I thought today would be hard. It was hard last year, and the year before that. Now it almost feels like any other day.
Today would have been your forty-eighth birthday.
I find I don’t think about you often. It’s less avoidance than it is that I think I’ve found whatever peace there is to find when it comes to you—because the memory of you full of jagged and incongruous pieces that will never, ever form a cohesive anything.
You were an objectively terrible person. You were a homophobe and a bigot, a hypocrite and an addict. You were depressed and angry and sick, so you lashed out, trying to make everyone around you as miserable as you were. You were undeniably cruel and unbelievably petty. You were spiteful, manipulative, and malicious, unapologetic in your abuse.
You could have been called a “hero”. You fought for me as a child, against monsters and medicine and those who would do me harm deliberate or accidental. You survived a series of hells to try and find something better. You pushed yourself and achieved things that should never have been physically possible for you.
I will never know why you chose not to be a mother to me when you had the chance. I don’t know if it was the drugs or depression that broke your mind, if you fought until there was nothing left of you but a bitter shell, if your hatred of my queerness broke your heart, or if you simply gave up on me. I will never know the reason, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Whatever the cause, I am left with the same effect: the reality that you weren’t there for me when you had the chance. And it hurts less, not to have a mother because she’s dead than because she does not want me for a daughter. My life has changed, and in some ways—because nothing about life and death is easy or uncomplicated—for the better, because I am no longer haunted by the ghost of twisted maternal love that forced you to keep me close even as it tortured us both.
You are gone, and the rest of my life will be lived in the Post-Mom Era. I will never say that your treatment of me in the years before you died was acceptable, or justified, or understandable. It wasn’t. But the hell you put me through and the example you set made me strong enough to survive without you. To live, and love, and be happy without you.
I don’t know if you’re watching over me. I don’t know how I feel about the idea. Sometimes, I hope you are, because it means you did/do love me; other times I hope you are, so that you can see the way I’ve succeeded without and in spite of you; some days, I hope you’re staying so far the fuck away that prayers could never reach you, because you’ve done more than enough damage already; frequently, I think the whole concept of you watching me go about my (very gay) life like a movie-goer is just creepy.
But if there’s one thing your life and death and memory has taught me, it’s how to live with ambiguity.
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.