Saturday, October 02, 2004

To Mom, from Steve

Dear Mom,

Ever since I found out you were sick, I've been thinking about the time when I was 10 and we went to the county fair together.

It was early September, and school had just started. I was sitting at the kitchen table, doing my homework, and Greg and Chris were off playing soccer with dad.

You came to me and said, "Steve, get your shoes on! We're going to the fair!" I kept thinking it was some kind of joke, that you didn't really want to go, or that it would start raining, or that you would pass out from drinking before we left.

But we did make it, and it was a beautiful day. We walked all around, riding the Music Express and that ride where it spins around at 100 miles an hour, the floor drops out, and you stick to the wall.

In those days, I pretty much ate everything that didn't have a pulse, but I had never tried fried dough, and I didn't want to. You told me that you had loved it ever since you were a little girl, and that you knew me, and you knew what I liked, and you knew I would enjoy it. Sure enough, I tried it and loved it. You convinced me to try something new, and you did it with a smile and lots of encouragement. I'll never forget that.

I remember coming home and being tired; a good, happy tired. I said, "Can we go somewhere else together soon?" and you said, "Of course, honey." But we never did.

That day is the last time I remember you being my mom and me being your son.

I could tick off a long list of reasons why you were a bad mother, and how you hurt me. But I tried screaming and swearing and being angry at you when you were alive, and it didn't help me. Now I'm going to try forgiving you.

I know you didn't ask to be forgiven. And I'm not doing it because it's the "right thing to do", or because I feel you deserve it. I'm doing it because I think that is what I need to do to feel better and move on with my life.

Do you remember the song "A Boy Named Sue"? It's the story of a man who leaves his wife and young son, and in order to toughen the boy up, the father names him Sue, figuring that people would give him a hard time about it, and he would have to learn to defend himself. And Sue grew up to be a mean, tough man.

That's kind of like how you and I were. You neglected and abused me, but I developed a thick skin. I learned how to control my emotions and not get upset over every little thing. Not much bothers me anymore, and I have a lot of grace under pressure, because I've been through so much.

Of course, that doesn't let you off the hook, mom. This wasn't a master plan on your part. Still, no matter what you did AFTER I was born, you were the one who made me, you were the one who gave me life, you were the one who carried me around for nine months and then went through the pain and agony of giving birth to me. Without you I would not be here, and I will always thank you for that.

Every beautiful song I hear, every delicious filet mignon I eat, every savory glass of wine I drink, every orange and purple sunset I watch with a sea breeze blowing in my face, would not have been possible without you. So I guess I owe a little part of every pleasure in my life to my mother. Thank you, mom.

I learned something from you. I learned how important it is to put my family first, to be the best father that I can be, if I ever have kids. I learned how badly things can go, and how many problems can result, if a parent isn't there. Again, you didn't know it, but you were helping me.

To me, "forgiveness" means forgetting. I am going to try to put all the pain and suffering that you caused me out of my mind and just be happy. I can think of a million reasons to be bitter, but why should I do that? You are gone, and you are never coming back. Why not remember you with a smile on my face? Why not remember you like a friend who led a bad life, then suddenly found her way? Where is the harm in that?

I hope to have a wife and a family someday, and wherever you are, I hope that your grandsons or granddaughters bring a smile to your face. I promise I will be the best dad I can possibly be, and I will love them, just like I love you, mom.

And every time I give them fried dough, I will think of you.

Your son,