Since I started walking with my dad, each morning has become somewhat of a memory lesson of my childhood. It’s an hour of honesty where we can talk about our thoughts or whatever is weighing on our hearts. Whether it be in the rain, in the fog, or in the sunshine; all feels right while we walk beneath the birds in the sky that represent my mom in so many ways.
Yes, there were times during the height of my mother’s mental illness where she could be brutally mean. This isn’t an easy period of my life for me to talk about, especially since I have painted such a strong, heroic image of my mother for my readers. Although unpleasant, I tell you this so you can better see just how complex and misunderstood my mother really was.
When we were kids and had fallen victim to one of my mom’s meltdowns, my dad never stepped in to protect us. To this day, I still wonder why. I never thought that he was just as scared and broken as we were. In essence, we were a family without navigation, stranded in a boat that was taking on water and sinking quickly.
We all dealt with our pain in different ways. Some of my older siblings dabbled in drugs, got arrested, and generally did the complete opposite of what our parents wanted. Two dove deep inside a world of secrecy, never to let us into their lives again. And me? I just froze. My life had stopped, that is, until Becky saved me; but there was one other person that I feel forever indebted to.
Her name was Gladys and she was our next door neighbor. She was a widow, very mother-like and she loved me. When things became turbulent at home and I didn’t have Becky, she would come swoop me up and take me away. She would walk into our house without a knock, greeting, or reason. It didn’t matter who was yelling, hurt, or unraveling - she never paid attention to any of that. She would walk through the fire into my room, grab my teddy bear and my pillow, and say with the kindest voice, “Come on precious, you’re going to spend a couple of nights with your Aunt Gladys.” This was when I knew everything would be okay.
I can’t remember that much about that time in my life, but I do remember Gladys’ terrible asthma. I would wake up next to her struggling to breathe, making me wonder if I needed to find help. I remember how she would read the Bible to me when I was scared and brush my hair until I fell asleep. I remember how safe and loved she made me feel.
When she was convinced I was asleep - which was often just me laying there, trying to process with a child’s mind why things were so broken - she would kneel beside the bed and whisper a prayer. I never knew what she prayed about, but I feel I was often the main subject matter. In the mornings, we wouldn’t speak of the events from the night before. I was thankful for this, I didn’t want to talk about it, not even to her. Her house became a safe-zone that made me feel comfortable. She took care of a little girl who needed a friend in the worst way.
When I was a kid, we had a neighbor named Gladys - she saved me. I wish I had a chance to tell her just how grateful I am for her protection and guidance during those challenging times. She has long since passed away, but I assume she’s somewhere far beyond the birds in the sky, sitting with my mom and watching over me. Thank you Aunt Gladys. I hope you know just how much you mattered to me. I loved you so much. Tell my mom that I love her. -Precious.
I hope everybody had a great weekend! Let’s talk again tomorrow, I’ll bring the coffee. -R.