Ten years ago today my mother watched a miracle pull up the driveway in the form of a cop car. Two police officers stepped out of that car, walked into the bed and breakfast where she and her boyfriend had been hiding out for four months, and arrested the man that had been holding her heart captive for the last four years.
At 49 years old my mother was broken, penniless, and now – thanks to an unexpected miracle – free.
I was 16. And I was angry.
Angry at God. Angry at the world. But most of all, angry at my mother.
Having spent the past four years being put through hell by the man that she had loved enough to abandon my sister and I, I had a lot to be angry about.
Ten years ago today, in spite of the miracle that had occurred at 9:14am at a little B&B on the coast, I went to bed believing, as I had since that January, that my mother was dead.
It would be the next night when I arrived home to hear her voice on my answering machine, that I would learn she was still alive.
I can still recall the flashing red light on our blue and white answering machine. I remember pressing it and hearing her voice. “It’s me.” she said, “I’m alive. I understand if you don’t want to speak me. I just wanted to tell you that I love you. And I am so sorry. “
Hearing those words was like listening to a ghost. I pressed the big blue button on the machine again. I needed to be certain that her voice was real.
It would be another month before I heard her speak again. I learned later that my father had told her she was not allowed to speak to my sister and I until she had proved she could be trusted. (After four years of lies and broken promises this was not an unreasonable request – although given that she was my mother not his, I did harbour some resentment that I was not consulted.)
During this period, she had sent a letter to what she had thought was my email address. It was responded to with “You are not my mother. Please don’t email me.” She assumed that I had disowned her as a mother and figured that she deserved this. After all, in her eyes and in ours, she had failed us. Regardless of what she thought was my wish though, she kept sending the emails to assure me, that in spite of all the mistakes she had made, she did in fact love my sister and I deeply. She didn’t want her failure to be the end of the story.
It wasn’t until she decided to disobey my father’s orders and called me up shortly after my seventeenth birthday that she learned she had been sending her emails to the wrong address.
As she told me about the emails and the poor stranger who would write back each time with some configuration of “I am NOT your daughter” we both laughed. It was the first time either of us had done so in months.
Recovering one’s life after four years of emotional, psychological and physical abuse isn’t exactly funny stuff. But over the course of the past decade, as she has created miracles from the ashes that had become our lives, she has done so with laughter, with courage and with grace.
Tonight, as I read through the emails that she had inadvertently sent to the wrong recipient and later forwarded to me, I realized just how much courage sending those words must have taken her. How afraid she must have been that she would never speak to my sister or I again. But even in the face of our anger (and at times we could be fierce) my mother continued to put her love for us first.
Today, ten years after a cop car pulled up into the driveway of a B&B at 9:14 on a Wednesday in May, her life is whole, rich and she is truly free.
Today, my mother called me to tell me that she had published a report for the organization she works with and had failed to notice that the word “Count” had been spelled without the “O”. A month after it having been sent to numerous other agencies, she was notified by a client today. She didn’t call to tell me that she had failed as an editor; she called because she thought I would find it funny. And I did. But more than that, I realized as she relayed this foible of hers to me, that ten years later, my mother is still teaching me how to approach failure with laughter, with courage and with grace.