In spite of telling myself that I wouldn’t feel guilty about writing that last post, I do.
Not because I feel that I betrayed my mother by airing her dirty laundry. I don’t. And in this search for my family’s stories, I want to be honest about who we were. But I know some people will judge. Some will judge me for making light of a serious situation, but I don’t care about that. I admit that I use humor in uncomfortable situations. But, really, I think the story is a funny one.
What does matter is that some people will judge my mother for her parenting skills, and my family for how we lived. And that’s not right.
My mother was a loving, hard-working woman, in a new country and trying to learn how to make her way in the world, just like anyone else. Sometimes she was dramatic and did crazy things, but she was a wonderful parent. Yes, she fought fiercely, but she loved us just as intensely. And, regardless of what I may have made fun in the past (and what I will make fun of in the future), I loved her just as much. I didn’t realize how much until I lost her.
My brother was a quiet, gentle, deep-thinking person who used alcohol and drugs to self-medicate what was later diagnosed as schizophrenia. We weren’t best buds because we were so far apart in age, but we understood each other in our own way and shared a bond.
And then there’s Scotty, the patriarch, who I’ve yet to mention except in passing. (Eventually I will.) He was the most screwed up of us all back then, but even he loved us as much as he was able. And, over the years, I’ve forgiven him for being such a shitty father — as much as I am able.
Sure, my family had its issues, but what family doesn’t? There was a lot of drama when I was younger, but there was a lot of laughter, goofiness and love, too. I don’t think we were any better or worse than any other family. Weirder at times, maybe, but not any worse.
In the end, all any of us can do is our best and learn from our mistakes. And I think my mother did that a hell of a lot better than many: The “crazy Jamaican” woman that she was in the 1960s and 70s definitely became a kinder, gentler, more Americanized version of herself in later years. If that isn’t adapting to your surroundings, I don’t know what is.
So, I urge you: If you decide to go on this journey with me, don’t judge the ones that are gone too harshly. I would much rather have this be about telling the true stories than painting a flowery picture of what I sometimes wished growing up had been like.