This past Sunday I went to church with my mother for the first time in my life. At 32 years old, just the thought of the symbolism of the moment brought tears to my eyes. My mother and I have always had a strained relationship to say the least. It’s only fair to tell the full story, or as much as I knew so that people will have a better understanding. This is certainly turning out to be a year of firsts.
Sometime in late Jan/early Feb 1981 my newly 17-year-old mother was convinced by a friend to go with her to her boyfriend’s house. My grandmother had previously warned my mother to stay away but as teens do, she disobeyed. In retrospect my mother tells me that everything within her told her not to go over there. Well they arrived and he brought out some vodka (he was much older). The three of them sat there sneaking drinks until the friend and boyfriend decided to go upstairs. The loud radio drifting from upstairs told her what was going on. My mother says she was sitting on the couch watching TV when another man entered the room from a side door. She’d seen him around the neighborhood but didn’t really know him. Long story short, the situation quickly took a turn for the worst and he raped her there on the couch. She blacked out but when she came to she was able to free herself and run away. Strangers found her on the street and took her to the hospital.
Fast forward about five months and she’s feeling sick. She doesn’t know why. A visit to the doctor informs her she’s pregnant at which time she immediately demand an abortion. She’s informed it’s too late. She returns home and attempts several times to make herself have an abortion to no avail.
Fast forward to November 2, 1981. It’s a Monday. She’s been feeling uneasy all night. Suddenly she knows the baby is coming. She calls a taxi because she doesn’t have time to wait for anyone to take her to the hospital. She feels like the baby is going to come at any minute but they make it to the hospital. On the elevator, on the way to the delivery room, the baby is born. I have arrived.
She didn’t want to take me home from the hospital but my grandmother told her she had to. Less than a week later she began forming a plan to kill me. She attempted but couldn’t find the strength to go through with it. I recite this story like an old newspaper article. The pain is deep by not something I remember. So many how’s and why’s but the grown woman in me understands the pain this 17-year-old, brutally assaulted girl must have felt. I wish they’d taken her to therapy to help her get through.
Now to complicate the situation. She was dating someone at the time she was raped. He’d been in her life for some years and they were intimate. He knew her family and she knew his. They had plans on marrying one another. Now the truth is a paternity test was never completed to determine if my father was the man she’d been dating or the man who raped her. A week after giving birth and being unsuccessful in killing her first-born child, she called him to come get the child. I was raised by my father ever since.
She was in and out of my life as a child. In her mind she says she always believed my father was the man who raped her. Seeing me always reminded her of that experience. As a child I didn’t understand any of that and while I loved my father and grandmother for raising me, what I missed most, what I yearned for most, what I needed most, was my mother. I needed her to be there. I needed her to comfort me, to tell me about the bird and bees, tell me how little girls were supposed to act. It never happened. She never attended any of my award programs, never saw me speak in public, wasn’t present at my high school graduation and didn’t see me off to college. To date she’s never seen me performing on stage and has yet to sit in the audience of one of my plays.
At 12 years old she asked me to do a paternity test so that she could finally know. I declined. My father had raised me, he’d been there for me, and was the only man I would ever call father. I wouldn’t cause him pain to satisfy her mind. I didn’t have time to worry about the pain it may have caused her. What I knew was that at the end of the day, the man that had and still continues to show me unconditional love will always and forever be my father. She would have to find her peace some other way.
At 22 she threw me a birthday party. It was the first time she would do so. We began forming a relationship around that time. The last 10 years we fought a long and hard fight to be where we are now. There were times we said things to eat other that cut to the bone. Months that we would go without speaking, times that we acted more like distant friends than mother and daughter. It’s been an uphill journey. The last five years we have grown a lot. We talk and text and I visit often. My little brother has a lot to do with that but that’s for another day.
Sunday March 2, 2014 she was baptized for the first time in her life. I spent many years praying for that to happen. Spent many years praying that she would remove the shackles she’d restrained herself in. praying for her freedom, praying for her to find God, praying for her to let go so that she could live. I wasn’t able to make the baptismal because of work requirements but this last past Sunday I proudly sat with her in the house of the Lord and we praised God together. What a day!