Some might call this post mother bashing. I prefer to view it as praising the women in my life who I believe God sent to compensate for my mother. Growing up with her was tough. I could blame it on her youth; she was 18 was I was born. Or on what I later found out was a mother, my grandmother, who beat her when she was little for no apparent reason, this according to an aunt who witnessed the abuse (my mother has no memory of it). Or I could impose no blame at all and simply say it was what it was, and she is who she is.
I think I’ll go with that.
My mother wasn’t the type to say I love you or offer any form of physical or verbal affection. In fact, she went out of her way to criticize me at every turn. She seemed to be in a chronic state of rage, which as a child frightened me, likely due to the indignity and stress of being married to a serial philanderer, my stepfather. Not only was she unkind, often she was downright mean and verbally abusive. I won’t go into the details because that would be a book. There’s no point to it anyway, because God gave me Grandma.
My paternal grandmother offered me the unconditional love, kindness, and care that my mother could not. Growing up, I spent countless weekends at her house after my parents divorced. Her home was a sanctuary where I could spend hours relaxing, being myself, and being loved for exactly who I was. She taught me things like, “Always pay yourself first, even if it’s a dollar.” And, “Never gossip about people’s marriages – we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.” Often, she would place her hands gently on either side of my head, look me in the eyes, smile, and tell me how wonderful I was. On Saturday nights she let me stay up late with her to watch Love Boat and Fantasy Island, a routine that I cherished.
I thought I would die when I started losing her to Alzheimer’s. Though even at the disease’s worst, my grandma never once became nasty or mean, as some people do. Her true nature was so sweet and good, not even the deterioration of her brain could change it.
When Alzheimer’s completely took Grandma, God gave me Cynthia.
Cynthia was one of my bosses at a new job. Another sweet, kind woman who seemed to accept me unconditionally. It became known around the office, almost a joke, that I could do no wrong in Cynthia’s eyes, and that no one had better say one negative word about me in her presence. To this day, I don’t know why she cares for me in this way. True, I worked hard, and I adore her back, but it truly was as if God knew what he had taken from me and sought to replace it. Though I moved on to another job years ago, Cynthia remains one of my most cherished friends.
God also gave me Nancy. For over 20 years, she has loved me unconditionally, though my friendship with her does have its ups and downs. She’s tough sometimes, like my mother, but never unkind or abusive, and she always has my best interests at heart. I trust Nancy completely. She knows I’m not perfect, she knows my secrets, but she doesn’t judge and she loves and accepts me as I am, flaws and all.
God gave me three amazing women who have loved me unconditionally, valued me for who I am, and made me feel worthy and special just for being me. These women have lifted me up, taught me, and helped me become the woman I am. Thrice blessed, I am so grateful to them and for them.
As for my mother, since she and my stepfather divorced after 27 years of marital hell, she has mellowed. Once, she even apologized for the way she treated me growing up. She is my only mother. I love her despite everything and I forgive her. I understand now that she suffers from low self-esteem and a low sense of self-worth. But I haven’t forgotten. I am always on guard with her. I have to be. Sometimes she still gets a dig or two in, and I have to strive to not be triggered. She can’t help it, it’s who she is. We all are who we are. I have chosen to follow the examples of Grandma, Cynthia, and Nancy and accept her anyway.
I’d love to hear, who has God given you?