This is my mom. Not really. Really it’s Teri Garr who happens to look like she could be my doppelgänger and since I don’t have any good pics of my mom at the moment so this will have to do. Besides, since Nick Nolte was my imaginary dad, why not Teri Garr be my imaginary mom?
My mom was the middle of three sisters. Born to my grandfather who was a local judge and my grandmother who, as far as I know was a medical librarian. I didn’t get to know either of them well considering my grandfather died after I was born and my grandmother moved to San Francisco around the time I was 7. More on them later. From what I have been told, my mom was brilliant. She excelled in math. She and her sisters were dancers. She graduated from East High. It was the 60’s so you can imagine what was going on. Drugs. Drinking. The usual. My sister was born in 1969. I am not sure if my mom was married to her father or not. I just know that my sister’s relationship with her father was as nonexistent as mine. It seemed my mom had a knack for running men off.
My favorite times with my mom were at Hart Park. Years ago it had a water park, peddle boats, the water was clean and the craw daddy catching was good. The weekends there were filled with Harley’s and Budweiser cans. Mom hung with a “biker gang” which shall remain nameless. It’s not PC to call them a gang, now they are “motorcycle clubs.” Ha. Anywho. This is was the norm for me. Bikes. Beer. Tattoos. Oddly enough, it’s still the norm for me, except the bikes don’t have motors. If you know me, you know how true this is.
My mom was constantly trying to get sober. So in later years, I spent many hours at the local Alano Club or the meeting place at 106 Lincoln St that had egg crates on the ceiling, the room was filled with smoke, members served others by serving them coffee. I knew the Twelve Steps, even if I didn’t understand them. “It works if you work it.” “One day at a time.” The Lord’s Prayer. The Serenity Prayer. The time I kicked some grown man in the balls for whatever reason and he about knocked me on my ass. I could bat my cute little eyelashes and my mom’s friends would buy me cookies. They sold Merit cigarettes in the vending machine.
I don’t know how serious my mom was about her sobriety or if she was just serious about trying to find a boyfriend. They came and went. There was beer in the house for most of what I can remember. And if you recall, the night of the fire, I knew she could always be found at The Matchmaker- which was a bar. I remember walking in on my mom doing coke once. I was 7. How I knew it was coke, I have no clue.
When I was older, I learned that my mom had borderline personality disorder. Which is very similar to bipolar disorder but it can be changed with work. She never worked on it. She always had an ailment- sore neck, knees buckling, back going out, invisible seizures, bronchitis. Her house smelled of cats and cockroaches. She could grow plants out of avocado seeds. To this day I still can’t . I’ve tried and failed. She saved everything. Papers, used plastic containers, pictures, notebooks and they all were covered with cockroach shit.
This is how I remember my mom from my younger years. Don’t get me wrong, she was a looker. I don’t think she had trouble getting men. She just couldn’t keep them. One night, she was getting ready to go out. She must have been 36 or 37, she was wearing white pants and a white sweater, taking the hot rollers out of her hair. She must have been having a hard time with it because she told me “sometimes you just have to let your hair do what it wants.” That’s probably the best advise she ever gave me. Actually, many years later she would unknowingly give me the best advise that probably saved me much more pain and possibly my life.
Now that I’m grown, 39, just a few years older than she was when I got taken away, I have the ability to look back at her through adult eyes, through a mothers eyes. I am much more understanding of how she was. She just wasn’t made to be a mom. Some of us aren’t. Sometimes I’m not. But kids don’t see that. Our children think we should have our shit together because we are adults. But we don’t. We are just winging it. Making it up as we go. Faking it until we make it. Sometimes it finally falls together, sometimes it falls apart. Because of this, I have to extend grace to her, just like I hope my kids do me.