I was thinking about the board game “Life” and what I was thinking about was that I don’t know anyone whose life really plays out like that game. You start, you draw cards, not the other way around, you move along a very clear, delineated path to a destination. The money is fake; the buildings are small and plastic. There are a no personalities to account for and there are only a few minor setbacks that can potentially be dealt to you, but these are very easily overcome in the next round. All you have to do is wait your turn.
You never stop being a parent, regardless of how old your kids get. While playing "The Game Of Life”, one of your little blue or pink pins, your offspring, won’t have an addiction that you spend the bulk of your 401k helping them overcome. In “The Game of Life”, your child won’t be ostracized from you, the rest of their family, or a religious body because of their sexual preference or lifestyle. Your child won’t loose their job and relocate. Your child will not be shipped off to a war zone or have a miscarriage, and certainly not cancer. Or in my case, your IRA’s won’t be depleted because your child is removing herself from an abusive marriage and needs your financial support. There’s really nothing about the way you will suffer or shoulder burdens with your children in “The Game of Life”.
I remember the day I went to my mom and told her the truth about my life. We were sitting in Chili’s Restaurant, sharing a quesadila, when she asked me “What’s wrong… I know something’s not right…what is it?”
And that’s when I fell apart. I spilled the beans, much to my mother’s horror. I told her things she didn’t know and would never suspect. From the outside, our family looked great. Stay at home mom, private school, big house, sipping pinot grigio at the tiki bar at the country club (despair is managed so much more effortlessly poolside) ... you get the idea. But on the inside, decay, lies, infidelity, hate, abuse. I worked really hard at looking normal. There are charades you keep up most fervently for yourself because you are the toughest audience to convince.
I couldn’t keep up the charade anymore; I wanted out.
And I’ll never forget the question my mom asked me after I told her all these things from the deepest, most honest place in my heart, she said, “What do you need?”
These are the words any child, young or old, longs to hear from their parent.
Like any woman in this situation, I needed a plan and resources to fulfill this plan. Having been out of the workforce for 12 years raising my children, I had successfully backed myself into a corner with my career. Before having children, I worked in graphic design and architecture, not a particularly profitable career choice, even on a good day. But I loved it. My career choice was the culmination of many years at art and design schools, but little did I know that my passion, and our choice to be a stay-at-home mom, had pigeon-holed me, making me basically unemployable outside of the creative arena. Independence, both financial and emotional, takes time, too, and not easily attained in the next spin of a wheel or drawing of a card. My mom supported me in attaining both.
The beginning of the end began over 3 years ago and I have begged to draw a new card, spin the wheel, and move to a much happier season in my life, but I’m still in court for child-support and alimony. There’s not much more about the details of this situation that I can legally say at this point, but suffice it to say, justice takes time, too. A full measure of justice probably won’t even be attained in the walls of a courtroom. And I'm ok with that.
I am sure during this time, my mom has wanted me to go get a job at a bank, pursue dental hygiene, or even welding, which would be more lucrative than the teaching job I currently have. I know my mom has resisted the temptation to “marry me off”, doing everything short of setting up a dowry, and has finally reconciled herself to my point of view that if a gentleman caller is to make himself known in my life, he probably will not be on her schedule or pay grade preference.
Yesterday, my mom stopped by on her way home from work for a quick visit. I thought she was stopping by to see the kids, but she was bringing me a Mother’s Day present of all things. I opened the present with all four of my children around. Inside the box were watercolors, paper, pastels, brushes, and paints. I began to cry. I cried, because it wasn’t just a gift of material objects, but an honoring of the person she gave birth to so long ago.
(The picture you see above was taken at the finish line of a marathon that I did on my mom’s birthday and in her honor. This story too, is in her honor, Happy Mother’s Day Mom.)