Dear Mum…

5 year old meDear Mum,

Remember how you called me to the kitchen to say goodbye on that Sunday? Yes, that Sunday. I’m still haunted by the slits on your wrists and the two dark puddles pooled on the wooden floor of the kitchen. I was actually playing doctors-and-nurses with my nursery friends at the time, the game grandma had forbidden me to play by slapping me hard across the face a few weeks earlier. I remember thinking it was my fault; when I played that game, something horrible happened.

Honestly, what were you thinking? Perhaps, you weren’t ready to die and were clutching at straws. I’m glad you called me. I needed you alive. But for god’s sake, why did we never talk about what went on. I held my breath every time I saw a stack of tablets by your bedside. Or when you were late and came home drunk. As if you didn’t know that you’d be beaten up for that by your brothers, or worse, by your dad. I hated when you whimpered in the lobby and called in sick to work until the bruises cleared from your face. You plastered your face with bodyaga, that stinky gooey substance we always had in reserve.

All my childhood I feared you’d leave me behind. And eventually you did. Fortunately, alive. Not so fortunately for me, you moved to Latvia with your new husband. I cried for a year and a half that you were away, mostly at nights, because I didn’t want to offend your parents’ feelings. They were good to me (considering their parenting style), but they were not my parents. You left me behind with your mother, the same mother you ran away from…. And when you came back… Well, by then, I’d almost given up. I vowed to never trust that you’ll be by my side when I need you.

Wise move, because you didn’t stay long.

By the age of 18, I decided I didn’t care. I was old enough to be a mother myself now. You had two other kids from your second marriage. So, we didn’t need each other anymore. By then, I’d been judging you for years: why couldn’t you be like my classmates’ mums? Take Tarana. Her mum was a single mum, the only single mum I knew. She adored her daughter and dedicated her whole life to raising her. Why all you thought about was how to get the next husband, each one younger than the one before?

I don’t know what was worse: the fact that the last one was only five years older than me or that he stole my money. Oh, yes, the money. The money I hid in your flat. You denied it all. Yet, I noticed you were buying new clothes and a video player. I thought perhaps he got a job and finally was bringing some money in. Well, I was wrong. We never talk about that money anymore. It’s gone, just like him. I still can’t believe he died at the age of 35…. But back then, I gave you an ultimatum: it’s either my money back or he had to leave. When I found him in your flat again, I walked away. I didn’t look back. For five years. Of course I thought of you every day of those five years. I grieved you, and us, and love. I lived in hell. That relationship… I can write several books about it. Well, from what I gathered, you lived in hell too. Losing a flat and ending up on the streets with two young kids – is there anything worse than that could happen to a mother?

We are strong women though, aren’t we? You picked yourself up, rebuilt your life, and started serving other women. Women like us: those who are beaten up at home, those who are sold into trafficking, those who are helpless and broken. I saw you on tele and scribbled down your number on a napkin. When I called you after five years of absence… you didn’t recognise my voice. Why would you? I was a blast from the past.

I was grateful to have a mum again, so grateful that I think we made a silent pact to never talk about difficult subjects. We treasured each other, and that meant avoiding anything that could break that brittle peace. Life was almost normal: I had a job, bought a flat, brought grandma to live with me right around the corner from you. I didn’t want anything from you, but love. You had different ideas. You expected me to translate your projects and work for your organisation on top of having my two other jobs. When I said no, things started cooling down between us. I started finding black magic in my flat. Time and again I brought those old women to sniff the air out and find those objects in my pillow, under my mattress, buried in front of the flat….

A psychic told me it was you who was behind it. I didn’t want to believe him. But then what choice did I have? You failed me so many times in life. And now you were out to harm me. I couldn’t speak to you about it. I still don’t know who was behind it. So I did one thing I could.

I ran away.

Again.

I came to say goodbye for my own sake. I looked at you through your kitchen window, and my heart shattered in pieces. I couldn’t do it. It was easier to disappear. I hid away in England. By then, I was so good at hiding that you thought I was dead. My siblings found me on the internet. It was a torture to listen to their voice message on my office phone and keep a straight face. I was both glad and horrified to be found out. But when I got an e-mail from my sister inviting me to my brother’s wedding, I was torn. How could I walk in and walk out again? Once I was back, surely I’d be sucked into your dramas.

But I did it anyway.

I called grandma and arranged to come to your flat when you all were out. I opened your door and stood behind it dreading your reaction. Bracing myself for shouting, accusations and perhaps even a slap, I didn’t anticipate that your knees would buckle. I pulled you up and we embraced.

The wedding was a blur. There was no time to ask questions or have conversations. I posed for family photos, and walked around the hall as if I’d never left, knowing all too well that the day after I’d disappear again.

Another two years passed.

I got married and wanted to sell my flats. My husband and I came to visit. I forbade him to take his shoes off and sat on your sofa clutching my handbag. What if you slipped in some black magic to ruin one good thing that I finally had in life? The trip went well, and before too long I was back again. I even stayed the night in your flat. We shared the bed, while my sister slept on the sofa. I couldn’t sleep. Wide awake, I was waiting for you to get up and do something horrible. You slept all night long. I watched you breathing in your sleep, apparently peaceful and innocent.

And something gave way inside.

Perhaps it was all that inner work I’d been doing, but that iceberg between us had started to melt away.

It wasn’t too long after that when I called you and said I want to call you ‘mama’. Because even though all my life up until then, I had called you ‘baji’, sister, I wanted you to be my mum.

Oh, and I was wrong at 18. It turned out, we always need a mum. Do you know when I needed you the most? When I was giving birth to my son…. I’d have given anything to hear you in that moment. I couldn’t though. I thought you’d be worrying about me, and may even add to my stress by calling back and asking what’s going on. So, I just cried quietly imagining you holding me by my hand. I cried when I came home after the C-section and there was no one to care for me and my baby (apart from my exhausted husband). I was better prepared after the second birth, but I still cried returning home after another C-section with two young kids to care for….

All my life I ran away in the hope that you’d follow me.

Sadly, you didn’t know the rules of that game. And, it turns out, I didn’t know either.

But it doesn’t matter anymore.

I feel the urgency of time. I don’t want to wake up one day to realise that we’ve never spoken openly again. I don’t want to carry this burden inside any longer. I don’t want to write this after you die (not that you can read this anyway).

So the other night, I asked for your forgiveness. Tears streamed down my face faster than I could wipe them away and my nose was dripping with snot, but god did it feel good to say SORRY. It’s not the hardest word. It can be the best one.

I’m so sorry I’ve hurt you so many times in life. The fact I was hurt myself doesn’t justify my own cruelty. Of course there’s more to this story. And yet carrying it around hasn’t healed me or kept me safe from you. If anything, it made me vulnerable. And not in a good way.

I hope one day, we can sit together sipping strong Turkish coffee you make so well, and talk.

Openly.

61 thoughts on “Dear Mum…

  1. Dearest Gulara,
    What courage you have to share these memories, to come into the open with the shadows from your past. This is so touching and beautiful, I visualised everything in front of my eyes.
    I don’t know what to say…
    Many hugs from a friend, Solveig

    Liked by 2 people

      • Often people will write them down but won’t come into the open with them, I am impressed that you dared to share this “weakness”, I suppose that it is a sign of strength. If you need a hug, I am always there 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think it’s my way of reclaiming my voice. I’ve held down so many words in life, Solveig, that the only way of getting my ‘voice’ back is to actually say them out loud (a.k.a. on my blog :D) Thank you for a hug. Warmly received!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You are very courageous. It must have been very painful to put all this down on paper, but I think it was the right thing to do. The only way to move on from here is to get it out of your system…and to forgive. I hope with all my heart that sooner rather than later you will be able to have that talk. I don’t know if you know, but this month’s 1000Speak for Compassion theme is “Forgiveness”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Margaretha for your kind words of encouragement and support! 1000Speak theme is what’s behind this piece. Ever since I’ve seen the theme, I’ve been contemplating this post. I’m relieved it came through.

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  3. I’ve left you a long message in our Memoirabilia group on Facebook. Please check it out. But let me reinforce here how this hit me: it’s powerful in its utter rawness and honesty. It’s very sad in its specific details, but timeless in how it captures the distance between those who should be close, the story of so many people’s relationships. It has all the elements of a great memoir written as a story rather than as a reflective piece, as it is here. I hope you are writing the narrative memoir to which this is so suited. But writing such memoirs requires an objectivity that comes when wounds are healed enough to stay closed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your wise words of encouragement, Viga. As always, I appreciate your support. I read the FB message – I’m definitely up for participating in that way. I’ll be in touch soon. Many-many thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! Gulara what an emotional story. My heart truly goes out to you. You have done an excellent job of taking care of yourself and your children. I don’t know whether you and your mum were able to talk about your feelings. This is the part I’m sad about… not being able to work out the problems and my anger with my mom. Now all is in the past, and I have to let it go, but it is so hard. Plus, my life was not as bad as yours, but equally traumatic for me as a child.

    Yes, it helped me to write about my childhood hurt. I hope it has helped you to release your feelings. I TOO send Big Hugs your way. It is too bad we can’t sit down and share tea to talk about our past. Your children are lucky to have you as you know how to break the thread of the past!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words, Gwynn. It’s exactly why I’m letting this out now whilst it’s not too late. She is well, so there’s still a chance. And putting it out there helps me to release this energetically. Whether we actually have that conversation or not remains to be seen, but at least, I’ve voiced my side of the story. Thank you again for all your support!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. An incredibly powerful story, Gulara. As I read stories like yours, I wonder how on earth you were ever able to rise above your childhood. It’s a testament to your strength that you not only survived, but that you’ve been able to be successful, both personally and as a parent. It never ceases to amaze me, too, how cruel mothers can be, yet their children are still there, wanting and needing and loving them, prepared to forgive. Personally, I don’t think you’re the one who needs to apologise—I think your mother should be asking for your forgiveness! x

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, Louise, it’s such a relief to tell this story. It’s a relief not to hide, or make it ok, or find endless justifications. It’s a huge relief to say it just as it was without blaming or feeling a victim. If I were to wait for an apology… I don’t know whether it’d happen. So, I’m looking after my end of things. Thank you for your enormous support. I really appreciate our connection.x

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Gulara, I can’t say I know what this feels like. My mother’s never walked out on me and I’ve never walked out on her, but I have a sense of the pain. Even so, I learned really early just how short life is. I remind myself of it every single time I see her and it’s that reminder that pushes away all the hurt from the past. Because when it comes right down to it, no grudge or fear, is worth losing valuable time with a loved one. I think it’s AMAZING you looked for forgiveness and even more amazing that you had the courage to tell this story. I pray you get that day with your mother. You both deserve it.

    P.s. I totally just found a tiny smiley face at the very bottom of your blog and I’m pretty sure it just made my day. ^.^

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading and for your generous comment, Melanie. Life is short, indeed, and I’m finally waking up to a realisation that there may not be a second chance. No more delaying things. Time to dare greatly (that book is really having a big influence on me right now – I wrote about it a few days ago if you are wondering what I’m on about :))… Anyway, tomorrow is the day! Can’t wait for my post to go live 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Beautiful, raw and honest … I was swept away on a tide of empathy and gratitude … I am grateful there are stories such as this that remind me of my own humanity; grateful there are women such as you who remind me of the wisdom that comes with healing and letting go and forgiving. Thank you and may the universe provide you with more courage and resilience.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I felt my guts twisting as I re-read this Gulara. I think on the first read, I sped read, in part because I was rushing with other things, but also not wanting to accept these words of yours. So, here I am, a reader .. you’re the writer writing of yourself and your mother, your childhood and young adulthood and now as you are looking back. I almost want to blaspheme but rather I’ll say ‘holy hell’ .. or holy ‘s**t’.

    Like others, I’m affected by the rawness and honesty of your post and even though I feel the pain of it all only vicariously, I’m so inspired and encouraged by your courage in facing lost love from the past and bringing it out from its dark clouds and shadows. It will and does give us all the nudge or shove rather, to confront our own pain …

    Thank you, very very much. It is beautifully and graphically written. May the time come when you and your Mother embrace in loving kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, this one was a tough one. It’s interesting, one of my hesitations in publishing my work was that it’s too dark, too heavy, people will get traumatised just reading it… Yet, it’s changing somehow. The facts are the same, but as I heal, I am starting to see the light where before I saw only darkness. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, Susan. They mean the world to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I applaud the strength it must have taken you to both live through this and come through as you have and then write about it and come to the point that you have here where you can get to a point of forgiveness. I hope you do get the chance for that coffee and talk.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It’s hard to add words to your post, Gulura. Of course, I feel lots of strong emotions reading this letter to your mother. Daughter/mother relationship is complex. You certainly had a traumatic childhood and youth. I admire your raw honesty and your desire for a healthy relation between you and your mom. I hope it will happen some day. Best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a rocky story you have told here. It’s full of strength and resilience. It’s not easy, must not be easy, to write about this personal history for a topic like forgiveness, but you do it with integrity. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Gulara,your story wrapped around my heart and gripped me tight. You brought us right inside your heartache, your incredible journey of survival, as much as anyone can. I feel us holding your heart lovingly in our hands. I hope instead of the voodoo and so forth we can support your light and the healing that has and no doubt continues to take place.
    Being so ill and having young kids, I have thought a lot about the role of a mother in her child’s life and what it means to lose that. Even after all this time, it is difficult for me to grasp. My relationship with my own mother hasn’t been great but nothing like this and both my parents are still alive, although getting older. I am starting to appreciate they’re getting more fragile and it’s hard to see their strength dissipating. Mum is starting to get weak and losing her will a bit but my kids are with her and I hope they’re cheering her up. My daughter was having swimming races with Mum the other day, which gave me such hope.
    Love and more of Solveig’s hugs,
    Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, Rowena, my heart feels tender and filled with love reading your words. Thank you for holding it so gently and seeing my light. Having read your story today, I have so much respect and admiration towards you.
      It’s lovely your parents are here and your kids connect with them. It’s heart-warming to read about their swimming races 🙂
      Sending much love and big hug too!
      Gulara

      Like

    • Time heals, I guess. I don’t think it’d come out so objectively even a year or two ago. What also helped is that the piece wrote itself (or rather poured itself out). Thank you for reading. It feels incredibly liberating to share.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks you for sharing this Gulara – it’s so hard to understand how some mothers can be so incapable of mothering. Hopefully by telling the story you can completely bring yourself to forgive her, for being an appalling mother, and yourself for putting yourself (and your own well-being) ahead of her needs. And forgiving her, does;t necessarily mean that you can build a healthy relationship with her – it’s more about yourself & being able to move on.
    Good luck with the journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Telling my story has been incredibly healing. I’ve been writing a memoir about my childhood for the last few years and it’s been incredibly illuminating. I’ve stopped making excuses for her, but I definitely understand better why she was the way she was. And forgiveness is purely for me. I’ve poisoned my life with grudge and resentment for many years, and finally understand that none of it changed her or our circumstances, whereas forgiving her set me free. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Many blessings!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Wow! I’ve been putting off reading this until I had some time to really sit with it. I’m glad I did. This is really powerful and moving. It must have taken some courage.
    Mothers, parents, are just people, and it’s one of the most difficult things to learn and accept as their children. They sometimes cannot be the types of mothers or parents we want from them. That is hard and can take a lifetime to recover from. I know a bit about that.
    Sending you lots of love and hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading, Ula. I know exactly what you mean. Writing my memoir was immensely helpful in that respect because it helped me understand her better and see her flawed humanity. I feel at peace now. Thank you for your love and hugs – gratefully received.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading! I’ve heard people saying that forgiveness is for yourself, not necessarily for the other person, and I used to be sceptical about it. But it’s so true. As you say, compassion sets us free.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sad to hear that, Clare. My mother-in-law had dementia. It’s hard… Glad you still share hugs. I’m just waking up to the realisation of how special it is to have them with us – across distance, and sometimes memories.

      Like

  15. Pingback: The April Blogging from A to Z Challenge – THEME reveal | Dr Gulara Vincent

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