My mother died March 20, 2011.
Her name was Lydia Kathleen. She married my father when she was seventeen. At eighteen,Â Lydia Kathleen gave birth to me. My father tells me about the snowstorm in Durango that night. They were scared coming down the mountain. My mother was in labor for hours. My father says soon as I came out I shit on her. He says I was a beautiful baby.
I was three when my mother abandoned me.Â We don’t forgive women much.Â Consider Eve. We forgive mothers even less.Â A woman who abandons her child is a terrible human being. A man who abandons his child isÂ a deadbeat dad. Long time ago, I forgave my son’s father for wanting nothing to do with his son. I believed I did this for my son’s benefit. I forgave my mother nothing.Â I wanted her to apologize for leaving me. I wanted her to repent. She never did.Â NotÂ to my satisfaction, anyway.
When I was twenty-one,Â I found my mother the first time. It wasn’tÂ difficult. I started with my grandmother. She wanted me to know my mother. She felt it was my right. For the longest time, my grandmother was the only person to speak to me about my biological mother, to provide stories and pictures.
MyÂ beautifulÂ stepmotherÂ was twenty-one when she married my father and barelyÂ equipped to deal with a resentful stepdaughter. At fiveÂ I wanted a mother but had no idea what that meant. It meant I had to share my father with another woman, andÂ by the time I was ten I wasÂ too selfish for that.
By the time I was twenty-one I’d decided my biological mother, my real mother, wouldÂ open the universe.Â She’dÂ validate my resentment toward my stepmother; she’dÂ validate myÂ anger toward my fatherÂ for loving thisÂ other woman more than me.Â Lydia KathleenÂ was happy to do that. SheÂ said, “I left him, not you.”
Six months later, my motherÂ left me again.
Lydia Kathleen disconnected her phone and changed her address and didn’t tell me a thing.
She did this three more times.Â Oh, sure. Eventually, my motherÂ would send me a surprise letter or give me a call or find me on My Space and I was just supposed to feel happy we were reunited again.
Except I punished her for this with her past.
I never let my motherÂ forget she left me to become a hooker then ended up in prison.Â My cruelty felt justified, my anger.Â She left me. I had a son to protect.Â She was flaky;Â I couldn’t trust her. Lydia Kathleen was never theÂ person I wanted her to be; she left me over and over again, and by the way, IÂ WOULDN’T LEAVE MY CHILD FOR ANYTHING.
What the fuck was wrong with her?
My mother died March 20, 2011. A person I don’t know found her dead in her apartment. No cause of death yet.
March 20, 2011, I had coffee with my fatherÂ and we spoke unkindly of my motherÂ and neither of us knew she was dead.
March 20, 2011, I got back to work (again) on this short story I’d been working on for months calledÂ ”Dog Men.” Ultimately it’s a story about how men come between women.Â Since I’d started the storyÂ seven months ago,Â I’d dedicated itÂ to Joyce Carol Oates, thenÂ March 20 2011, I changed my mind and at the top of the storyÂ I typed, “To my mother.”
March 21, 2011, I received a message on Facebook from aÂ stranger saying he needed to speak to me ASAP regarding Lydia.Â I responded asking why he’d contacted me. No answer.
March 25, 2011, I received a secondÂ message on Facebook from another person I didn’t know regarding Lydia. This time when I asked why this person had contacted meÂ she was kind enough to respond. “Your mother died March 2oth. Your Aunt Karen wanted you to know.”
I have this picture of my mother and me; it’s the only picture I have of us. In it,Â my mother isÂ a veil of hair. She has her arms around me. I have the biggest eyes imaginable. You see mostly me, which isn’t strange, is it?