I was not raised in a Leave it to Beaver family. We were the outcasts in our neighborhood. My mom was diagnosed with a mental illness, and it progressed as I grew older. And we never talked about it. It was taboo. You see, in the 50s and 60s, mental illness was not accepted. People were afraid of it and so afraid of our family. Today, I was reminded ofthis part of my past and so much more.
My mother passed away in 1987. My father passed away in 2011. When my father passed, my siblings went through our parents’ home and sent me items they thought I’d like to have. I received some wonderful trinkets and memorabilia. And, then, I received something else . . .
In 2014, my oldest sister sent me some more of our family’s mementos: Wonderful family pictures and some writings by my mother. I didn’t know why, but the unease of reading my mom’s writings outweighed my curiosity. I set them aside. I set them aside for almost five years.
I finally picked them up. I read each and every page. These writings were short scenes, scattered somewhat in thinking, and yet made perfect sense. The scenes are descriptive. The characters are well thought out, and, even today, the plot is somewhat unique. I read parts of my own writing style in hers.
Reading these writings rocketed me into the past. There I was sitting at the round, wood kitchen table carrying on an intimate, deep conversation with my mom in one of her lucid times. And I missed those talks. Then the other emotions began. Even after all these years, they were many. Sadness, grief, some anger, amazement—and fear.
The fear descended because, as a child, I promised myself I would never be like my mother. Anything she liked, I avoided. Because, like our neighbors, I was afraid I’d catch her sickness. I, too, was ignorant about mental illness in my youth.
Today I discovered I am my mother’s child. And am praying to come to grips with it more and more. Because she was a multi-faceted woman, ahead of her time in so many ways, and carrying a debilitating illness which wasn’t her fault.
The irony is I have always been like my mother in many ways. I look much like her, I sing songs when I cook or am doing housework—like she loved to do. And, I pray, I am full of the unconditional love she showed for all her children, even in her bad times. Although, you’d have to ask others about that one. I’m not a good judge of myself.
Most ironically, though, is the discovery that I’m a published author born to an aspiring one. I NEVER knew my mother was a writer. Never. To realize I have unknowingly stepped into her dream, and taken it to the next level, has left me a bit dazed.
I have learned my past is never far behind me. And I’ve learned healing, acceptance and freedom— even in baby steps—comes when I least expect it. All I can say is, “Thank you, God!”
©Mary Ann Poll 2020
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