing more from my room, but never in front of us. I knew my mother was having a hard time with my father, but it never truly showed on her face. I think she wanted to make sure we didn’t worry about anything, and for that, I am grateful. But when my dad got arrested for hitting my ma, it was all too clear that things were changing and I didn’t want my mother to hurt anymore.
I didn’t realize how privileged and spoiled I was until my parents divorce when I was 11. We built our house from the ground up, went on vacations, got too many presents for Christmas and yet we still wanted more and more and more. Until one day, my dad left with all his money and we were left alone to barely get by. I thought my parents hated each other for a long time because it seemed like my dad would never give us enough money to make ends meet and soon, when my mom lost her job, I could tell she started to panic.
Those years were really rough on all of us. I saw my mother struggle and I was livid with my father that he abandoned us and moved back up north. My mom had a bajillion jobs, and she did all of this to feed and clothe us. We went from getting lunch money everyday to being forced to enroll in the free lunch program becasue she just couldn’t afford it. We went from volunteering at the food pantry to standing in line for a handout. I remember one day I looked in the pantry and asked where the food came from and my mom said the food pantry and I turned my nose up so quickly, thinking I was too good for the food we were blessed with. But even quicker my mother checked me saying, “why do you think you’re too good to eat this food? It’s exactly the same brand as we always get, this time for free.”
My mother was such a hard worker. She never stopped working for us just to make sure we were good. She worked long nights as a kitchen manager, messing up her health and body in the middle of the night just to keep the lights on. And the one thing that she held onto that whole time was God. There wasn’t a Sunday that we didn’t go to church, and I rememeber getting grounded for a week because I said I didn’t want to go to church that morning; that’s how important it was.
But guess what? My mother made it through years of struggles and came out on top with a new job, new benefits and a new car, but never went back to the person she was before when she was with my dad; that’s what God changed in her. And now she teaches other people how to handle their finances so they are not in the same position that she was years ago. Because she doesn’t want to see them struggle like she did with three kids, three dogs, a mortgage, bills, and no job.
She is superwoman.