Excuse me, do I know you?

Its incredible how the mind and heart can build up a moment before its about to happen. Its as if a protective shield starts to encase you, or reminders of what to say or not say, how to act, or not to act run wild in your brain. This didn’t happen with me, maybe I was too numb to feel it. 

Climbing into the car my brother said “Moms waiting for us, she called while you were in the bank”. Swallowing hard, I responded with “Us? does she know I am here?” and he replied with yes, she is waiting to see us. Driving to where she lived, I was terrified – questions about where she lived, her lifestyle, what kind of people would be there, could I get shot?? These were all the crazy things running through my mind. The neighborhood where we were, was less than favorable, and not knowing which color clothes I should be wearing to ensure my safety – scared the shit our of me, I am not even going to try and lie and say other words.

You have to remember, I do not know this woman. What I know of her, is her name, and that I stopped seeing her after I was four following my parents divorce. In the following twenty-nine years, I have seen her maybe four times and the last one was fifteen years ago. So, this car ride – this visit was a BIG deal and ended up being a BIG nothing.

The only picture I have of my mother and IPulling up to a rundown house, with about three different trailers, weeds, and piles of junk everywhere, out walked a woman about 5’9, with a purplish-pinkish-redish type color of short curly hair, wearing a mans flannel, dated jeans and slippers. Her face was swollen due to having Graves disease, something I learned that day, and her over all appearance was that she had obviously had a hard life. She walked up and hugged me, a hug that I am sure I dreamed of for years, a hug that now felt uncomfortable and empty.

Walking us into her backyard, she sat in a chair while my brother and I shared a porch swing. Swinging back and forth, I talked with my brother, but was finding difficulty in what to say to her, or even to look at her, because part of me wanted to study this woman. You know – like look at the details of her face, her eyes, her hands, were they mine? Listening to the way she talked, she sounded the same, her laugh was the same although it wasn’t mine. Nothing about her was me, and nothing about me is her – it was an odd feeling. It was as if, I was meeting  a friends mom for the first time, there was that lack of knowledge between us – no bond at all.

Talking with my brother, she expressed concern over her grandsons moving here to Oregon, and teared up at the thought of not seeing them. She reminisced about my brother and it was obvious they had some sort of a relationship, even though my brother puts forth all the effort. When I would talk, she would study me, I felt her looking me over – maybe doing the same thing I was doing to her – I don’t know. She laughed when I would say something funny, and would talk to me in a round about manner.

When my brother would stop talking, it was quiet. When he left to pee behind a tree, it was silent until his return. This woman and I were strangers. There wasn’t anything we shared the same, except our blood, and for me that is not enough. I suppose I could have thanked her for giving birth to me, but I didn’t.

She didn’t ask how I was, or what I did for a living, or anything for that matter. She didn’t ask about my children, her grandchildren at all – it was if they didn’t exist. In a sense, I guess to her they don’t – she has never met any of them and most likely never will. Sitting there within arms reach of her, part of me want to scream at her – shake her even, anything to make her wake up. Questions that I had like, do you not love me, do you not care about me,  or getting to know your grandchildren, does nothing exist beyond drugs, pool tables and the men in your life? Release my anger of the years of being let down, not important enough, of growing up without a mother – but looking at her – I realized something bigger. That didn’t matter anymore.

Growing up I always held out hope that my mom would come riding in on whatever moms ride in on, and play with my hair, talk to me about boys, teach me about the birds and the bees, to tell me I was beautiful or smart just once – just once I wanted to hear that from her. But, today that hope didn’t exist. Being angry with her would do no good, and hating her was pointless. I don’t hate her, in fact I honestly don’t feel anything for her oddly enough. Obviously, I am affected by the visit enough to write about it – but not out of heartache – more out of self-discovery.

She gave birth to me, but I am not her. My children are my world, their days, new skills, sports, hobbies, snuggling with them, the pride that fills me when they do anything they are excited about, that’s me. Being their mother is a privilege, and one I take seriously and with the highest regard. My daughter is me, her attitude, her humor and smart ass remarks. My son’s kind heart, his shy personality, his need to be loved and snuggled, that’s me. None of that is her, and I am far more blessed because of it.

I’m not going to say that the visit didn’t hurt somewhere inside of me, and maybe it won’t hit me till she dies or something tragic happens, I don’t know. What I can say though, is that I must have known the visit would go this way, because I had no expectations, I didn’t daydream up the possibilities of what may or may not happen. Which is not me, I over-think, and over-worry about anything – but for some thankful reason, I did not with her. If you don’t want to be let down, lower your expectations, I read that somewhere and it is true – it works.

Finishing up our twenty-five minute visit, she walked us out to my car, something of which she doesn’t have. She hugged my brother, and although I tried to avoid it, she hugged me. She kissed me on my cheek, and with her voice cracking she told me she loved me, without thinking I said it back – shocked at myself, and feeling like a fraud. Those words meant nothing to me, and towards her they were just an automated response, and nothing more. She teared up, and I got in the car with her standing there looking at us, I never looked at her again, just backed out of the driveway and out of her life.

Its natural I suppose to wonder what she was thinking of in that moment, what exactly it was she was crying about – Could it be that she had every opportunity to get to know me, and chose not to? Or, that she knew that she would never see me again? Who knows maybe she was crying because my brother was leaving – either way it doesn’t matter.

Driving away from her home made me love my children and my husband more. An overwhelming feeling of being blessed with our life came over me – truth is it doesn’t matter where I came from or whether they loved me or wanted me even – because today I am loved, today I am wanted and today I have broken the cycle my parents created.

Getting home that night, it was close to midnight, I had promised the kids I would come in to kiss them goodnight. My daughter laid in her bed with her beautiful long blond hair strewn on her pillow, eyes closed and sleeping peacefully. Kissing her cheek, part of me wanted to swoop her up in my arms and tell her a million times over that I loved her, was proud of her and that she is so beautiful and smart. Instead, I just turned out her light and moved on to the boys room. My oldest son slept among toys, I swear he can sleep on anything – he sat up in his sleep and gave me a hug, I removed the toys and covered him up with a blanket. The youngest was laying there with a big smile, sat up and was extra excited to see me, giving me hugs and kisses and telling me he missed me. Tucking them both in, I walked back to my room, where my husband was half asleep on my side of the bed, trying to wait up for me, and happy I was now home, so he could sleep. Crawling into to bed, I realized if I never did anything more in my life than just being a mom and a wife, then I had already made it big!

What matters to you most?

See you next blog ~ Jess

Happy Meal with a side of visitation

Sitting next to my brother in McDonald’s PlayPlace yesterday opened my eyes to world of traveling visitation. Its not your normal run-of-the-mill visitation that you have with a local parent, where you have a weekend together. I’m talking about the parents that have to travel to see their children, whether it be a half-hours drive or even a flight across the United States.

We drove five hours to where they live in California, and spent seven hours in court rooms or other government buildings. Following a long hard day of roadblock after roadblock, we drove another thirty miles to pick up they boys, only to drive thirty miles back to town to spend three hours with them. My brother was exhausted from the drive, emotionally letdown from all the legal mumbo jumbo, and court hoola hoops he was jumping through. Seeing them was by far the highlight of the day, the way they came running down their hill to their dad waiting with tears and open arms was enough to make anyone tear up. Their smiles were from ear to ear, they had missed him since his last visit in July and were beyond ecstatic that he was there.  Knowing that his visitation time with his sons was limited, he soaked up every bit of it that he could,  that realization was visible all over his face. He would look at the kids, laugh, hug them and as they would turn away it was if the flame within him was blown out.

Watching my brother snapping pictures of his boys, smiling at them, laughing with them, and hanging on every word of “Dad – watch me” or “Dad guess what?” I wondered how many other kids at that playground were there for visitation also.  When traveling out of town, depending on the time allowed for the visit, its hard to find a quality place for quality time. Many travelers arranging with a custodial parent will use a common place, a place easily located and well known, and helps when there is a playground close by. It was the first time I saw McD’s as anything more than a fast food joint with a cool playground and a yummy strawberry shake. Today this popular drive-thru was a drop off place for parents, a visitation station for those from out-of-town and the place where some -parents sat smiling soaking in every detail of their child – only to face saying goodbye shortly after.

The boys were having a blast in the playground area and would take turns running back to their dad to hug him, to talk to him, just the exciting realization that he was there. They both kept wanting to put on the costumes dad had bought them at the local Halloween City store.  To them this time was fun – to my brother it was wonderful outlined with heartbreak – because he knew he would be leaving them again. To be honest it hurt me as well. This was the first time I had met my nephews, and I too was saying goodbye to them.

The judges in these cases, granted the cases where parents are deserving of the visitation, really need to put traveling time into consideration. After a twelve hour day, a three hour visit seems ridiculous to me. Giving a three hour visit, that takes 10 hours of drive time in all, once a week – is of course a blessing to see your children, but then again its hell. Why not an overnight, or a weekend? It just seems that the system has a lot of things backwards if you ask me, but luckily in my brothers case this will all be ending soon.

After kissing the boys and snapping one last photograph, they were off with their Mom, and my brother settled into his seat in the car. What was on his mind for sure, I couldn’t say, I told him it was okay to cry, and he said he already had. Those boys are who he is, they are what makes him alive, and although he has a beautiful happy little boy here at home as well, you could tell his family just wasn’t complete yet. Even his wife, was saddened to not have these boys more, to get to interact, have them bond closer to their little brother and feel the closeness a family should feel.

For that day though, we were happy for that hamburger happy meal with a side of visitation.

Have you ever had a drive-thru visitation of sorts?