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She was never sober after I was four years old..

I asked her for a birthday party for my 7th birthday.
Afterwards, I asked her if she could be sober
For the next one.

There were no more birthday parties.
Instead, my birthday was skipped most years.

The first year I wept as I told them they forgot
The day after my birthday.
The following year I cried as I told them
Three days after my birthday.
The next year, I didn’t cry and I didn’t tell them.
They never noticed.

I thought she drank because of her Reynaud’s disease,
Or her migraines, or her nerves,
Later, working in the field, I thought it an illness.
That she couldn’t help herself.
I asked her if she wanted to stop drinking when she was 50—
But she told me it was too late.

It killed her, but she knew it would.

The truth is—she enjoyed drinking—every drop.
But now, decades later, I know she enjoyed it.
She kept it up until the hour she died.
At first, she liked the clink of ice cubes.
Later, they took up too much room.

Outside the house, in bars and restaurants, , she got giddy.
But later, even smiling, she could be unbearably cruel.
She called me “stupid” at every dinner party.
She thought we all would be better off if I took my own life.
She thought she was being witty.

Yet, she was deeply hurt when I changed my name,
Changed my phone number and moved, without telling her
The address.

When she was dying, I visited her—the only one of her children.
I told her I forgave her. She had no idea of what I was talking about.
She enjoyed every drink and every cruelty.
She flouted every decency of parenthood and got away with it.

Her husband was too passive to stop her.
He didn’t want to be bothered.
He hid behind the newspaper, in front of the television set.
He rarely spoke about her drinking, even when she was falling down.
“She’s unsteady on her feet,” he said, as if that explained it.

She thought there were no consequences for the addictions
To alcohol and dozens of pills.
No consequences for adultery, just denial—a turning aside.
To act poorly was acceptable.
To mention it was the highest degree of coarseness.
She even thought dying was a lark,

That Jesus forgave her everything.
Maybe He did, but he did say that before you hurt a child
You should tie a millstone around your neck and drown yourself.

She couldn’t swim, or drive, or work, or cook or clean.
She could drink and trade stocks, flirting with the stockbroker
That churned their accounts and took most of their savings.

She could tap her red nails against the department store credit cards,
And buy perfume, cosmetics and shoes.

She had drawers stuffed with items she never used.
One dresser was filled, top to bottom with pills.
She got whatever she wanted,
In exchange for letting the doctor fuck her.

She saw nothing wrong with any of it,
She taught me how to put on mascara and lipstick.
Too bad I wasn’t a drag queen.
I had the graduate course in childhood.

But nothing was wrong with any of it.
She was horrified when I turned out gay,
Exclaiming, “That isn’t what I meant.”
She had nothing to do with it.
That might have been true.
But the acting out and the incest
(I’ll spare you the details),
Didn’t make me feel good about sex with another woman
After her, and after I got sober,
I never made love to another woman.

My friend, Anita, a psychiatrist was visiting the city
Where they were living.
I asked if she wanted to meet them.
“Why would I? They aren’t very nice to you.”

I was surprised.

But the truth was—they could have stopped it.
They could have held their tongue,
They could have believed in a God that loved children.
They could have paid attention to things that parents aren’t supposed to do with children.
But they ignored all that.

Once I begged God,
“If they are in Heaven, send me to hell.”
God answered huffily, “What makes you think they are in heaven.”

Mommy enjoyed every drink, every pill, every cruelty.

She’s dead 32 years.
And it isn’t long enough.

Jason Reynolds
Tuesday, October 09, 2012

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