One of the most famous open letters is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. It includes the famous quotation, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
This open letter will not be of that caliber needless to say. It will not be about political correctness or cancel culture.
It will not be for a cause or any hot button issue. It’s to my mother.
In reading about open letters, they come in all shapes and sizes.
Most are very kind and generous and express how much they love or miss their loved one.
I know there are some of us who are working through abuser issues. It’s difficult as you know. It’s painful.
If you can, please don’t let them take your joy away from you. You need that for your own support.
I thought it was written or researched someplace that mothers have inborn maternal instincts. I just learned this is a myth.
Mothering is based on the mother’s past experiences, her upbringing, on the job training, and a few other things.
So please forgive me for expecting you to do something for which you didn’t have the capacity to do. Not all mothers are mother material.
I once told a therapist that, in reality, I should not have expected you to automatically love me when I arrived. I told her that you were only a conduit to get me here.
You owed me nothing. The therapist agreed.
It was misfortune things worked out the way they did — but I’m thinking maybe I had to spend time with you to find my path, to truly appreciate what a good life is.
I know you did your best. I’ve turned out fine with only a few loose screws. My system is in a perpetual state of healing, and that’s a good thing.
You as a person
We had interesting phone visits. I miss our conversations. Those were good times.
Your take on things was different, but logical. You taught me a lot. You were the smartest person I knew.
Then the years started adding up and we talked less and less. It came to a point when I didn’t know you anymore really.
We had our times of closeness. Then it was like something hit a snag in your brain.
We would go through long periods of non-communication — eventually leading to our estrangement and the end of us.
I know how much you loved your music. I hope in some way that brought you solace.
One time a nice lady who was a friend told me no one can ever take your music away from you.
Remember when you bought that window unit air conditioner? Of all things, we put it on the floor in the backseat passenger side of your two-door Ford Fairlane.
Miraculously, we got it out and to the window opening. Our luck ran out. We just couldn’t get it pushed all the way in.
Fortunately, the teenager next door saw our problem. He asked if he could help.
We were saved. I don’t know how that ordeal would have ended if not for him.
I’m guessing at the time you didn’t think this was funny.
Here’s another one I just thought of. What about the time you, Daddy, and I went to the drive-in?
I was young. At some point during the movie you decided you wanted refreshments.
You sent me off to the concession stand for popcorn and gave me the money. I got the popcorn and walked out the door.
What did I see? I saw the backends of what seemed like 100 cars. They all looked the same. There was no way I could have picked out our car.
An announcement was made over the speakers there was a lost child at the concession stand. I remember this because somehow I was scolded.
I think that’s why sometimes memories stick in my head — punishment was involved; otherwise, it seems occurrences would not be notable.
I was thrilled you liked Paul. Naturally, I wanted your approval.
You all got along great and enjoyed each other’s company. One time you told him he had the best kind of mother-in-law — one who lives out of state.
When Paul’s dad passed away, you wrote a beautiful poem, For Paul. It is such a nice presentation.
I cry almost every time I read it. I didn’t know you could write so movingly.
This was an action where the love in your heart was showing. Why did you keep that part hidden away so much?
I loved it when you would send care packages. You sent cards and notes, too, always sharing something you thought pertinent.
Remember you sent a box of Florida navel oranges from your backyard tree.
Turns out it was illegal to send fruit like that across state lines — maybe because of that pesky Mediterranean fruit fly.
No harm done. They were the best navel oranges I have ever eaten to this day.
In my 40s or 50s, I told you I forgave you for what had gone on in my life. Why did you never say you were sorry? You had years to say it.
You have my forgiveness. I don’t want to be tangled up inside with bitterness and resentments. Forgiveness is imperative.
I’m writing a blog now. I talk about you in it. The good. The bad. The ugly.
Just the other day I told Arlene I didn’t think I liked you. Her reply, “Why should you after what she’s done to you?”
Why did you make me go get the red and black belt when you were going to whip me? I see it in the drawer now amongst your other belts.
I was bawling and you hadn’t even layed a hand on me yet. It was sheer terror. I knew what was coming.
This episode is etched on my brain. Physical encounters with you were not uncommon. I don’t know why this one stands out.
I was helpless to do anything to save myself from these episodes.
I had no way of escape. Nowhere to hide. I was always at the mercy of your moods.
I got the belt for you. You took hold of my hands and held them behind my back with your left hand. Your right hand whipped with the belt on my bare bottom.
You struck the back of my wrists and undersides of my forearms. I was crying and screaming.
I’m twirling around, jumping up and down, struggling to get free from you and the belt — but you kept on.
I ended up with bruises, welts, and broken skin such that it bled — not to mention unconscious humiliation.
Do you remember this? I wish I didn’t. How can I love you when you do these things to me? How could you do that to a child — your child?
How did it work? After an episode, did we sit in the den watching TV? I’m just curious how you felt after such a demonstration of violent emotion.
The baffling thing is life returned to normal. Just a matter of time before I did something wrong again and the belt appeared or a slap across the face.
You would do kind and loving things. Then you would do the opposite.
How did I cope with your emotional and physical ups and downs? How did you live with yourself? Did you ever think to yourself, is there something that might not be quite right with me?
It has taken your death and this blog for me to process things. I don’t like dealing with these feelings but I must.
Years ago I was driving up North Avenue. In front of me was an old white, beat up panel truck. It had a bumper sticker.
On a white background with black, block lettering, it read, It is never okay to strike a child.
It caught me off guard. Something sparked in my head. I immediately related. I felt awakened.
To think at 66 I am sifting through childhood trauma. Ridiculous — enough already. I want to scream — but I’m past that phase. I cry instead.
Some have said I speak of you with respect, kindness, and compassion in this blog.
I’m afraid I am disappointing them now. My respect and kind feelings go only so far, but you will always have my compassion.
I need to apologize for misleading them. I hope they know that was not my intent. I was not totally upfront in those early posts.
It didn’t feel like lying when I wrote about you. Everything I said was true. It was the feelings behind some of those words that were inauthentic. I was not being true to myself.
This was all we had for years. You and me. You said this often.
While writing this post, I reached a point where I actually Googled, “Is it okay to hate your mother?”
There are plenty of scenarios that make it plausible. I understood them.
It is just not in me to feel that way. I can’t hate you. I can’t help but love you.
What kind of person would I be if I cast you aside when, most likely, you suffered throughout your life?
I think my form of love is the empathy and compassion I have for you. I don’t feel I love you as other daughters love their mothers.
So long for now
I am uncomfortable that these feelings have arisen. They have been with me in one way or another for years. But yet I am glad.
Maybe I will never understand or know how I feel about you. I guess I don’t necessarily have to figure it out. I can’t anyway — it’s complicated.
Probably easiest if things stay in a state of uncertainty. This will be okay, I think.
This is where I’ll leave us.