I love her to the point of madness, my mother, a paradox wrapped in sun-kissed paper flesh. To embrace her is to hold an armful of hollow bones; the shell of a woman short-lived. If only you could study the photographs of my childhood, or look through the lens of my mind’s eye, you would see a healthy petite brunette with a youthful face, immortal, storybook beautiful. Our physical similarities, by the way, begin and end with a square jawline. She’s five inches shorter than I, with a wider mouth, and magic eyes that are sometimes grey, green, or blue, or any combination of the three, which makes me totally “peanut butter and jealous.” And that smile of hers, fuuuhhh!
She was raised a Jehovah’s Witness beginning at age five until she was disfellowshipped at sixteen. See, the Kingdom Hall Elders don’t play when it comes to girls being raped by a Brother. My grandfather wanted to involve the police in the matter, but my grandmother didn’t…because she’s a bitch. I could go into detail regarding the abuse my mother suffered at the hands of my grandparents (grandmother), but I won’t because it is too heartbreaking, and so wicked you’d wish you were reading fiction.
My mother met my father when she was a naive seventeen, and he was a high twenty-one; I was born two years later in December, 1978, and my sister followed in 1983. My parents divorced when I was eleven or twelve after years of brutal arguing and extramarital affairs. My mother couldn’t afford to keep our house, so she, and my little sister and I moved into a trailer park that could have been the white trash capital of America for all I knew. That’s when the regular heavy drinking began; honestly, I can’t believe it didn’t begin sooner.
We lived in the trailer park for two depressing years. It was fucking awful; my sister was infested with head lice all of the goddamned time, and I was always getting into fights with the neighborhood girls. My mother worked her ass off as a housekeeper at a nearby hotel for the first year so we wouldn’t have to live on food stamps for longer than what was necessary while she looked for other employment so we wouldn’t have to live in the trailer park for longer than what was necessary. Sometime during the second year, my mother began dating a hee-haw motherfucker, and by the summer preceding my freshman year of high school, we had all moved with him. We lived in his house but a few months before he began punching holes in walls, and hitting my mother regularly.
I always knew when a fight was coming. Hee-Haw and my mother would start drinking early at home, go out for a ride and stop at a few bars. They’d come in late, trashed and pissed off at each other. There were times when I thought he might kill her. My sister would always get too close, sobbing, screaming at him to leave her mommy alone! I would always try to keep her out of harm’s way, but it was difficult sometimes being that I was also caught up in the mix, hitting him with my fists or swinging at him with a cast iron frying pan. Once he grabbed my sister’s arm, and I jumped on him. He shook me off, grabbed me by the neck, and threatened to put my head through the t.v. screen if I ever came at him again. Of course, good old Hee-Haw was always sorry in the morning.
One of the many times my mother left Hee-Haw, my grandparents took us in…to their garage. Yeah, they put us up for nearly a whole summer. We slept on mattresses, cooked our food in a microwave and used a big plastic mixing bowl as a chamber pot. Praise Jehovah for loving family!
We moved out of that prick’s house for good when I was sixteen, after he had held a knife to my mother’s throat. To this day it brings me great joy to know that the last thing I ever said to him (while pointing the same knife into his Adam’s apple) was, “If you ever touch my mom again, I will kill you while you sleep.”
I left home at age eighteen, a few months after my daughter was born–she and I moved in with her dad (my future ex-husband). Leaving my sister behind remains one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do; I was the one raising her! Shit, I was the one who looked after my mother (the best a child could look after her alcoholic mother). Every time I recall the night I left my bawling sister, my stomach aches. I can still feel her hot wet cheeks pressed against my neck as I squeezed her body close to mine. And her voice: “Please take me with you, Sissy.” Fuck. I’m crying now.
My mother is what “they” call a functioning alcoholic. She has never been fired, reported to work drunk, or called in sick because she was hung-over. But the term functioning alcoholic boils my piss, if I’m being honest. What’s functioning about a mother who employs her thirteen year old daughter as her chauffeur because she herself is too wasted to drive? What’s functioning about a mother caught pissing on her bedroom carpet because she was so fucking blotto, she thought she was in the bathroom? Or gets pulled over for D.U.I. in her missing boyfriend’s car that happens to be storing guns and ammo in the trunk? Or goes to the hospital belligerently drunk when her daughter is in labor?
My mother never hit me, or my sister. She never cussed at us. But there was (is) emotional abuse–manipulation is more accurate. I swear, she’s the smartest dummy I have ever known. And so charming. She’s the kind of woman who always has some fucking drooling moron looking to “save her.”
She loves us, my sister and I, more than anything on this earth (second to beer). She always went without the things she needed (except beer) so that my sister and I didn’t have to go without. To this day, my mother will give to her girls even if it breaks her. My mother will help anyone out who needs it. She is the most selfless of selfish people. So whenever she’s angry with me because I fail to validate her (I never lie to her) and decides to tell me to fuck off, or break something I had given to her, I try to remember that I am dealing with the woman I have called my best friend so many times in my life. The woman I can count on to defend my honor, and to cry with me when I’m hurting. The woman who is proud of me.
Yes, I love this woman to the point of madness–my mother, a self-contradicting alcoholic.
Kindra M. Austin is a member of Sudden Denouement, a curator at Blood into Ink, and a fiction indie author. You can read her poems and prose at https://poemsandparagraphs.wordpress.com/ and find her debut novel at Amazon.com (Amazon UK).