As I work through so many of my struggles with my mother through writing, I am often brought to these places where the reality of all the other things that were going on in my life during those times push to the forefront. During the last several years of my mother’s life, leading up to her death, she consumed a big part of my life. I had to learn how to set boundaries and still be there for her. I had to learn how to function in my everyday life without constantly letting her struggles over take me. I truly tried to separate what I was going through with her and the rest of my life, but sometimes there was no way to avoid the two crossing.
It’s always been so complicated in my mind how to file away memories. The good times that you so desperately want to idealize, and the hard times you wish you could forget. When I look back at the most difficult times I realize that so much of my life really was going on in the background of dealing with my mother’s addiction. The rest of life didn’t stop while she was in that coma, or when she went home either. There were times when there was so much reality in the fact that I didn’t truly have a mother to help me through the hard things in my life. Her addiction overshadowed most everything and everyone.
She had been home from the hospital about a month, Michael had moved back into her apartment. I had separated myself from her, for the first time I felt like I had real solid boundaries with her. Then life snuck up on us, my grandfather was diagnosed with colon cancer. Alongside the emotions of fear and panic, was a realization that life was going on for all of us regardless of my mother’s choices. My life had seemed to stop and rotate around her until that moment. That time in our lives had to be about him, not about her.
My grandfather had given me so much, he had filled a void in my life that can’t be described in words. Regardless of the relationship my mother and he had, in my world he was a kind and gentle man, who I knew loved me. As an adult he was my friend, someone who understood my heartache when it came to my mother. He was there, he had lived it with her, he knew my reality. What would I do without the one person who understood what it was like to love her and dislike her all at the same time?
He had been dangling on that edge of poor health for years, but this time was different. He knew it was his time, he was ready. He decided to have the surgery to remove what they could of the cancer, knowing that the chances of him making it through the surgery were very slim. He sat me down and in many words and tears said goodbye. I respected him for his choice, I didn’t want to lose him, but I respected him for being brave enough to admit he was tired.
He did make it through surgery, and just about a week later he left us. The day he passed away, I was there with my mother and her oldest sister. We held his hand and let him know it was ok to let go, we would be ok. I was devastated by his last breath, his last day in my world. It was a small moment where I felt that my mother and I understood each other’s pain. We had existed for so long in a place where neither of us knew what it was like to feel the hurt we each carried around. And here we were in this place of total understanding and sadness. As we walked out of the hospital that day, I hugged her and said “please don’t quit on me through this, we are going to need each other.” I know she loved me, and I know she loved him, I also knew that what I asked her for didn’t exist inside of her.
The day of his service, as I stood and spoke about this amazing man, she wasn’t there. Someone close to me went to her apartment and got her, she was barely awake and had forgotten. She walked in close to the end, just out of bed, sat in the front row and closed her eyes. Not a word to say or a tear to cry. She had disrespected a man who loved her dearly, and who had saved her so many times. She went home after, and I did not see her for several months. We both had grief to deal with and I could not stand to watch her use her addiction to handle this. Once again, I had to feel everything, while she made sure she felt nothing. I had such a feeling of vacancy within me. Although I still had so much to go through with my mother, I was never the same after my grandfather passed. I had lost hope in her, and I never really consumed my life with helping her again after that. I never stopped helping her when she needed it, yet I stopped wishing for better days. Looking back, it’s a place where I admitted defeat against my mother’s addiction.
Richard Cecil Baker was Born on October 04, 1923 and left this Earth on April 25, 2011. He was my grandfather and my friend.