This is for you Mom:
I will resume the usual “The Losing Side” Blog in a few days with “My Big Wake-Up Call” but first want to pay tribute to my Mother, Carol Ivester Coleman Bates 5-27-1944 to 9-12-2011.
I was sitting at home with my wonderful husband Paul on an otherwise normal Monday night when a message popped up on my Facebook from Diana, my sister (step, but we have decided since then to drop that silly little word), she wanted my phone number and wanted to call me. Having just had a surprise call from my dear friend Nickye a few Friday’s before (2 hours on the phone, wouldn’t have had it any other way!) and getting a self-esteem pep-talk from Nickye, I welcomed talking to Diana! I did not give it a 2nd thought. The conversation started out ‘normal’. A few questions and answers exchanged and then; “I have some bad news: your Mom passed away today. I don’t know a lot of details. I know she was at home and Dad found her……….”. I could feel my throat almost close. It tensed up. I couldn’t speak. Tears wailed out of me. Words failed me. It was as if I was purging sounds, of sorts, words and tears. Purging; purging a lot of tears. Paul looked equally concerned and puzzled. I looked at him, held my arm stiff, straight out. He took the phone. I went to the kitchen sink and hung over it and finally let all the tears wail out of me. Sobs. Sobs and sobs and sobs of tears flowing like a river. Then I collapsed to the ground on my knees. I couldn’t picture my beautiful, always picture perfect mother…. dead. It had been over 10 years for all of us kids… the 3 of us, my brother, sister and me since we had talked to them. I am ONLY going to say this ONCE. And I am going to state it in a way of fact with dignity the same dignity any other disease; diabetes, heart disease, Parkinsons, etc. would be given. My mother was an alcoholic. My step father has been clean and sober for over 20 years. He tried his hardest to get her to stop. She had a disease and the ONLY….. again the ONLY reason I removed myself is I could not bear to be around the addiction. It was toxic to me. It was NEVER to ‘punish her’. It was survival. I told her the day she decided to get clean and sober, I would be her biggest fan! I am leaving that at that. Out of respect to my Mom and ESPECIALLY my wonderful step-Dad, Tom, who is such a trooper and did his very best to take care of her, the details will remain private about cause of death, etc. But she went peacefully, on her terms and Tom took such good care of her and they had 30+ years of marriage and friendship. As my sister Diana said when she read (at the memorial) a letter my Mom had written to him so many years ago, if we all have a love like this in our lifetime, we are so blessed. What I am now going to focus on are the positive things about my Mom; not to be a hypocrite, but because it is and has been what I choose to remember. We can choose to hold grudges and not forgive. One of my favorites is, “I have forgiven you but I will never forget”. Watch out because I am going to use a curse word here…. what a load of BULLSHIT! Give me a break! That is the biggest bag of bull manure you can ever say….. that is like Jesus saying “Forgive them (but don’t forget!!!!) for they know not what they do”. That passage in the Bible, had it read that way, and I MEAN NO DISRESPECT, just trying to really make a point here, would have had such a DIFFERENT outcome and Easter such a different feel, meaning, etc. You either forgive someone or you don’t. It is that simple. I forgave my Mom a long time ago, I just could not be around the addiction. It was that simple. It was ‘self-preservation’.
The Mom I will remember: The beautiful black haired beauty that had this pudgy 3rd grader feeling awkward when all the kids said, “Kelli, your Mom is so pretty”. Kinda like the pudgy little Juanita on “Desperate Housewives”, I was the pudgy roly poly kid, with the beautiful mother who lit up a room. And the birthday parties! Mom threw the best parties. No, she did not hire the circus or clowns (like my daughter Sarah, they creep me out anyway….. who thinks clowns are cool?), but what she DID do was think of the coolest things like tying apples to the clothes line and us kids, arms behind our backs, having to take as many bites out of the apples as we could. The kid who took the most bites was the winner. At age 9 was my 1st slumber party and with Donny Osmond being my crush, we all sang “Puppy Love” into my Dad’s little black tape recorder to the 45 recording at the tops of our lungs. We go-go danced to our hearts delight. I still remember that slumber party like it was yesterday.
The Mom I am going to remember spent an entire weekend sewing itty bitty Barbie clothes. An entire wardrobe, in fact! I loved my Barbies! They were my favorite thing to play with. So when my Girl Scout Troup went to Avila Beach to get our Camping Badge (and I threw up in the back seat of my dear friend Sheila’s Mom’s back seat on the way home with a migraine headache), my Mom spent that weekend sewing these little clothes. I can’t hardly do a straight hem without going nuts, so I have no idea how she made all these little clothes! She even made a bridal dress complete with the train and head dress. She put little sequins on many of them. I am stressing just thinking about it! I think she gave these to me on my birthday and I still have many of these tucked away in my cedar chest.
My Mom is the one who caved and took me in to let me get my hair cut like “The Bay City Rollers” when I went through that phase (Lord, have mercy!) *Laugh, Laugh……..LAUGH!!!!!*. AND, her and my step-Dad Tom drove my friend Karen and me to Anaheim to see the Rollers LIVE AND IN CONCERT!!!!! And I know my favorite Roller Eric saw my Tartan Scarf with the words, “Do It To Me Eric!” because lead singer Leslie pointed up my way and right at me and Eric looked straight my way with his dreamy blue eyes…. oh, this 13 year olds dream come true!
Things got tough as the years progressed and the addiction got worse, but her heart was *always* in the right place, and that is what I continue to remind myself. As difficult as it was, at times, to go over for holidays, etc and hear that cork pop, smell that wine and hear the familiar slur, I did not want to deprived my Mom of a relationship with her granddaughters and vice versa. Again, her heart was always in the right place. When the things deteriorated to the point to where I could not handle the addiction and therefore could not sustain a relationship, I continued to send pictures and updates of the girls. I will probably be in therapy for the rest of my life to sort these things out, HOWEVER, I want this made very clear. I am not getting caught in this ‘victim syndrome’ BS, ‘if my Mom hadn’t did this/ if my daddy had done that/ if I had not broke my finger in 5th grade, etc. ‘ bullshit! No…… I am a grown woman fully in charge of my life and my only regret is that I let the wrong people bully my self-esteem for so long.
As I work each day to gain control of my self-esteem I am now proud of the person I am. Not only have I been told by others that I am a good person, but I truly like the person I am. My motto is to strive everyday to better my life for God and those I love and I (this part is added), those who love me in return. If you love someone and you go to them in a humble manner and say, “What can I do? I want to be my best for you.” Wow! What I would have given to hear that from my Mom. However, it did not touch my love for my Mom or the understanding that she had a disease and in the end she chose her course of treatment, which, for her, was to not get treatment. What I have also learned and truly believe, if you can’t accept a humble acceptance of humanity; aka imperfection, mistakes and a true, genuine desire to better yourself, then you are a pretentious hypocrite and have no business judging anyone (not that anyone has the right to judge anyway).
With my mothers passing, there were many positives I will cling to. My family, as in the Bates, reunited and re-bonded in a way I never imagined. The step word was dropped from sister and brother. That will go down as one of the proudest moments in my life! I am no longer an ‘only’ child. I have a parent, actually two, counting Uncle David (who is like a 2nd Father to me!), who, by the way, is DOING MAGNIFICENT!!!! BETTER THAN EVER!!! (WOO HOO UNCLE DAVID, YOU GO!!!!!!) I have an obligation to help care for Tom and even though I am far away in Virginia, I am not going to just drop the ball on my brother and sister. I might not be able to do much, but I will do what I can, because Tom did so much for my Mom and he did his best.
In the end, my Mom died the way she lived, on her terms. She was bull-headed. However, she knew good and well what the consequences were of not seeking medical attention.
So for the Mom that taught me to fight for what I believe in, to be kind to others, to be the total girly girl I am, to be just a bit cheeky at times 😉 ….. just a bit, to never stop learning and never let my knowledge stop expanding and yes (this is for my hubby) where I get 1/2 of my stubbornness…. to stick my heels in the dirt…… this one is to you Carol! There was no one quite like you! So Godspeed Mom! You WERE and ALWAYS WILL BE LOVED! I hope you have found that peace you were searching for. Until someday, down that long journey, we meet again across the river, I love you!!!!!! Your daughter, Kelli Lynn xxoo