“You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” I’m sure you’ve all heard that one before. There’s even a song with that title that I absolutely loved back in the day that was sung by Cinderella. Ha! Remember those guys? That was a good song. How many of you hate that phrase because someone said that to you and then hated it even more because they were right? Well, I’m here to tell you, today I’m eating those words. In fact, I’ve been chomping on them for the last several months.
As many of you know, I lost my mom this past May. It was a tough time. She spent her last days in our new home that we had just moved in. She had multiple myeloma and had to be put on hospice. We happily took her in, but it was one of the hardest times I’ve ever faced and I’m still facing with each passing day.
My relationship with my mom growing up was a very tumultuous one. Some people may know that, but for those of you that don’t, life for me as a child had many roller coaster rides. I didn’t have a father and grew up living with my grandparents and my mom. My mom had long running streaks of being there, times where she was in and out, and times where she was just completely absent. When I was young, around six, she was involved with someone who was an alcoholic and he took her in and out of our life. Because of that relationship, I was sexually abused by a friend of this man, something that I will never, ever forget as long as I live. I can close my eyes and still see it happening, play by play. My mom eventually ended that relationship and was back home with us at my grandparents and it was great. She was a good mother for years. But, something was missing. She devoted all her time to my brother and I and worked hard, but she didn’t have anyone to share her life with, romantically. I think about this now and I imagine it did kind of stink being a single parent with no relationship and not seeking to find any relationship either. I can most definitely relate to the single parent thing. I hated being a single parent, but she did it for quite a few years. She was selfless. My mom, up until the day she died, was selfless. She always thought of everyone else. She was a giver. I think that may be where I get it from. She was the PTA mom, the mom that was always doing something for the school, she took me to all my violin lessons and concerts, she was always doing something extra for work or the military to show her love and support of the troops. She was very patriotic. But, like I said, something was missing. She didn’t have a significant other to share it with. And then, one day, she did.
Around the time I was in the 8th grade, my mom met an older gentleman at her job. She ended up marrying this man. He was 17 years older than her and his kids were grown. This was such an adjustment because my brother and I were so used to having our mom to ourselves and she was doing all these wonderful things, and then, here comes this man who only wants to take her away. Jealousy, of course, sank in, which is the typical reaction for kids who come from broken families or are subject to divorce. You’re used to having your mom all to yourself and here comes some joker that just wants to steal her away. My mom’s last serious relationship was bad. I didn’t really know what a good relationship looked like because I never had a relationship with my father and neither did she during the times when I was younger. I am just a product of a man who committed adultery and happened to get the woman pregnant. He was never really in my life and never really wanted to be. Anyway, all I knew of her previous relationships was the one I mentioned earlier from when I was around 6 or 7 and all I could think of was “not again.” I didn’t want to give my mom up like I did then. Too many bad things happened during that relationship that I just did not want to relive and risk them happening with another one. I felt like I had just got her back and the years of her being there just flew by. I didn’t want to share her or all our good times to end. I won’t go into all the details, but this was a very difficult time for both me and my brother. This man did take her away. He treated her great. He took her on trips and was nice to her, something she wasn’t accustomed to, but when I say he took her away, he did just that. He took her away. My mom wound up quitting her job and devoted everything she had to offer to this man to the point where we became second in her life. She would leave us with our grandparents for months, sometimes a year at a time. She would come home on a Friday and when Sunday came, she would say, “I’m going to the store,” and I would not see or hear from her for six months or more. It was hard for me and it was hard for my grandmother. My grandmother would call all over trying to find her. She would call his kids or people that were mutual friends to no avail. I can still see her sitting in the recliner, holding her address book up and making multiple phone calls. We needed clothes or we needed things for school. My grandparents did the best they could to raise us and I am forever indebted to them. But, I remember long drives with my grandparents to South Carolina to the last known places that we knew they lived and arriving only to find they were not there. I also remember a day where my brother and I went to find her at one of their homes. We just showed up and got lucky. But, then we were asked to leave after only being there five minutes. I can remember crying the whole way home because I just didn’t understand. I remember lonely Christmas mornings waking up with just me and Mema to open my presents because my brother eventually went to live with my uncle and my mother remained absent in our life. I, too, bounced around living with an uncle and another aunt on two separate occasions for the purpose of school. These were very difficult times. I felt so lost and rejected. I am not trying to make my mother sound awful because she wasn’t. If she was, her absence would not have hurt me so much. We loved her and just wanted her there. These times would eventually wreak my mother with guilt to the point where she would never forgive herself. She spent the remainder of her later years trying to make up for it. She did.
She eventually came back around, but I was grown then, with a daughter of my own. She remained married to this man and as they both got older, their hearts got softer. They eventually moved right behind where my grandparents lived and were always around. Our relationships with both him and her began to mend. I was thankful. My mom and I still had ups and downs thru the years due to the scar that remained deeply embedded on my heart from all that I had to endure. There are many details that I just cannot write about due to it would turn into a novel. But, at the end of the day, all I wanted was my Mama and I finally had her. She was a wonderful Mom and Nana to my daughter and my brother’s son. She loved them both very much. My mom made it clear how much she loved us in these later years, but even with all the love we gave her, she never really recuperated from her past. I knew that from the time I got to spend with her.
I spent many years trying to repair our relationship. I always loved my mom so dearly and tried my best to make her know and understand that she was forgiven. I forgave her a long time ago, but sadly, even until her dying day, I don’t think she ever forgave herself. During the last month of her life, I spent hours sitting at my kitchen table talking with her and just soaking up everything she had to say because I knew my time was limited. I found out so many things. Things I didn’t know, about her, about others. These were such cherishing times that I will never forget. We spent many days looking at photo albums and talking about days gone by. We laughed a lot. My mom was growing weaker by the day, but she still seemed like her old self, which still makes it hard to swallow that she is really gone. How can someone be so normal in one day and then gone the next? It baffles my brain to no end. All I ever wanted was my mom and here she was in my house. She was sick, but she was here and it was an honor to take care of her. I hope she knew that.
Today, I am dealing with something new. A thought that I just cannot seem to escape and it penetrates my soul more deeply than anything I have ever felt. Words cannot depict the scattered emotions that I feel these days. Today, I feel more alone than I have ever felt. My mom would call me constantly every single day to the point that some days it would drive me crazy. And now? Nobody calls. I have one cousin who calls me regularly and we talk for hours on end. I’m grateful for her. But, what I am feeling is a different deliberation of loneliness. The kind you feel where everything you know and everything that was once closest to you is gone. My grandparents, who were like my parents, are gone. My dad, who I tried to reconnect with a few years back, died while I was attempting to do that. My mom’s husband, is also gone. My brother and I never see each other or talk much. Life just happened and drove us apart. My daughter just left to go back to college. And now my mom is gone too. I told my husband that I have never felt more alone in the world. It is an indescribable feeling. Even at 40 years of age, I truly feel like a lost child in this big world that someone just left. It is the weirdest thing I have ever perceived. I have family and friends, but it’s just not the same. I’m even close to most of my family, but it does not fill that void. I am so thankful for my husband because if I didn’t have him, there is no telling what would be going on in this head of mine.
One of the things I hate to hear the most is for someone to say, “I know how you feel.” I know that everyone has something they can relate to with someone else. This is true. The situations may be the same, but the feelings are not. You do not and will not ever know how I feel because you, my friend, are not me. And vice versa. You may know or have heard of the major scenarios that went down during my life, but you didn’t live them like I did. I don’t mean that to sound harsh. I know it’s a common thing to say that because we all have gone thru things and have felt hurt that derives from similar situations. But, I guess, at this time, it is still just too soon to say something like that to me. It is just an unacceptable phrase for me right now. My emotional wounds are still very much open and it just feels like someone is adding salt to them when they say that. I know that will change in time. I know there are countless times that I have said that to someone going thru a difficult time. I struggle to say anything when those times arise. Sometimes, silence is just golden and needs to be treated as such.
I know I will see my mom again, but for now, it hurts. My feelings are catching up to me these days. I spend a lot of time alone with my thoughts and that’s okay. These days are equipping me to help someone else. I know this is what God has called for me to do in my life, to be there for others. To all my cousins who I am close to and who are the children of the original four aunts in our lives, this day will come for you too. I don’t mean that to sound so insensitive, but it’s just reality. It’s a sad reality. I keep telling myself that I really think this happened to me first so I can be there for the rest of you. Most of us cousins have already lost our fathers, but none of us have lost our mothers, aside from one other. As much as I hate that I was the first one to lose one of the Harman daughters, I know there is purpose behind it. You all know that I am always there for you when I can be and I pray you always know that. There isn’t a whole lot I wouldn’t do for any of you.
My advice to anyone is this. Just like the song, you really don’t know what you got till it’s gone. You don’t realize how much you will miss someone until they are no longer available to you. Feelings that you never thought you could feel will erupt like a volcano. Embrace every moment that you can with the people you are close to and never take for granted the fact that one day, those moments will someday be just a memory.