Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Being There

A few days ago, I got back from visiting family. It was a great visit, but a difficult one. It was my first time visiting since losing my mother. Life without my mother has been so hard, at times. I don't mean to get all dark - I'm actually very happy in my life, right now - but there are moments when I don't even know how I manage to get by in a world without my mother. She loomed large for me.

While visiting, I spent a lot of time with my nephews. Their parents are going through a pretty messy/nasty break-up. Their dad - a man I always loved as a brother - has decided that a break-up with his wife means a break-up with his children. The children he was always so close to. The children who he always said were his best friends. The youngest child - my beautiful, 6 yr old nephew - can't understand why his dad never calls, never picks him up for visits, anymore, and doesn't respond to the many phone messages he's left him. In his six year old mind, he's done something to cause this, and there really is no way to let him know that nothing that's happened is his fault.

There's no way to explain to a six year old that the father who was always such a great guy has recently turned into a self-centered asshole who is more interested in pissing off his ex-wife, than in loving his children.

Witnessing what this abandonment has done to this precious boy made me think about my own parents. I adored (still adore) my mother. She was my best friend. When I think about why losing her has had such a profound effect on me, the reason is ridiculously clear: I miss her because SHE WAS THERE. She was there for me. Always. Every day. She offered unconditional love and support. She never walked away. She always answered my calls. I knew, absolutely, that I could count on her. That's it, and that's everything. She was always there, and now, she isn't. Of course there's a huge, gaping hole. When I made mistakes, she was there. When I was obnoxious, she was there. When I needed bailing out of situations, she was there. When I did anything that warranted recognition, she was there. When I was sick, she was there. When I woke up in the morning and needed someone to talk to over a cup of coffee, she was there. When I said I was in love with a woman and was going to move to the other side of the planet to build a life with her, she was there.

I am not saying that we never argued, or that we never got on one another's nerves.

I'm not saying that my mother was a saint.

If anything, I'm saying that she was so very human.

What I'm saying is that she was there. She didn't walk away. She didn't turn her back on me, ever. She was always there, and I always knew she'd be there. I could count on her to be there for me. Because real parents don't leave. They just don't. I'm 45 years old and, if my mother were alive, today, she'd still be there for me. I was so blessed, for so long, that not having her makes me ache.

It's natural for a 45 year old to ache like this. A six year old isn't supposed to. A six year old shouldn't have to ask himself what he's done to make his father leave. A six year old shouldn't be having dreams about telling his dad not to cut into a friend's birthday cake, and then having his father walk away in anger over being denied a slice of cake.

You probably won't read this, but in the slim chance that you do: Be as mad at my sister as you like. Hate her, for all I care. Call her whatever names you like. But, be a man, when it comes to your kids. Be there, asshole.

© 2012 Lana M. Nieves
Limited Licensing: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lana M. Nieves and for non-commercial purposes only. - Lana M. Nieves 


Ă„iti said...

I am so sorry to hear about this. I feel like anything else will somehow trivialize/not be enough. Wising your sister peace and strength through this time. And those poor kids. Hugs.

Robert said...

Both eloquent, and blunt. Well said!

Heidi said...

Wow. I had to read this one, leave it, then read it again after thinking about it a few days. First of all, hearing about how you miss your mom makes my heart ache. I don't even know how to say something significant enough to recognize that pain, other than that you do it such justice with the beautiful, eloquent way you memorialize her.

Reading about the way your little nephew misses his dad, by comparison, is heart breaking. When I read the whole essay the third time I really got the deep way you analyzed loss and families.

It would be pretty hard to hate your sister when she herself is dealing with loss on top of loss, on top of raising these kids by herself. My god, she's only human. Teenagers really piss you off; their entire modus operandi is to engage others in arguments. You said it well: they're just assholes.

The trick is not to join them at their level. That's a whole lot easier not to do if you have someone to give you a time-out so you don't attempt to murder them. So it was nice that your sister had you there to help her out that once.

I wish those boys' dad would grow up. I see friends and family who have kids do this a lot---They behave as though it's all about them, when they lost that privilege the moment the first kid was born.

I loved what you said here.

[stepping off soapbox now]

Amelia said...

Well said. Divorces are obviously difficult on parents, and I can understand that the darker part of us might like to punish our ex-spouses, but there's no excuse for using your own children to punish one another. My parents never got divorced, but I know what it's like to have an absent father, a father who was angry and spiteful whenever he happened to be home. No child should have to go through that.

I hope things get better for your sister and her children, whether or not this man decides to be a positive part of their lives again. Much love.