This was written as a part of my journey with Jess Morrow’s Invincible Summer Writing eCourse in 2012. I wanted to share it here with you now.
I was named after an uncle who died before his time. He was just 19, enjoying the freedom of the open road. Taken away too young in a motorcycle accident. Heartache and devastation swooped in and stayed in his place.
He was known as the favorite, the perfect son. Hard for my father to live up to his big brother’s legacy. Hard to be the one left behind when everyone was grieving. Forgotten in the wake of the funeral. Left to figure life out on his own.
I was born two years, to the day, after his death. A fact that was never shared, not discovered until I was 45 years of age. I’m not sure my mother ever knew.
She was just barely 17 when I came along. Although she married my father, it didn’t last long, and she was without his help from the beginning. She was blessed to have a devoted mother who loved her enough to step into his shoes and care for me when she couldn’t. She was hurt, lost, young and broke.
I knew this life would be full of toil and tribulation. I wanted everyone to know this life terrified me by refusing to leave the safety of my mother’s womb. A month overdue, 36 hours of labor and the assistance of a c-section forced me into this world, whether I liked it or not.
My grandmother was my rock. She knew what it was like to do it alone. 45 when my mother was born, my grandfather was 60. So sure he couldn’t have fathered a child after such a long life, he abandoned my mother before birth. My grandmother stepped in and cared for me until my mother was ready.
And then a new life began. A life with a step-father who loved me, or so it seemed, until I developed a voice of my own. A voice he silenced quickly. Shortly after my arrival in this family, my brother came a long. A boy, born through the union between this man and my mother. A boy, destined to be his favorite…his child, with a quiet voice.
I longed for my grandmother’s arms. Her loving care. A space in which I was the center of someone’s universe. I allowed no others to care for me, playing the role of a spoiled, awful child, unworthy of love…until she would come in and take me away, to love and nurture and make sure I felt special.
I remember the smell of the jam on the stove top as she canned. The berries filled the air, spreading through the steam as they boiled, lingering long after the canning was complete. I still have some of her canning supplies. Even though I don’t use them, I can’t let them go, anymore than I will ever be able to let her go.
I remember the look of concentration on her sweet face as she played solitaire at the kitchen window every day. She loved that game and I would watch her as I played nearby with my dolls; the dolls and I in matching outfits.
She was a seamstress and a good one. People were always stopping by to drop of clothes to be altered or to commission a specific piece, made from scratch. She also made clothes for my dolls and I, with tags that said “Made by Grandma with Love.” I loved watching her sew. I loved the sound of the machine as it hummed along the seams of her latest creation. I loved watching the yards of fabric as they gathered close to her body, nudged along by the needle.
So many fond memories of my time with her. Our time together meant everything to me.
I was eight when we moved away. A life-changing moment that left me feeling completely alone, as if a part of me was missing. I remember very little before that point in time, blocked by the deep sense of loss I felt inside.
I was thirteen when she died. I never cried. I sometimes think that’s why I cry so easily today. Tears un-shed for the losses in my life. Those disparaging moments that claimed a piece of my heart forever.
It wasn’t until my age entered the double-digits that I was told my father was not my father. A lie spoken for years, making me think I was someone I wasn’t. Somewhere out there was another man who had a role in my life. I just didn’t know what that role would be.
I tried to ask questions but never got far. The man I believed to be my father always got so angry whenever I brought it up. He said my father was a horrible man who didn’t care for his children and I was lucky I didn’t have him in my life. At the time, I just wanted to learn that on my own.
He fathered four girls, I’m the oldest, all with different mothers. All but one, left without a care, to be raised by another. My youngest sister, the same age as my oldest child, had my father in her life. She’s done things in her life most never experience, nor should they. Maybe this man was right.
I still feel the loss. The loss of a man too focused on his own life, built on the pain of his existence, to care about someone else. The loss of a grandmother who meant everything to me, first lost by location and then by death.
Over the years, I’ve grown to love my mother more and more every day; to connect with her. I know she struggled as a young mother. I know she did the best she could. She has turned into a loving and kind mother who never judges me and is willing to help in any way she can. I see my grandmother in her every time she smiles.
This life has blessed me; teaching me things I never would have known except through experience. It has brought about a depth to my soul that longs to be shared.
I am fortunate to have had these two beautiful women to love me…to care for me…to nurture me into who I am today, holding space for one another throughout my life. Together they inspire me to be better every day than I was the day before.
I am truly blessed.