Scars of Who We Are. Intermission Part 3

For my mother, I have this to say, I wish you never gone away,
and I would have preferred that you would have stayed.

My brother wondering when he'll finally be able to play with me.

My brother wondering when he’ll finally be able to play with me.

I wasn’t ever the perfect son and more often than not, I was a coward who struggled with finding ways to express myself. More often than not, this usually resulted in me writing how much I hated my mom or the phrase “I have no mom,” on my belongings, because well for the most part it she didn’t feel like much a mother to me. And occasionally she would find something that I had written in a fit of anger, which I’m sure had to hurt, then she would give me the third degree, making me feel two inches tall.

In truth and more than anything I think all I really wanted was to have the courage, the strength of character to simply open up a dialog with her and just ask her why, why was she always so hard on me? And wasn’t I ever good enough? Because I always tried to be a good kid. I never gave in to peer pressure, never smoked, or drank alcohol, kept my nose clean and my head down.  Unlike my older brother who fell into a bad crowd, got detentions and suspensions from school and more than once he even managed to get himself expelled. But no matter what he did my mother was always there for him, always believed and saw only the best in him. She was there having his back, helping him fight some of the hardest battles he had to fight. Even when my brother dropped out of school, fell into the drug scene, got arrested, sent to jail, she was there for him. Even when my step-father had enough and kicked him out of the house, my mother was still on my brother’s side, so much so that her and my step-father almost got a divorce over it.

I still remember that day that my brother had probably forgotten when he came by the house late at night, knocked on my window and asked to come inside. He looked like he aged ten years and was thinner than I remembered,  telling me how he hadn’t eaten in days and asks if I can make him a sandwich since he didn’t want to risk going upstairs himself and risk being caught by our step-father. So I crept upstairs, made him some food and brought him a bag of chips, because I loved him. I barely knew the person he had become, but I loved him all the same and I remember how we talked for bit, which felt really good, it felt like I finally getting to know him a little bit. Then before he left, I stopped him and dug into my wallet, giving him all the money I had, which was about fifty bucks and told him to take care of himself. I knew it wasn’t much, but I figured it’d be enough to  at least get him a place to stay for a night maybe, or enough to afford him a hot meal until he got back on his feet. It’s amazing how quickly some people forget the little things and quick he was able to turn his back and forget about me. But as I said before, I don’t blame him, he saw only the best in our mother and that’s what she gave him, he hadn’t been singled out like I me, and it was something he never would see. Also for those who are curious my brother did eventually clean himself up and left the drug scene behind, he eventually went on to get his GED, got a good job and has started a family of his own. Although we still don’t talk much. But he knows I write this blog and I pray one day he’ll read it from beginning to end and maybe then we’ll be able to reconcile our differences and remember what it means to be brothers again.

Me and my brother at my grandma's

Me and my brother at my grandma’s

At seventeen, I was given my brother’s room in the basement, which I actually preferred; it was bigger than my old room and always cold in the summer. Then one night at seventeen I woke up in the middle of the night starving, so I decided to slip out of my bed and sneak upstairs for a little late night snack. I was tired and still half asleep, so my senses were dull and I wasn’t fully alert so I thought the house was silent and everyone was fast asleep. Still I crept silently up the stairs, daring not to make a noise out fear of waking my mother or step-father, partially out of fear of the inquisition that had to tendency to occur in the past whenever I was caught sneaking a snack this late at night. But when I reached the top of the stairs and eased open the door, I could hear my mother talking to someone and so I froze with my hand still on the door, afraid to move, to make a sound, or to even breathe.

Holding my breath I listened intently to the sound of her voice in floating down the hall to me from the kitchen, weighing my options and curious as to why she was in the kitchen and not in her room, believing at first she had to have been speaking to my step-father. Because now I believed I had gotten lucky up until then, that no one had heard me climbing the stairs or opening the door, believing that if I retreated now I would most certainly be heard, and accused for sneaking around and for being where I wasn’t suppose to be.  My heart was pounding in my breast as I slowly began to ease the door shut and began slipping back the stairs wince I came. Realizing then as I descended the stairs, that no other voices came from the kitchen, telling me she was alone and simply believed she was on the phone. Which for me was great, because it meant she was less likely to hear me, but as I retreated back to my room I heard her sob.

Again I stood frozen there on the steps, with my heart hammering in my chest, still holding my breath as I quietly debated what I should do. A part of me told me to retreat and go to bed, because nothing good would come of this, because nothing good ever had.

Then I was moving before I even realized what I was doing, climbing silently back up the stairs, easing the door to the upstairs back open and set my foot on the smooth, cool hardwood floor.  Stepping carefully I crept up into the hall and poked my head around the corner and peered into the kitchen, where I saw my mother sitting at the kitchen table in her faded pink bathroom, her face buried in her hands and  she’s crying.

“Are…are you okay?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper and to my surprise she’s not startled by the sound of my voice or my sudden appearance, instead she looks up at me with red puffy eyes and waves me to come close to her..
Reminding myself to breathe, I let out a breath and slowly cross the kitchen to her place at the table, not really knowing what to expect, but when I make it within arm’s reach, I’m startled by the feeling of her arms wrapping around me, pulling me close, hugging me.

I’m seventeen and I don’t know how to react, I stand there with her holding me and sobbing against my chest and I had forgotten how to return affection, or show it to my mother. It takes several minutes for my arms to pull around her and return her embrace. She’s telling me she’s sorry, she’s tells me she doesn’t know why she’s so hard on me, or why she mistreats me as often as she does. I tell her it’s okay and that I love her. Which was true, or so I think and if it wasn’t I wanted it to be.

A once happy family with me, my mother, brother and father.

A once happy family with me, my mother, brother and father.

She pulls away and messes with my hair, before grabbing me and pulling me back against her hugging me tighter than before, telling me how sweet I am, that I have a good heart and always been a good kid. I’m taken aback, not really knowing how one such as I should react, with a part of me believing that this was all some dream and I didn’t want to wake up. Because here in this place, in this moment in time, my mother was talking to me, actually talking to me like a human being and she was hugging me, making me feel this indescribable sense of love that she had for me.

After a while I slowly pull back and sit in a chair beside her, I never talk, I just look at her and she begins talking. She tells me about her childhood, how hard her father was on her, how he would beat her and her sister. She tells me this whole history of phyiscal and verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of her father; she even professes her drug use and how she never meant to drive my father away like she did, telling me how sorry she was for how she treated him and me. I listen to every word, weighing each one carefully in my mind and when she’s finished I tell her it’s okay and I understand, I tell her I love her, then I make a joke and make her laugh.

My father and mother beneath the missletoe & My older brother.

My father and mother beneath the missletoe & My older brother.

We talk for another hour or two and I discover that I like talking to her, I like making her laugh, so by the time we hug and say goodnight, I go to bed believing things would be alright from now on. I only wish I had been right, but even though I wasn’t, I still had this moment and other moments like it, whenever I would stay up late and she was still up, I would find that would be the time that we would connect the most. It was in those late twilight hours, when sleep was at the forefront of our minds. And It was in those moments we would share and talk openly, about anything, everything and nothing, it was then it felt like we were the most real with eachtother.  Perhaps that is what caused my insomnia to become so deeply ingrained into my very being, where even when I’m exhausted and on the verge of sleep, I fight it and try to stay awake for just a little longer. Finding that people in general, not just my mother are the most real in that late hour, when you’re too tired to be angry, to lie or be false and you can only speak in simple truths. A lesson my mother had taught me early on, one that I won’t soon forget.

Thanks Debbie, wherever you are, near or far,
Thank you for being a mother to me, even if was just briefly for mere moments at a time.
I still love you forever and always.

Joshua A. Cooper

And asleep.

And finally me fast asleep.