Thursday, July 24, 2008

All About Mother (Part 1)

A few posts ago, I hinted at the fact that my mother has been very clingy and needy lately. I must correct myself by saying that's a MILD understatement.

There have been a couple of recent developments with her, that I have to say have got me a bit concerned....not only for her well-being, but for mine, as well.

You know what? Before I continue to go into wretched detail about this whole mess, I suggest that you stop reading, go get yourself a beverage and/or some food, get a GOOD comfy chair, and come back when you're ready, 'cause this one's gonna take awhile.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

All set now?


Now, where was I?

Well....I've heard say that the best place to begin is the beginning, so I guess I'll just start this story there. (And I promise I won't go into every single explicit detail, but I'll add enough to make you readers understand what life has been like for my mother up to this point).

My mother was born in 1930...plopped somewhere in the middle of seven kids, and born to parents who, from what I can gather, never really loved one another. There was a lot of emotional and financial turmoil in the house she grew up in. Her parents' dislike of each other became strong enough for them to eventually divorce (a BIG "no-no" back in the day), and Grandmother moved out and moved on with her life. Apparently, she was such a hard-ass that none of the children wanted to move out with her, opting instead to live with their father.

Grandmother also didn't seem to put up too much fuss with this decision, and she went on to make a whole new life for herself, eventually re-marrying.

Meanwhile, my Grandfather was struggling to raise seven children on his own, and, along with everyone else, was hit quite hard financially as a result of The Great Depression. He went from being an incredibly wealthy man, to one who found it a daily struggle to make enough money to put food on the table consistently. Eventually, Social Services intervened (there was no such thing as "single parenting" back then), and was about to farm out several of the children to foster homes, including my mother, who remembers clearly being taken to meet a man named Alex, and standing on the front porch of his home, and gaping up at the huge pillars that helped to support the second floor, while he, my Grandfather, and the SSI worker discussed her plight.

I guess, at that point, my grandmother decided to move back in for the "sake of the children". Her second husband had died, and she took her place back in the home as mother to these children, so my grandfather could go find work and the children could be cared for at home.

Details of all of this are very sketchy, at best.... my mother tends not to elaborate on any element of her childhood. She only gives the vaguest of impressions, but will always say "We had it rough".

My mom, at around the age of 6 or 7 (circa 1936).

She makes no bones about saying that she detested her mother, though, and hated it when she moved back in with them. She adored her father, and I guess this move rattled him immensely. He was a proud man, and to have to resort to asking for help from a woman who'd "abandoned" him was probably almost too much for him to bear. But, it was either that, or have all of his beloved children taken away from him, quite possibly for good. He must have felt he had no choice.

She escaped from that kind of harsh, loveless, emotionally wrecked environment, when she and my dad eloped when she was 17 and he was 21. Her mother was furious to find out this information, and threatened to annul the marriage. My mother told her to go ahead... she'd just wait until she turned 18 and re-marry him anyway, and continued that if she did such a thing, my grandmother would never see her, or any future grandbabies, again. My stoic grandmother let the marriage stay, but made no bones about telling my mother how much she hated my dad, as often as she could.

A year later, my mom and dad started spitting out babies, having four kids in four years. Their fifth child came five years later, and their sixth (me) came seven years later. She had a difficult labor and delivery with me, and after three days of struggling with the whole process, she was finally able to deliver me. Soon after, her doctor approached her with some "bad news". He told her her body would no longer allow her to bear children. (Every single time she tells this story, she also adds that she didn't think this was "bad news" at all... she was totally elated). Years later, when I was a Mama myself, and I understood more fully the complexities of the female anatomy, I questioned her, and more specifically, her doctor, on the details surrounding this outcome. I asked, "So, what happened to make him say this to you?" "I have no idea, Cheryl", was her reply, "We didn't ask questions back then!" "Well.." I pressed, "Did your uterus fall out???" "No! Of course not!" "But, there has to be some rational explanation for his diagnosis!" "Cheryl, I honestly could care less how he came to believe I couldn't get pregnant anymore... I was just so happy that I couldn't have anymore babies that the reason why didn't matter!"

That one baffles me, to this day. I know, for sure, if my doctor ever told me I couldn't carry babies anymore....even if it prompted me to do cartwheels up and down his office suite, I'd still be curious as to the reasons my body took this new "turn".

Wouldn't you?

Anyway... I digress.

So, this woman quickly shifted gears from being someone's daughter (for which she had a lot of responsibilities), to someone's wife, and then someone's mother (again...lots of responsibilities). As a young couple with four babies, their financial situation wasn't a whole lot brighter than the one they'd both left when they went and eloped. I have no idea how, but they both made it through somehow.

My mom and dad, with my sister Margie (circa 1955). My mother had to work an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift for three months to be able to afford the First Communion dress my sister's sportin'. My mother said "It was all worth it though... she looked so beautiful."

1 comment:

erica said...


Before I comment though, off to read part 2

(but I agree, I'd want to know why I couldn't have more kids.)