This was a nightmare day for me for many years. I have been absolutely wasted more times than I can count, trying to get away from this day. Becoming a mother myself should have cured it, but it only partially put a bandage over the wound called "mother" for me.
I still have a pencil can with thumb-print art that Paul made for me in 1992, the ninja turtle is my favorite. I have pictures of me in my ivy crown and necklace of pull-tabs from cans that granted me any wish from Andrew as long as I was wearing them. I have a refrigerator magnet that Molly made me that she hates to see, but it's at the shop and every time I walk by it I smile. I probably have more things from Molly because she was last in my row of kids, and girls like to make presents more than boys do I think. I have received calls many years from a dearly beloved adult friend who "has no mother, but thinks you're the best mother I know."
Even in the middle of being adored by these three for all these years as mom, I have still carried the suppurating boil that is my own experience with being mothered. It's heavy, it's like a giant goiter; it is a tail that I've had to drag behind me when it's twice the size of the reptile I am. It has made me very, very tired.
This is the reason I have to be so careful when writing on this day, about someone who I call mother now. She most certainly is not the mother from all of those stories. I can't even call her "mom" because that's either me or a dirty word. I call her "Grandma Carol" like the kids do, because there is nothing but positive associations with that. Grandma is not a dirty word. (Unless some kid tries to call me that someday, I won't be having it.) My own Grandmother was the real mother of my childhood, but I always still knew she was my Grandma, and all the while that other one was still running around scattering mayhem and trampling the flowers.
Grandma Carol met my Big Daddy when I was in my early twenties, and married my him when Andrew was a barely walking toddler. I sang at their wedding and then spent the entire reception laying on a bed in the dark with a wet washcloth over my eyes and a spike through my head. Not until recently have I had a headache that so flattened me that I couldn't function. I hadn't had any drugs or alcohol that I remember, it wasn't that. I wonder now if it spoiled the wedding for them in any way. If I did I deeply regret it now. We sang a song that the boys' dad wrote. It's a beautiful song and I think it still hangs in their kitchen. Maybe it was the idea that I had another "mom" when I couldn't deal with the one who was already using me for mulch, I really don't know. I do know that I was very happy to see my Big Daddy finally be in love and the idea that he would have someone, the someone to spend the second half of his life with was a beautiful thing and only a little threatening to me.
I had been it for years, his girl, just him and me rolling down roads of fun. But I was a grownup and married myself, like I said it was only a little threatening. Really, only a little.
Years came and went, one by one, and I noticed that she treated me just like she treated her own children. Then there were years of addiction to this and that, ending finally with alcohol. She never once judged me, or told me what I should be doing, never gave me any disapproval or dire warnings.
Somewhere in all of those years she stopped being my "dad's new wife" and became... well, not my mother because my mother is a terrible person. But she had transformed from one thing into another with no title I'd ever encountered. I find it effortless to introduce them as "my folks" or say "my parents are coming to town." I do though, have to be very careful to make sure that in writing about her no one could ever confuse her with my egg-donor, my vagina of origin. I have started referring to Dottie as my bio-mother, giving you the opportunity to infer that I have another mother, one who is more real in my life than that tainted half of my DNA. The last thing I ever wanted to do though was to confuse a friend or reader, leading them to believe that this woman I love so much, who is such a meaningful and integral part of my life is the evil being I have devoted so many paragraphs to.
I have her listed as my mother on facebook, that seems harmless enough since you can see that she's married to my Big Daddy and I always make it plain that Dottie has been history for years now. I also list Noelle as my sister and Blair as my brother, familial relationships have room for interpretation on facebook.
The truth is, if I had been offered the opportunity to choose my own mother, Grandma Carol would have been at the top of the list. She belongs with my Big Daddy and I'm sure they've been together forever, not just twenty-something years. I have seen love bloom in him that I had no idea as a child that he was even capable of. She has brought this out of him, and he wears it like a cape now. That's not how life works though, people just go falling out of this random uterus or that
and then that's what they get. It's what we do with our associations as we become our own people that matter and make the lasting and final impact on our lives. She's not my mom, but she's become the mother of my heart. When I said "Happy mother's day" on the phone this morning it was to her.
Who needs a title? Having a person designated as your mother who is a black hole of whirling emotional blades of destruction in no way compares with having someone who loves you no matter what; title or not. I love her, and life gave her to me when I most needed her. That's a gift I will never stop being grateful for.
I love you Grandma Carol, my not-mom, my heart-mother. Happy mother's day!