I have said it before my biggest regret is not telling my mother I loved her. I only had 14 years with her and honestly a portion of that time wasn’t actually with her and then when we were together the quality wasn’t the greatest.
My mother got pregnant with me while living in DC and working as a secretary for the FBI. She fell in love with a man and returned home pregnant not long after. No one has ever given me the full story of her time in DC. She married a man who I am sure she cared about, but wasn’t the love of her life. I was born and my grandmother kept me. Back in the day, this was not unusual. I was my grandmother’s baby. I loved my grandmother and when my mother reappeared I had no idea who she was. I remember being told she was my mother and I should call her mama, but even at 3 and 4 I was a stubborn little thing so I called her nothing. No really, I didn’t address her by name, I would just stand by her and wait on her to acknowledge me. Yea, I still do shit like that today.
I would go between my mama’s house and my grandmother’s house after my mother married my stepfather. When I was about 5 or 6, my grandmother died and I was officially with her forever. Since my stepfather was in the military we moved a lot, which is why I deplore moving and prefer stability. However, we lived in Jacksonville, Florida the longest. I loved our little neighborhood and although we were the only family of color there up until a year or so before my mother died, we didn’t have to deal with racial issues as one would imagine.
My relationship with my mother was different. I loved her, but we both grew up where expressing love to one another didn’t happen. There was no hugging when we saw family after not seeing them for a while. We didn’t do physical demonstrations of love, it was foreign to me. I can count the times I hugged my mother…on one hand. She did the best she could, but this side of the family is short on physical displays of love, but we will beat the shit out of you because we are passionate about our anger.
As the oldest child I carried the bulk of responsibilities with my siblings. I babysat, cooked breakfast, cleaned and all things most kids have no idea how to do. During the summer, I would sneak two Virginia Slims Low Menthol cigarettes from my mom’s pack and smoke while my sister and brother were outside playing and I watched my soaps. As I turned into the brooding teenager, my mother and I started to clash. I did the opposite of whatever she said. Normal teenage angst, but ours was complicated because unbeknownst to my understanding there was resentment in my heart about her not being there with me when I was young. She knew because she told my aunt about it one day as I eavesdropped on her phone conversation.
My mom told me she loved me once. It was after she found a note I had written stating I hated her bitch ass. Yeah, I was cussing way back then. I wrote the note in a fit of anger because my brother had broken a coffee table glass insert and because I wasn’t fast enough to grab the metal object from him, I got a spanking and he got nothing. I felt at the time my mother cared more about my brother and sister than she did me and her actions spoke to me feeling that way. How she found that note hidden in an old Reader’s Digest book is beyond me. The thing is I knew she loved me, but we suffered from the inability to say it and demonstrate it.
When they told me she had died, the only thing I remember saying was, “I never got to tell her I loved her.”
I am still learning to forgive myself for not doing so. I make it my business to tell folks I love them and show them because I do not want to ever regret not doing so again.