I’ll be turning sixty in a few months, and I live in a van, on top of a mountain. Who does that?
For thirty years and more, I tried to press myself into the work-a-day world, struggling to make ends meet, and several times it drove me crazy. It made me angry. I don’t know how many times I threw some bags into the back of a car or a truck and drove off, to go “anywhere but here”. Once, I hitchhiked a hundred miles with just the clothes I was wearing. Under the pressure, I threw a coffee cup through the window, walked out the door, and stuck up my thumb. The stopper was always my kids.
Most of my life was spent in the absence of a mom. I knew what it felt like to wake up and find her gone. That was something I couldn’t do to my own children. So, every time, I’d turn around and go back home.
Now, what do you know? I must be a lot like her. Yes?
The difference was, she didn’t know that feeling. She only knew that she was overwhelmed trying to be something other than herself, and she had to get out. It took me a long time, decades, to get over it, and that was not an easy thing.
In time, though, we got to be good friends. We’d talk over coffee, about what was going on in our lives, what had gone one before, good times and bad. We shared stories and laughed, while her health got steadily worse. At some time, I realized that we’d gone beyond friendship. At some unrecognized moment, she had become my Mom.
It has only been in the past few years that I’ve come to understand why she did the things she did. With that understanding comes a certain amount of gratitude. She ensured that my children would never know that feeling of loss and insecurity. They would never have to wonder where I was and what my life was like. They would never know that anger, and the guilt it fosters.
Mom died on the Friday after Thanksgiving, last year. Since then, her birthday has passed. Mother’s Day, too. It felt odd to send no flowers and chocolate. They just came and went, like regular days. I pulled out the cup that I’d taken from her kitchen on that last day, filled it up and drank slowly.
Now, I feel as though I’m kind of following in her steps, although she never lived in a vehicle. (She was above that and would pitch a fit if she knew.) After so many years, I can go where I want and get to know myself, without thinking about the consequences. Those are mine alone, and that’s the way I want it.