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‘I was ashamed of my mother’

12 August 2015, 18:21Tanya-Lee Stewart

It is my mom’s birthday today. Well, it would have been had she still been alive. I miss her.

I miss her imperfections, her moods and her bitchiness. She was not perfect. In fact she was far from it. She was mean, abusive and because of her, I am still in therapy trying to stop the voice in my head that tells me exactly how bad I am.

But there was more to her than just that. Looking back now, I realise she was probably mentally ill and if I could make an amateur diagnosis, it would be Bipolar Disorder. I know that this is not an excuse for how I was treated, but it makes her easier to understand.

She had a hard life: three failed marriages, a child (me) born out of wedlock in 1977 with a partner who wasn’t the right colour, according to the law. Molested when she was young, she was betrayed and cheated on by her first husband, and lied to by my father, who turned out to be married.

She spent her whole life walking around with pain, hurt and bitterness up to her last two years, when she really tried to make amends with me. But it was too late, you see.

The damage was done and I wasn’t capable of letting her in, or trusting her with my heart because I had done what it took to survive, and shut her out emotionally. I regret that now, but in hindsight its always 20/20, isn’t it?

I was ashamed of my mother. She was vulgar and didn’t look after herself. She was dirty. Literally.

Her house was full of dirt and fleas from her many pets. The furniture and windows of the house were just as grimy as her soul. And so I hardly visited her and when I did, we sat in the garden and I never once took her up on her offer of tea. I did my duty and would leave again.

I never realised how alone and depressed she actually was. She was an extrovert but was trapped in a dirty house that no-one wanted to visit. Sometimes she would tell me how I was the only one she had seen that week, and I would tell her that maybe if she bathed, she would see more people. Another regret I live with.

Regardless of all her crap, I still have a few good memories. I remember her taking me to the library for the first time when I was in nursery school. I remember just the two of us hopping on a train and going on holiday to Lagos.

My favourite memory of us is how we once read a book together. We would read to each other in the bathroom. One of us would perch on the loo while the other bathed and read out loud and then swop around and carry on reading. We read the whole book like that.

I have mixed emotions when I think of her. On one hand I am angry at the way she treated me, but on the other I know she did the best she could with what she had.

It has taken me years to accept that I am not my mother, that if I ever have kids, I will not warp into her and while my life with her was no picnic, I learned from her mistakes.

So today, I want to toast her and I want to celebrate the good in her. I will conjure up the good memories, the dancing around the room with me, singing along to the Beatles and the way she used to laugh like a naught little girl when she told dirty jokes.

But most of all, I want to conjure up her last words to me:

"I love you too."

For more, visit Tanya's blog.

- Women24


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