It has been a long time since we have talked. That is partially my fault, I work a lot... every day, almost. You call from different numbers every couple of months and when I try to call back, you are not there.
I wonder where you go.
I know nothing about your current living situation. I can only imagine it is similar to the living situations we shared in my early childhood: brief, inconsistent stays in efficiency apartments, motels, trailer parks, and women's shelters. I know that you need help but I can't bring myself to reach out to you. I have my own life now, an apartment of my own, a loving relationship, a steady job. Do you know what that feels like? Do you know how to live like the rest of us?
There was a time when I thought you would quit. I thought you had gotten the help that you so desperately needed. I started to forgive you for the struggle you put us both through. The voicemails left on grandmother's answering machine tell a different story. You speak quickly, incoherently, about "the government's plot to get you" and whatever horrible trauma your new boyfriend has put you through. I know that you will stay with him, like you always do, until the police intervene or he has had enough.
I remember when you stayed with the man who assaulted me, do you remember that, Mom?
Over 22 years, I have cried many tears for you. Sometimes, out of anger, sometimes out of grief, but mostly out of fear. I am afraid every day that the disease you contracted will take you from me like it took my father from us. When you don't take care of yourself, I worry. I worry the way a mother should worry about their daughter that stays out all night, partying and using drugs.
Have you ever worried that way, Mom?
Our roles have always been reversed. I grew up quickly and you never grew up at all. However, I learned to be self-sufficient and independent at a very young age. Not a lot of people can say that. I also learned to love unconditionally. If I can love and forgive someone who has hurt me so immensely, then my love must know no bounds. You taught me to never judge. Everyone has a story, a past that I may not even be able to fathom. I will always treat the homeless woman panhandling on the corner with as much respect as a CEO and as much love as my own flesh and blood.
When I was a little girl, you were my hero. You were (and still are) the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. You were energetic and resilient, strong and honest to a fault. You had the best singing voice, better than Diana Ross and Janis Joplin combined. You were fashionable and cool, your effortlessly badass style inspired the same style I've developed over time. You were too intelligent for your own good. If only you had put it to good use, instead of street knowledge. You truly are a remarkable woman.
I wish that we were closer.
I wish that you would stay clean.
I wish you would learn your worth.
I wish that you had a safe place to go.
I wish you could get your health back.
But most of all, I wish you would call.
I love you, Mom. I always will.