Thursday, June 17, 2021

Kitchen Floor

I remember the kitchen floor in great detail because of that day. Linoleum, white, avocado green and harvest gold. The geometric pattern was loud and detailed. I have memories of her on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor dutifully each week. She wasn't going to scrub that floor anymore. My brother and I sat in the kitchen chairs while my parents stood in front of us. My father was telling us that our mother would be moving out. He told us that they didn't love each other anymore. 

As he continued to talk my nine year old gaze was fixed to the linoleum. My eyes followed the pattern from one end of the kitchen to the next., I don't remember anything else about that day except the floor. 

I remember a few months later my uncle Jim and my cousins Mark and Brian helping my mom move into her new apartment. I skipped down the hallway of the smelly building, excited to see my mom's new "house". It hadn't hit me yet what all this meant. It hadn't hit me yet how this would shape my life and my sense of worth. 

My mom chose herself. My mom chose freedom. My mom chose Wednesday nights and every other weekend with me and my brother. 

Third grade. I remember crying to Mr. Kohnen my teacher, him hugging me and telling me it would be okay. He ended up being my favorite teacher. I remember turning into a latchkey kid at nine years old and having to walk to the bus stop with my 11 year old brother who wasn't crazy about the idea either because my dad had to be at work before school started. We had to leave the cocoon of our long time home daycare because my dad couldn't afford it as a single parent. We'd come home from school alone and allow the television to babysit us. Hogan's Heroes and the Brady Brunch looked after us until our dad came home from work.

He'd come home heartbroken and exhausted and do his best to feed us. Monday nights we'd go to the Town Crier Restaurant for fried chicken, the other weeknights were filled in by hotdogs and macaroni and cheese, goulash and overcooked pork chops. Fridays were pizza nights at Big B's. That was our routine. 

I don't recall the first few weekends with my mom, except when she took us to White Castle and she got sick from eating too many sliders. My brother and I would sleep in her bed, she would take the couch. I loved my brother and wanted to be his friend too, but I annoyed him too much and one night he bopped me in the nose and I bled all over my mom's sheets,

I remember getting chubby in elementary school as a result of inactivity and lack of supervision. I would snack on spoonfuls of peanut butter and chocolate chips, hoards of Doritos and stacks of Chips Ahoy. No one to say "have an apple or a banana!" There was no encouragement to get involved in sports or extracurricular activities. 

My dad bought a puppy early on, but then insisted we keep him in a kennel in the backyard. Everything seemed just out of reach for me. I would take refuge at my friends houses where they had both parents at home. Mrs Kinney has a special place in my heart for offering moments of comfort when I needed it.

I just couldn't shake the feeling that I was different, that my mom didn't want me.

Fast forward 38 years later. After countless years of therapy, 30 years of sobriety and many bouts of forgiveness my relationship with my mom had become good. we had worked thru the why's and how's of the divorce and everything after and we were good. We were on the same page. I had boundaries and was able to call her when I needed to talk and she showed up for me, finally.

Then she had a stroke. Parts of her were gone. The dynamic was altered again. My mom needed me in a different way now. And the part I needed from my mom was gone, clogged up with her stupid blood clot that damaged her brain. 

A few years have passed since that stroke and the decline in her cognitive function continues. She wouldn't acknowledge it, but watching her on a recent visit up north pounded in the reality that my mom had left again and I am without her. I must learn a new way to live with my mother. To love her without conditions. To
give to her without a payback. Expect nothing in return. 

There is no happy conclusion to write yet. I am sad and exhausted. There isn't a finish line for hard times. There isn't a quota either. I am trying to take my life day by day, lesson my burden by asking for help with things others can do for me, practice self care and know,  really know that this is not my fault but it is my responsibility.

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