The first memory I have of my mom is her lying to me.
"I'll always be there," she said, with a voice coated in sugar and dripping with feigned innocence. "I'll do whatever I have to to see you."
The next weekend, she didn't show up to our weekly visit.
How do you explain to a child that one of their parents isn't around because they don't want to be?
This letter isn't about the drugs that were more important to you than your living, breathing daughter. This isn't about the addiction I wasn't enough for you to even attempt to overcome. This isn't about the lies, questions or hurt.
Every year, on my birthday, my one wish was that you'd come back, and every day I'd look at the same door. The one that I watched you walk out of. I wondered if I'd ever see you enter through it again. But you never did.
This is about you leaving me. I shouldn't have had to tell my dad about my first boyfriend, or consulted my friends' moms about, ahem, girl problems. I shouldn't have had to do my own makeup for prom and I shouldn't have had to stare at the ceiling countless nights wondering why I'm not enough for you. Was I too naughty as a toddler? Was I not funny enough? Did I not say "I love you" enough times?
For a long time, these questions haunted me. You wouldn't believe how detrimental it was to my self-esteem growing up. When I was in third grade, I made my dad Mother's Day gifts, because he filled the role of two parents while one was absent. I don't believe you understand the implications of your actions. I don't think you realize how much they impacted me. I wonder all the time if you ever go to bed missing me.
But, by the grace of God, my real mom came into my life just in time to show me that, while the world can be cruel, unconditional love is out there. My dad fought like hell to provide for me, and make up for the hole that you left. He did a damn good job of it, too. Those two, and the people who helped them along the way, are the reason I am who I am today.
It's been more than a decade since you didn't say goodbye. And, in that decade, instead of molding me into the woman I am, all you taught me is how to leave and who I don't want to be. Now that I'm successful and doing well, you should know it has nothing to do with you. I will never, not once, attribute anything to you. Not the success, not the failures. I was shaped by the people around me -- those who taught me how to be compassionate, how to love, how to fail and how to rebound from those failures.
I grew up before most people around me because I had to be strong, not only because I saw how cruel the world can be, but also how cruel home could be. And I'd be lying if I said I don't carry at least a little bit of hurt and animosity about the situation as a whole. I'd be lying if I said I cared about where you are and what you're doing now.
But, above all, I forgive you, in the hopes that you forgive yourself.