Sometimes, some days, some hours, some minutes, and even just some seconds, the realization of death just hits me. Not my own upcoming death, but the death I’ve experienced when losing my mother, my best friend, and my cat (Sumo). These three losses came one after the other, though with a little time in between. I know some people might think I’m crazy to include my cat in my list of deaths that hit me the hardest. But if you happen to know me personally, you know how much all animals mean to me. And if you knew the story of the night my cat passed away in my bed, I’d be willing to bet some money that you’d shed a tear or two. I may never talk about that night, so you may never know. What I will talk about is the loss of my mother and my best friend. I know a lot of people can relate to those types of losses.
My mother died in 2009 after a very long on again/off again battle with cancer. I was 29 at the time. Cancer has killed just about all the women on my mothers side of the family, so really my own death is already written unless something tragic happens in the meantime. I kind of joke about it, because what else are you gonna do, you know? Cancer has become the basic bitch of deaths. It’s so typical these days. Almost cliche. I’m not saying that to minimize it, but I feel that calling it out like that makes people think.
My relationship with my mother was very complicated, which is also very cliche. Of course, everyone’s relationship with their parent(s) is complicated in it’s own way. I wish I had memories of my childhood, but fortunately I blocked most of it out. Little did I know, my relationship with my mother was best when I was just a wee little Asian girl with dark brown hair and crooked bangs (I cut them myself, but don’t tell my dead mother because I never admitted to it). I have a few good memories, but I have a lot more really painful ones. I actually remember some of the nightmares that I had as a child. Turns out some of those weren’t actually nightmares, but were my reality. I can thank my “father” for all of that. I had typed up some detailed accounts of certain things, but deleted all of it. I don’t want this to become my sob story. I may write about all of it some day, but today is not that day. For the purpose of this blog post, just know that I basically grew up without a father. And in some ways, I also grew up without a mother. My father fucked her up so badly mentally and physically, that she was gone. I remember looking into her eyes and feeling her emptiness, and I was just a little girl then. We still had a lot of years to go. Those following years were better because we escaped him and survived, but they were filled with so much stress and anxiety that my relationship with my mother never stood a fucking chance. I look at pictures like the one you’ll see below, and I wish I could remember what it felt like to simply be mommy’s little girl before our world started to burn down. But I don’t. I know I was mommy’s little girl though, as I can see it in my own eyes in photos. And during the rare moments of quiet and reflection with my mother when I got older, she would talk about me as a baby and a little girl and her face would light up. How she managed to hold it together (most of the time), and seem happy and able to laugh at things, I have no idea. But I thank her for that, because laughter is the only thing that’s helped me survive. Let me tell you, she had THE best laugh. Truly contagious. One of those laughs that kids are embarrassed of their mom about.
We really drifted apart when I was in high school. She was going through a lot mentally after many years of living in near poverty with her two children. She started dating. Just like every other man in her life (my father especially), they all physically abused her. I watched one of her long term boyfriends break her nose just outside my bedroom window one night. Meanwhile, in my own little world, I was struggling with the normal teenager stuff, but there was something deeper going on. I attempted suicide. Clearly it didn’t work because I couldn’t do anything right. After that, I turned to alcohol. I partied. A lot. I drank. A lot. I smoked weed. A lot (no regrets on that though). I got the attention of guys. A lot. I constantly lived on the edge of an eating disorder. I hated myself. I had friends, but most of them were superficial (remember, this is high school). I have no idea why the popular girls even liked me. I would like to think it was because I was funny. After all, I did win Class Clown in middle school, beating out one of the popular girls, which I think she’s still bitter about. That was probably one of the highlights of my life because it was a real story of the underdog winning for once. Silly, yes. But I’m still proud of it to this day. Back to the suicide attempt. My timing, as always, was impeccable. I went to sleep and wasn’t supposed to wake up. It was a Monday morning, I believe. I barely woke up, and the whole experience is a complete blur. I didn’t regret the attempt, but I regretted the fact that I did it on the day my mother was starting her first good job, after years of struggling and a lot of unemployment. To this day, I regret the stress that I caused my poor mother on that morning. She couldn’t go to her first day on the job because her twat of a daughter thought she’d end her life. What a selfish little bitch I was. I’m so sorry, mom.
Fast forward a couple of years. My brother went right off to college and after he left, things between me and my mom got even worse. My brother almost never came home on holidays or vacations. I didn’t blame him. As soon as I turned 16, I had to quit playing tennis, the sport I had played my entire life and was actually really, really good at. I needed to work as much after school and on weekends as the law allowed. I was also working under the table as a chambermaid at a beach house during the summers, which I started at age 14 or 15. I had to support myself almost completely. It’s funny how life aligns things that you have no clue about at the time. Most of my future was directly formed by me working at the local grocery store, in the pharmacy. I still, to this day, work for that same company, supporting the pharmacy technology for the company that has formed into an international one. It’s been just about 23 years. That’s also where I met the boyfriend that I would stay with for the next 16 years. A very long 16 years. I lost a lot of my life during that time. That’s another story for another time.
I moved out from my mother’s place as soon as I possibly could. I was working full time, commuting to college full time, and moved into an apartment with my boyfriend. I don’t know what happened to my mother after I moved out, but it seemed like her life started falling apart yet again. I know she battled some addictions, alcohol included. Religion included. It seemed to come and go in phases. At some point, I started giving her money. At some other point, she moved to Michigan for a man she met online (I can’t even imagine what online dating was like back then!). No surprise, but when she moved out there for him, he decided he wanted nothing to do with her. She stayed out there anyways, working odd jobs. She eventually met another guy and they ended up getting married. I nicknamed him “Boogie Nights”, because he looked like he came straight out of that movie. It really kind of ruined that movie for me, now that I think about it. That’s ok, huge dicks don’t really mean a thing. Boogie Nights was a scumbag. An alcoholic, probably a drug addict. A guy that would eventually physically abuse a frail woman who was dying of cancer. My mother. I would fly out to Michigan from Maine on weekends whenever she would get sick and end up in the hospital. I would send her care packages. I would call the police on him when he beat her and almost broke her back. Do you know what it’s like to have your mother call you panicking and crying after he slammed her against the counter and she had to lock herself in the bathroom? It’s not something I would wish on my worst enemy. A lot of other events happened. But I’m not trying to write a novel. Hopefully you get the picture.
Her health continued to decline over the years. I’m actually surprised she made it as long as she did. I got a call from one of her doctors on Christmas Eve one year, saying that I should come out ASAP. So I booked a flight on Christmas day. I cried on the plane and tried to hide my tears. I thought this would be my last flight out there. When I got out there, she was unconscious and on a respirator. I found a bible in her room with a note written in it to me from her friend and neighbor. I will never forget that woman, whom I did eventually meet. To everyone’s surprise, my mother pulled through and got off the respirator. Please know that my mother smoked cigarettes her entire life, since she was a teenager. You know what her first words were to me when she woke up and could speak? “Get me out of here so I can have a cigarette.” From there, on Christmas day, everything went downhill. This speaks to just how mentally and physically addicting nicotine is. We fought. And fought. I was shutting down. I had used my hard earned money to fly out there on Christmas to be treated like a piece of shit. The next day, I flew back home and her last words to me were, “You’re a fucking cunt.” That cut like a knife. So I cried on the plane again, this time for a very different reason.
Fast forward again. I honestly don’t know the timeline of events because those years went by so fast as I was constantly trying to take care of her in whatever way I could, all the while having to work full time and taking classes full time. I needed money to pay my rent and to help support her as well. Hard to set priorities when everything is top priority. I think the next time I flew out there was the final time.
I arrived at the hospital to find my mother laying in a bed, this time with no machines whatsoever. At that point, she was a DNR. This was it. She had had a stroke, on top of her body being filled with cancer. She couldn’t speak, but she could understand me. But of course I had no idea what to say. I don’t even remember what I did say to her, other than my brother and his now wife were on their way. As the hours went on, she was not making movements any longer and I could tell she was permanently fading. That night, I put my cell phone on her pillow and played sounds of the ocean. She always loved the ocean and missed it dearly when she moved out to Michigan. She never belonged out there, she belonged on the coast of Maine. My brother and now wife arrived. We all sat with her. When we left to get some sleep at the hotel, she passed away in the very early morning hours. The nurse called and told me. I couldn’t fucking believe we weren’t there to hold her hand. Looking back at it, I have no idea what I was thinking, leaving the hospital that night. But that’s life, right? They say time heals, but it doesn’t. You just get used to not having them in your life anymore. It’s as simple as that.
In 2011, my cat, Sumo, passed away. He was the second real love of my life. The first was my dog Betsy when I was a little girl. My mom had to re-home her because we couldn’t afford to take care of her. That was one of the most devastating times of my life. If you’re wondering why my boyfriend of 16 years wasn’t a love of my life, it’s because he wasn’t. No really, he wasn’t. He was good to me for the first 2 years, but the next 14 declined year after year until I couldn’t take it anymore.
In 2012, my best friend, Amber, passed away after her second double lung transplant. That may be another post for another time. Just know that she meant everything to me from the day I met her. We were complete opposites. She was a gorgeous blonde with a fairly wealthy family and I was the quiet funny girl with the very poor mother and no father. But she never once made me feel inadequate. Her family took me in and even asked me to move in with them in high school. My mother thought she and I were lesbians, which would be the secret joke for all the years to come. In hindsight I think I was in love with her in some ways, because she had that kind of personality. We lost touch a bit while life was crazy during our college years, but it was always like we had never left each others side. I miss her dearly.
Well that concludes my very somber night’s post. I hope some of my humor came through. There is a strange vibe in the air lately. My friend just lost her mother and we talked about it today for quite some time. It’s been a rough couple of years. I’ve lost friends (figuratively, not literally), and I’ve been used and abused in more ways than one. Things I said I would never let happen to me, I did. But I’m finally past all of that and am simply trying to keep my head above water for the time being. I’m reinventing my life once again. I’m making different choices, and living a different lifestyle. I won’t let anyone fuck it up this time (myself included). I just wish I had my mom or my best friend to go out and simply have lunch and a conversation with. But unfortunately I will never have that again.
For all of you out there that is going through some shit, please know that I am always one hug away from making you feel uncomfortable enough to forget what you’re sad about. Just kidding. I give amazing hugs. Pinky swear.
Below is a photo of me and my mom. This is how I prefer to remember her. The other photo is of Amber.