Lessons from Mom

Mom always taught me that anything was possible and I could be whatever I wanted. She would tell my sister and I that we could be the president. In the early days, mom raised us alone. My father left, leaving mom to raise my older sister, brother, and me. Those were tough times for her, and every so often cracks showed in her armor, but she never broke. That’s the important thing. Mom remarried and they added three more to our clan: a brother and two more sisters.

When I finished high school there was no money for college and I joined the military. Mom asked if I really thought I could handle it. I reminded her that she always said I could do anything. She nodded. The next time I saw her was the night before my basic training graduation at Ft. Dix, NJ. My mom, step-dad and three younger siblings made the seven hour drive to see me officially become a soldier.

My life started changing. More accurately, I was discovering myself. I realized that I was a lesbian, and knew instinctively that my Irish-catholic mom was not going to be okay with it. A distance slowly grew between us that had nothing to do with physical location. She didn’t want to hear about my life and I didn’t want to hear the disapproval or disappointment in her voice. Before I realized, I had closed off a huge part of myself from her.

Military policies drove me out of the army before I was ready, and I moved in with my father until I got on my feet. He and I have never seen eye to eye. The dark period of my life began. I floundered around, drinking too much, searching for affection in the wrong places, did things no one would talk to their mom about. Predictably, I drifted further from her. The toxic relationship I ended up in didn’t help matters. Then, my oldest sister died suddenly. The next night, at a hotel outside of Ft. Gordon, Ga., my mom asked to sleep with me. My partner got angry, but I didn’t care. My mom clung to me so tightly through the night that I could scarcely breathe.

But, things didn’t turn around. My sister’s death caused me to shut down. I should have ended my unhealthy relationship, but I didn’t. I did, however manage to get it together a bit and graduated from the police academy. I worked midnights for four years, avoiding home and my emotions. I talked to my mom more often, but she was in her own bad place, having lost her eldest child.

Eventually, I began to emerge from my emotional limbo. Police work gave me a purpose that I desperately needed, and I gathered the strength to end that terrible relationship. I remember the day I looked in the mirror and said, “I don’t care if I have to live in my truck, I won’t do this another minute.” There is something liberating about truly accepting the moment and fully letting go. I always say that complete release and surrender to faith is what opened my heart to my future. I met my wife soon after.

I began living openly. My career moved forward, my home life was fabulous, and I had turned the corner. About a year later, my mom visited with my youngest sister and little niece. We were having a great time until Sandy unwittingly hugged me, or something equally benign, in front of her. The firestorm that followed was stunning. By the end of the night, mom was shouting hurtful words, and I told her if she couldn’t respect my home and partner, then she should leave. It was the moment of truth for us both. I said, “It’s amazing that you raised me to be independent and strong, but now that the reality isn’t quite what you’d expected, you can’t handle it. I’m the woman you raised me to be.” She went in the bedroom and slammed the door.

My wife, Sandy, is incredible. I would have fallen into an angry, unforgiving place if not for her. She wisely urged me to give my mom time. Over the years, I’ve seen her mellow. Although we don’t speak directly about my sexuality, my family’s acceptance of Sandy has grown. Mom has trouble expressing herself emotionally, but I know she’s tried, and I figured that’s the best we could hope for. That was before yesterday. We’d sent flowers to our moms for mother’s day and my mom called to say thank you. I was busy, so Sandy put her on speaker while they talked. Before they hung up mom said, “I just wanted to thank you. The flowers are beautiful. I love you both.”

Tears formed in my eyes as I realized that once again, mom taught me that anything is possible.

For mothers here and those who live on in our hearts.

I wish you all blessings and peace~LM


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