The way I have always looked at things is that hard times often show you who will stand firmly by your side. This truth plays out in my life, daily. The people who show up, wipe your tears, and listen when you need it. My childhood was no different, although filled with times of sadness, I can look back and pin point very specific times when someone simply showed up, changed directions for us, and made life better. Those are the people who show you how genuine and loving the world can be.
My grandparents were always those people for me, my whole life, it seemed like they were always saving us. Although I know that my mothers relationship with my grandfather always felt strained in her mind, he helped her without hesitation, more times than I can count. I think she always felt like she would never be good enough for him. But I cant imagine what it felt like as a parent to watch her make the choices she did. We lived with my grandparents on and off my whole life, my mother would struggle or end another relationship and we always ended up needing to be saved.
The first time I can remember them saving us was a time that probably made one of the biggest impacts on my life. She was still in the same abusive relationship, still using, and I had finally made my way back to living with her. After months of honest attempts by my aunt to get custody of me, and a few months living with my real father for the first and only time in my life. Even though I remember feeling so happy to be with my mother, I remember feeling let down, she had done all these things to hurt me, why wasn’t she doing everything to make them better? That question is something that still follows me today. In all the realistic and very textbook ways I know that her addiction had nothing to do with me, my mind knows that. However, in the heart of a 7 year old or a 37 year old, I’ll always wonder why being a mom wasn’t reason enough to get better.
As with all things toxic, things were chaos. That summer we spent periods of time living in campgrounds and hotels, in and out of apartments. And as the our world was spinning out of control her relationship finally came to a place where there was no other option but to leave. On that night he was different, more angry, more physical. He was always volatile but this seemed so much more out of control. He beat her and assaulted her in ways some would not have lived through. For me it was a kind of confusing fear where in one way I wanted to run away, yet was too scared to leave her. After his rage he left that night, and my mother finally asked for help. I cant imagine how scared and desperate she must have felt making that call. My grandparents were living in Texas at the time, and they came and got us. The relief I felt when they got there is something I cant explain.
It seemed like it only took a few short minutes to pack us up and drive away. The move to Texas was the only way out, and ended up being one of the best things to ever happen to us. We didn’t have to feel scared anymore. The transition was difficult for my mother, but slowly her light came back. She was sober and working and beautiful and fun again. I felt like her world revolved around me. Life for us became simple there. It is very truly one of the few times in my life where I was reminded of who my mother really was. Even today I try to remember her how she was there.
We lived with my grandparents in Texas for 3 years. My mother was happy and healthy, she seemed to have come so far. Then the phone calls from California started, and the summer before 5th grade, my mother and I got in our car and moved back. With lots of promises of how much he had changed, we were back under his roof. Him, the one who had hurt her so badly, had she forgotten? Did she care about me and what I had been through at all? The things I had seen. Or care about the complete devastation of my grandparents, as we drove away, after all they had done. The answer is no, no she didn’t care, she was too controlled to think that clearly. That’s exactly how abuse works, that’s how addiction works, you are driven by something that no amount of hurt can make you stop. No matter how much others love you its just not enough, no one else can make you love yourself. This truth always makes me absolutely value and admire those who do find it in themselves to change their path and find sobriety.
These are the times I reflect on with so many questions of why. I felt like I was always just along for the ride. Always her constant, someone who always loved her, who couldn’t leave her. Even though most things in her life took priority over me, they always had. But this time she had shown me herself, I knew then more than ever, who she could be. This made losing her again so much more heartbreaking. That kind of loss is so different from physical loss. Its like mourning someone you love over and over. They drift in and out, while you sit next to them, praying for those moments of realness. Maybe that’s what this journey is about, drudging through and making sense of the hard stuff and reflecting on the good, so I can collect and hold onto those moments that I did have with her.