Phone calls from my mother were infrequent. She was in an out of trouble which was not something I understood until I was much older, but what I recall feeling was abandoned. That sick empty feeling when followed by tears leads to the hyperventilation cry. The cry that is uncontrollable and animalistic. It is the feeling that nothing could be worse than that very moment no matter what age you practice it. I do not remember asking where she was or when I would see her, but I can vividly recall the feeling of needing her.
What I would discover 30 years later was that my mother did call. My father played interference until I was about 7 years old with my mother. He would not allow her to speak to me if he suspected she was high. Her tongue was sharp when she was feeling hurt and vulnerable; he did not want to risk this unpredictability when mixed with drugs with his daughter. A meeting was finally planned. My mother was coming to California to visit her little girl. I did not know this would be the last time I would see my mother alive. I was 5 years old and it was the only thing I cared about when I found out she was coming and the days following the short visit.
Oliver and my dad had a lengthy discussion on how this visit would transpire. They did not trust she would not take off with me. They did not trust she would not leave me somewhere while she looked for drugs. So, they told her the three of us would meet in Golden Gate Park. It was a central location, easy for her to find since she was not familiar with the City and sparse enough that they could linger while watching in the shadows. They allowed for a 3 hour visit that was not to leave the park. She decided she could only stay for one day.
Oliver, my dad and I walked through the park. And, then I saw her. It was a dream at first that my eyes needed adjusting to. I looked up at my dad for his approval and for his confirmation. “Go on and see your mother” he said. I ran. I ran fast as I could while her she slowly dropped her purse, knelt down to my height and enveloped me. My 5 year old arms were flung tightly around her neck while she cried.
We walked around a lot. She followed the rules and did not take me out of the park; she did not leave me; she held me as long as her arms would allow. We ate. We played. She chatted with me and she allowed me to feel like a little girl with her mother. I was as happy as I could remember and I did not want her to leave. She took me to get my face painted by a local artist in the park. I picked a rainbow with two clouds; it was very 80’s of me. The time moved by both slow and fast. When you are 5 everything seems to be in slow motion because things are still new. But, there is feeling of activities stopping too soon and my mother was getting ready to leave. I saw Oliver and my dad walk up. My mom told me it was time for her to go. I refused to let her go. A tantrum ensued and I could not breathe I was so upset. She kept telling me it was okay but she was crying too. My intuition though only 5 knew I would never see her again.
When we arrived home I was inconsolable. Actually, I was allowed to sit in the front with my parents because I was so upset and they did not know what to do. Pandora’s box of yearning for my mother had been opened and that emptiness would stay with me for 20 years.
After 3 days my dad finally would not take no for an answer on removing my cheek painted rainbow. I felt like if he washed it off my mother would be removed too. The wash rag stung but not nearly as bad as my heart ached.
Oliver and my father did the right thing in protecting me. My mother did the right thing in letting me go. But, how do you explain all of this to a child. The truth is that you don’t and you hope you provide enough for your child to understand when they get older.
To be continued……………