“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Mother’s Day 2009 Minus Thirty-Four

Mother’s Day 2009 Minus Thirty-Four

In mid-December 1974 my sister called to tell me that mom was sort of dragging a leg. I said, “What? What do you mean?”

I was 31, nine months pregnant, and due for a scheduled Cesarean section on January 6, a day before my mother’s 57th birthday, which she would comprehend only through a darkened veil between life and death.

“It’s like she has had a stroke or something,” was the only way my sister could explain it. I don’t remember that I talked to dad.

In the next two short weeks, we would learn that mom had brain cancer; we would spend Christmas Eve and Day and following week at the University of Alabama Birmingham medical center (UAB), with mom under the knife and care of one of the top neurosurgeons in Alabama. A week later, early January 1975, she turned 57 and I had my daughter; by the March anniversary of my brother’s death in Vietnam five years earlier, she would be dead. I would spend the rest of 1975 in an emotional swamp, shut down, when I should have been nurturing my baby rather than existing in the robotic fog that substituted for life that year.

March memories bite twice.

No Hallmark Card

My memories of my daughter during 1975 are cloudy. That Mother’s Day is blank. I spent these intervening 34 years trying to make up to her for that lost year, until now.

On this Mother’s Day 2009, reality has balled itself up into a neutron star, so dense and heavy with mass that tears can’t wash it away.

This Mother’s Day 2009, my daughter is not with her own two-year-old daughter because she is in jail. This makes how many times she has been in jails for drug related crimes? I’ve lost count. Reality just keeps crushing the stuff in its path.

Irony, reality’s doppelganger, is a rubber ball. It rolls and rolls and bounces, hits a wall, and comes back to you. My husband and I have custody of our daughter’s daughter. She is with us. And there’s no card celebrating being a parenting grandparent, especially if the reason is because of her mother’s drug addictions.

Motherhood Minus Generations

I can’t speak to Fatherhood, but Motherhood is so idealized that it’s hard to know what to do with reality when it doesn’t fit the beliefs. Deny it? Feel guilty? Feel ostracized, like some kind of freak?

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My grandmother, Lillie Belle Smith (Granny) at age 2.

My mother drank herself into alcoholism; she had always been a heavy smoker. She carried secrets, some even from herself, I think, even when others knew it anyway. Like the fact that she despised her own mother. Who would blame her? Granny was a mean, bitter, damaged woman.

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My great-grandmother, Tommie Smith, from Prattville, Alabama

Her mother, Tommie Smith from Prattville, Alabama, mother of about eight children – too many for the pocketbook, had in essence given her to Tuttie (Sudie) and Uncle (William), who were wealthy, childless, and adored Lillie Belle -- Granny. Nevertheless, Granny never got over it. She infected her own daughters, including my mother.

As Lis Belkin’s New York Times’ blog Motherlode for May 8 noted, the mother-daughter relationship is “perhaps the most complicated of relationships.” (http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/08/mother-daughter-tension-on-mothers-day/#more-2253). It seems to me that being a mother is always tears: Tears of joy; tears of despair. I wonder if anyone has ever cried each kind into separate rain gauges and measured them.

Family garbage rolls through the generations. I made it my quest to stop the garbage in its dirty progress.

Instead, as my daughter’s and my relationship deteriorated, I believed I was simply rolling the garbage along on its generational path. The pain and guilt of it was threatening my very existence. As it turned out, I was fighting a battle I had no knowledge of – drug addiction in my own daughter. It was a losing battle. So I cried a lot.

At best, motherhood exacts so much, sometimes too much, from a woman: it is both her essence and her parasite.

But drug addiction is a vampire, sucking blood from both the ideal and the real, from mother and daughter. From everyone near it.

If I can do anything for my granddaughter, besides loving her to pieces, it is to empower her with the confidence and ability to understand that she in no way caused the breakdown of her relationship with her mother and to stop the garbage from rolling through any more generations.

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