Guest blogger (encore), Justin Sullivan (for Scarlet Sullivan)
Author’s Forward: This was supposed to be a joke. Ms. (Walthall) Mehnert, however, was adamant about doing something serious and I can’t explain how much of a pain in the a** she can be when she wants something. So I came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be a “Remarkable Woman of Wednesday“. But driving to work the next morning, I had a thought. Instead of demeaning women on Facebook and making old tired sexist jokes, I’ll write a serious piece. Women were responsible for who I was and who I am. Despite everything I just said about myself yesterday, I’m a decent human being, I just hide it beneath incessant b**ing. Plus, writing something serious would get Katie Bug off my a**. Finally, “the dishes if she knows what’s best for her” is the answer to that joke.
Editor’s Forward: I applaud Justin for raising his hand…twice. Life is messy. It’s the journey that defines and shapes who we become and when and how we become “remarkable”. And YES… I’m a big pain in the a** when I want something. So here goes…(and my thanks to you for sticking with this…)
From the age of 6 to about 9, I would stay up at night pretending my mother had died and quietly crying myself to sleep. I cried a lot as a kid, but this was different. it was my worst fear. It was my only fear. I never thought about why I was doing it. I never told my mom. I never told anyone. I don’t think it was every night; I just now that it was often. I would look back at the mental anguish and self-torment and realize, my mother was the only thing on earth I couldn’t live without. She was my life. the thought of something happening to her was too much for my young mind to process. I’d stay up at night and the only thing I would think about was her dying.
She was a single mother, and worked when many women didn’t. She was late to pick me up from just about every occasion. They would shut off the lights at Harbor field and it would just be me and my coach, sitting on soccer balls in the dark, waiting. She was an unbelievably bad cook and she was a health fanatic, so the food tasted like crap even before she got her hands on it. My brother and I almost called child services one time over split pea soup for supper.
My mother did not believe in discipline. I did something that finally got me punished. I don’t remember what, maybe stabbed my brother in his sleep, something bad. Her punishment for it? I couldn’t watch Monday Night Football that night. She caved in at halftime. It was the only time I remember being grounded.
She had some shortcomings as a mother, but they are all ones that make you laugh now. They are good for some jokes, but not much more. There is not a single thing to resent about how she raised us. The love and affection she showed sustained me because I wasn’t that happy as a child. I lived in my head a lot. I’ve always been uncommonly perceptive. That’s not self-congratulatory, that’s just the truth. And it isn’t the easiest quality to carry. You see through people, you see people’s character flaws, you see through their motives and yet, as a kid, your limited life experiences doesn’t allow you to process or forgive their flaws and personal failings. I think in breaking down others, I built my mother up even more. I relied on our emotional attachment more than anything else.
As she has gotten older and I have gotten older, the same emotions I would have in my bed as a child return sometimes. I’m always in the car, I’m always alone, I’m always listening to music and I start thinking about the idea of her not being here, I think about living without her and my eyes water. it’s not a hard cry, but it’s real tears. I used to worry about how I could ever process or move on from her. I’d worry about turning to drugs again or going on a few year drinking binge. I think if I hadn’t gotten married, if I didn’t have a kid, if I didn’t have people relying on me, I’d be concerned they’d find me with a needle in my arm. There’s probably supposed to be something embarrassing about that. I’m not 6 anymore. But I’m not afraid of embarrassing myself. Now is that a legitimate possibility? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. But it’s real enough to have never left my mind.
I have a beautiful wife, Kristy and 4 or 5 heathens for kids. The burden of a life without her seems more than I can bear. I worry I’m going to go sideways on them. What I don’t worry about is recovering. I won’t. You can recover from anything, but for some things, it’s only death. I’m 38. What 38-year-old still feels such an attachment to their mother, almost childlike. Hell, it is childlike. But you’d have to know my mother to understand it. And maybe because I spent so many nights for so long in mental and physical pain, wrecking my body and my mind to an extent very few people can grasp… maybe I live in arrested development.
When you follow down the path of self-destruction, it’s very easy to go to a place where death is inevitable. You pretty much know why, all you’re waiting for is the how, when and where. You start taking chances with your body, things that were considered risks at some point become routine, and death starts to not scare you as much.
But I never went to some of those places. I never took that last step. There was always something holding me back. It wasn’t overt thoughts of my mother burying me, it was always the underlying idea of it. It had turned. I was no longer worried about her dying and what would happen to me, I was worried about dying and what would happen to her. I knew she’d blame herself. I knew in her lifetime and another she would never get around to blaming me. She had sacrificed too much for me and my brother, shown me too much faith. She had been responsible for just about everything good in me. My shortcomings were my own. It was a faith, love and affection that can only could come from a mother to a son.
It could only come from a woman.
I will sit back and watch my wife warn the kids over and over about something, threaten to turn off their TV for the fifth time, even though the real threat would be to make them get off top of her for 15 minutes. I get frustrated around the third time, I talk about their being zero follow through, I think about how one of them got Xbox taken away for a night in the 2 years we’ve been together. And then I realize, it’s like watching my mother 30 years ago and I was one of those children.
I had no idea what type of mother Kristy was when we got together. All I knew is that she had about 12 kids. That’s serious baggage. She ain’t flying Southwest for free, let’s put it that way. That is a joke. I don’t really mean that, the part about it being a joke. But I had no idea what type of mother she was.
But the amount of love, attention and patience she shows is astounding to me. And, as so many good mothers, she is so self-critical about herself in that role. But she has no reason to be. I cannot imagine my life without mine. I cannot imagine watching the mother of my child be anything but caring, loving and empathetic. I think I’d either have to fight for the child and get him or her in any way conceivable or I’d have to turn my back and shut off their existence in my head.
My mother has been responsible for just about everything good about me; my shortcomings were my own. I will say that a thousand times and believe it more each one.
There are women who decide not to have children or who can’t have children. There are women who choose careers first and they are no less of a woman for it.
But the most irreplaceable women on earth are mothers and a loving mother is the most important thing on earth. And anyone who doesn’t know that must have had a great mother and she must still be alive.
Because the ones who didn’t will live ten lifetimes and never be able to fill that void.