Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mother knows best

    Shortly after my father left for good, my mother decided she would leave as well. Finding a job 150 miles away, she packed up my brother and left me with my boyfriend David's, family. It happened very quickly. She came home and announced her decision to relocate and thought it would be best if I stayed behind. She said I could finish my schooling and that I needed to find somewhere to live. I was excited and sad all at once. My family was once more shattering, and there would be no one left. Now the loneliness I had always felt was to become a reality. But, I was also thrilled at the idea of life away from my mother and her constant resentment and open hostility towards me. She was brutal in her anger. Everything she had carefully built had come tumbling down and putting distance between her and I was her response. I had only dated my boyfriend about three weeks when my mother made her plans. I had no idea where I was going to go, but his mother was wonderful and stepped in saying I was welcome there. Life in their home was very different from anything I had ever known and I don't think I ever let down my guard. I wanted to, but I just could not trust. I watched David's father, keeping a wide berth of him. He was always polite, he did drink a lot on weekends and sometimes he and his wife bickered, but it was nothing like what I was used to. I slept in David's sister's room and we became fast friends. She taught me about make up and we spent hours styling our hair. I might not have felt at home but I felt accepted, and that. was everything.

   We spent our summer laying out, slathered in baby oil, drinking Diet Cokes. I learned to smoke, which I was never good at and quickly disregarded. We drank pilfered Miller Lites and laid under the stars making plans and sharing gossip. I never talked about my family and no one asked. It was like my past had never happened. My mother never called, but I missed my younger brother dearly. We had always been close and now, like everyone else, he had left me. The new school year started and I threw myself into it. I came to realize that David's family did not have much extra money. His father was a used car salesman who sometimes missed work because of his drinking. Things seemed to be more strained between the adults and we three teens tried to stay out of the way. David's mother, I think her name was Linda, sat me down one afternoon and explained that my mother had not been sending the money she had promised, and that they needed it. She had left messages for my mother, but had not heard back. She asked me to call and remind my mother. I was embarrassed and filled with dread. My parents had always had money problems. It seemed to never be enough. My brother and I worked in the kitchens of the restaurants my mother managed to pay our way. Our parents felt very strongly that we needed to be responsible for any expenses they incurred on our behalf. Both my parents loved to spend. My father, on radio controlled model airplanes and motor cycles. My mother loved clothes and shoes and little trifles. It was not unusual for them to go on a two day spending spree and not pay the light bill. This would start a round robin of bounced checks and threatening phone calls. It was a topsy-turvy existence at best.

  I made the call. My mother was curt and said that she would take care of it. I don't know how much she had promised to pay or if she ever sent anything, but I was mortified. I felt like a burden and all the new found joys of being part of a family unit were gone. Two days later Linda again took me aside and said my mother was sending for me. I was to leave the next day on a Grey Hound bus. I can not put into words my despair. I did not want to leave this family. I didn't want to live with my mother, but I was powerless to object or defy her. I said good-bye to my new life and a school that I loved, and got on the bus.

  It was not a joyous reunion. My mother was no happier to see me than I was her. We tolerated each other. Her in her bitter rage and I in my resentment and misery. So, my mother, ever the resilient sort, made a new plan.  She invited men over to meet me. First, a line cook who was 27 years old to my 16 and had a criminal record...I was frightened out of my mind. She thought that he would be a good boyfriend for me, she said. I resisted. Then came a 36 year old who was separated from his wife and a regular at the restaurant my mother managed. He had seen me there, he said, and he sent a dozen roses and love letters.  I started having trouble sleeping and eating. I was skittish and isolated. The more my mother tried to push me into the arms of strangers, the more I withdrew from the world. It was a tense, pressure filled time and something was going to have to give. And soon, it did.

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