I looked back through the pictures I still have from when we all lived together and it’s hard to miss that you’re almost never smiling.
And, hey mama, I read a book about the ways in which angry and controlling men abuse their partners and manipulate everyone around them and I got real sad thinking about you and me and him and all of us.
And, mama, I want you to know this—I don’t blame you. Not for anything. Not any more. I want you to know that I believe you—you did the best you could. Your very, very best. He nearly killed you, he nearly destroyed you, but he didn’t. You were a kind and loving and gentle mother. You still are. And, mama, when he told you that you had to spank us hard enough to make us cry, otherwise he would beat us twice as badly, and when you then spanked us hard enough to make us cry, mama, that wasn’t your fault either. Of course, we didn’t understand that as children, of course such things drove a wedge between us—drove your adult children away from you—but that’s what abusers do. They isolate the ones they abuse. They poison the ways other people relate to the ones they abuse. And he was cruel and he was smart and he did a good job of that. But, hey mama, I know there was a time when it was really important for me to hear you acknowledge the ways in which you participated in our abuse, and you did, but, mama, I think I understand abuse a bit better now than I used to, and I want you to know that I believe it was all his fault. All of it. Not yours. I’ll leave the detailed analysis to others. Others can hem and haw and remark on how things are never so black and white. For me, mama, you were far, far, far more sinned against than sinning. And this wedge he drove between us, this wedge that has remained for all these years? Well, I’m pulling it out. I’m closing the door on his voice and on the ways he wanted me to see things.
Mama, I’m sorry it took me so long to get here. You didn’t deserve this. Any of it. Whatever others make of your complicity in his abuse of us as children, I’ve surely been complicit in his abuse of you in all the ways I blamed you and pulled away from you once I became an adult. I’m so, so sorry for that.
And, hey mama, I love you and my children do, too. And in the pictures I have of you with them, you are always smiling. And, mama, they’ll always know you as Nan the artist, Nan the playmate, Nan who loves them and rejoices in their company, Nan who is always a safe place, and Nan who is a bit kooky—it seems there is always this element in how the young experience the old. Nan the old! Ha! But, yeah, mama, we’re getting old. We are all years and years away from him. I’ve spent enough time ruminating on him, trying to understand him, rooting him out of me, recovering from him. I want to spend more time thinking about you, writing about you, and together with you. I’m glad we’ve still got many years to go.
Hey mama, thanks for being you and thanks for being my mother. Thanks for everything.