Turning back Time – part one

My post about Aaron cast my mother in a very negative light. My mom wasn’t a horrid person. I loved her very much. Looking back on our life though, I can’t say I agree with everything she did. I can say that I can empathisize with her however. I can also say that I have been faced with similar things in my life and my choices were different. Maybe because I saw what her choices did. I don’t know.

I remember watching my mom get ready to go out and thinking how beautiful and glamorous she was. I remember the way she smelled when she hugged me. Cover Girl and Emerade perfume and Noxzema. To this day if I smell her scent, I smile. And I refuse to use anything but Cover Girl foundation, and Noxzema myself now.

I am going to forewarn you, this is not an easy story for me to tell. As stated in my story about Aaron, my mother’s death was not something that I’ve ever fully come to terms with. Some of my close friends know the whole story, and some do not. Sometimes I’m okay telling it, sometimes I am not. It does not have a fairy tale ending. It’s rather sad, and is one of the only regrets I have in my life. I’m a firm believer that you should regret no one and nothing because it all has a reason for happening, everyone walks into and out of your life for a reason, and you go through the things you do to make you a better person. And while I did learn a very valuable lesson, there was a very high price for that lesson.

So here’s the story of my only regret.

My mom wanted to name me Ariel and praise the higher powers that she didn’t because just five years after my birth you know that The Little Mermaid made it’s Disney debut. I think there were other names played with, but my dad gave me my first name, and mom my middle name, after her mother’s own middle name. Louise is not a popular name even to this day, but you know that any time I refused peas, “eat your peas, Louise,” came out of her mouth. She was good for little sayings like that, random Mexican words when frustrated, and sarcasm. My mom was half Mexican but you would never know it save her very prominent cheekbones and bone structure. She was very pale complected with light brown hair that she dyed dark and beautiful green eyes. She was born blonde however, and lamented regularly over it turning darker, and took great pride in the fact that my own roots were blonde despite my dark hair. Why she dyed it darker when she wanted it lighter is beyond me.

She grew up with all boy siblings, and was very close to all if them. And she was a tomboy due to it as well. I remember her stories of how she broke both arms at the same time while climbing a tree and climbing up on the fridge and pouring pepper in the eyes of one of the boys while playing Tom and Jerry. So it’s no surprise that she had many male friends. She could hang with the best of them and was pretty, too.

I know that they grew up poor, and I know that she spent her time between Toledo and Adrian. My grandmother was Native American and Caucasian and my grandfather 100% Mexican, and at some point in her life they divorced. My grandmother married my grandfather’s brother, and my grandfather remarried as well. Talk about confusing for my brother and myself! We always referred to my grandmother’s husband as Uncle and it wasn’t until I was about ten that I was told or realized the fact that my step grandfather was also my great uncle. I also found out that they weren’t actually legally married until just before my grandmother’s passing.

I know mom was proud of her heritage however, constantly telling me that these white boys I kept messing with were nothing but trouble and I needed to find myself a nice Mexican boy instead. As I grow older and these white boys keep proving to be nothing but trouble, I half wonder if she wasn’t right.

She was also proud of her singing abilities and loved to skate as a teenager. She was in choir in school and was ecstatic when I opted to join the choir, as well. She could cook Mexican food like no other, and my fondest memories of her are in the kitchen, dancing and singing to Motown while something spicy simmered on the stove.

Mom never worked except for a short stint at an animal shelter, and she never drove, either. Her income came from the men she was with, and social security. First for my brother and then for herself. Once upon a time a person could get social security if they had alcoholism. When that got cut, she got it for a mood disorder. I have mixed feelings about it, but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself in the telling of this.

My mom was a kind and funny person. But the cards she was dealt were not wonderful. Where my empathy comes in is that some people can deal with a shit hand at life better than others. My mother was not one of them. Every time something bad happened, she became a worse person instead of better. I cannot hold this against her. Some people are just too soft for this world, and I firmly believe she was one of them.

Her rocky upbringing drove her into the arms of an abusive man, whom she married. She had a son with him, and he ended up taking the boy out west without her consent or knowledge, as she told it. She continued to date abusive men after their divorce, and somewhere along the lines lost twin babies between when my oldest brother was born and when she met my father and had Aaron and myself. My father and her had a volatile relationship, as well. I can’t speak for her past relationships, but abuse went both ways in the ones I witnessed myself.

My parents met in Toledo. My dad was running a liquor store and selling pot out of it – illegally and on the side, of course. My mom was told by a friend, and the rest is history, as they say. They were officially together for 7 years, but never married. They traveled to California together, where my dad worked as a nurse. They were born in the fifties, grew up in the sixties, and came to adulthood in the seventies. Drugs and alcohol were just a way of life, and so again, I cannot fault my mother, or my father for that matter, for the way they were.

I know one of my uncle’s stayed with them awhile out in California, and it was there where my mother found out her youngest brother had died a tragic death. So the story goes, mom tried to jump out of the vehicle my father was driving her back home in, she was so grief stricken. This was before Aaron and I came along, and she never fully recovered from his passing. He was a regular subject in our home growing up, and even though he passed before we were born I felt I knew him. There was a lot if controversy about his death – accidental, homicide, suicide. No one knew. He was found in a local river, and it was suspected he fell off of a bridge. Mom was anxious whenever we crossed one walking, and admonished us for getting too close, whether we were actually close or not.
My parents moved to a small town between where dad’s parents lived and my grandfather and his wife and my grandmother and my great uncle/step grandfather lived. They moved into an apartment building that was owned by my aunt, my father’s sister. Dad did maintenance I believe while also working, and maybe my mom cleaned, I’m not 100% sure. I also know that in between jobs dad watched after my brother and myself, my twin cousins, and their brother as well. We were all with in a couple years if each other, and dad claimed we were all in diapers at the same time. Doing the math it doesn’t seem very likely. The oldest was two years older than my brother, making him 4 years older than me. But it did make it seem like watching us all was this side of hell, which it probably was – all in diapers or not.

Anyway. Once again I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

So they moved into the apartment building and we came along. Aaron was born on Toledo, myself in Adrian. I don’t believe I was ever told the events that lead to Aaron coming into the world. In writing this I’m finding a lot of holes in my family history that I’m very curious about. If someone reading this can fill in the blanks for me someday, I would be very appreciative.

I do know that my mom was alone in this one street light town when she went into labor with me, and when she called for the ambulance she requested that they not use the siren so as not to scare my brother, and that they used the siren anyway. I know that while she was in labor, my dad and his brother sat down in the hospital parking lot drinking and having a good old time – mom told it and I later confirmed it with dad. She claims he did it of his own accord, and he claims she kicked him out of the room. I could see both stories being true, and I never knew who to believe.

Regardless of the way Aaron and I entered into the world, we both ended up with mom’s last name. Again, varying stories. Dad says she gave us her last name out of spite, mom says he wasn’t there to sign the birth certificates. And indeed his name is not on one, but it is on the other. It’s also been told that dad didn’t believe himself able to have kids due to farm life and being kicked one too many times. But looking at Aaron and myself there is no question that we are our parents children. So it’s also been said that he didn’t believe Aaron to be his initially. Again, I don’t know which story is accurate or if it’s a combination.

So we entered the picture, and my parents continued their volitale relationship. Another story has been told where my mother hit my dad over the head with a cast iron skillet, ambushing him as he walked into the apartment after a night of partying. Yet another story of dad walking miles to bring us Christmas presents and mom turning him away. And still another of how his every penny went to groceries and diapers every week when he got paid, despite them being seperated. There’s always multiple sides to a story and I don’t have all of them. Sometimes my dad was portrayed as a hero, others as the villain.

Facts are though, mom was a single mom from the time we were two and and four. And I know all too well how hard that life is. Aaron was newly diagnosed with autism, and I can’t imagine life was easy. Dad took off for Louisiana to work on the river boats at some point and mom was reliant on her family (so her story was told) to provide for us because she couldn’t work. The building burnt down and we were forced to stay with a friend of hers until she could save up enough money to get a place for us. That’s how we ended up in Adrian again, in a little house that mom tried very hard to make nice. I remember the first apartment very well, however, the place that burned down. I can tell you the exact layout despite my young age. I remember the instance of slamming Aaron’s toes in the window to try and keep him from climbing out on the roof, and I remember mom trying to get me to eat eggs which I depsised. I remember riding by mom on a small tricycle in the kitchen and her tripping over me and spilling hot gravy on me. I remember dad showing me my first double rainbow, too. I remember not being able to sleep and staying up watching Superman with mom, and this cat that liked to jump around on the furniture that slid down my nose, claws extended. I also remember driving by it and watching the roof cave in as fire consumed it, swallowing all of our belongings.

Somehow mom pulled off getting us into a small house in Adrian though, and got us all new furniture and clothes. For a woman who didn’t work, she was very resourceful. She moved the stuff herself as far as I can remember too. As I recall most of our belongings were in the front room and mom was left to place everything where it needed to go. She ripped off her big toe nail in the process and I remember that the only sanitizing agent we had was bleach. And do you know that tough as nails woman mixed a solution of bleach and water and stuck her foot in it so her foot wouldn’t get infected? I cringe just thinking about it, but I remember it and so I know it to be true. Physically, my mom was tough as hell. Mentally, I don’t think she was. All the bad was slowly building. She was drinking more and caring less. I also remember helping her home drunk at that young age, and it was in this house that I got my ass beat for the porch painting incident, despite not being the only guilty party. And by the way, the red paint had been bought so mom could paint the dining room floor. Why fire engine red, I can’t say. I do recall that she painted herself in a corner though, and had to wait for it to dry. I sat on the carpet and talked to her while she waited. My mother was also a smart person. She could answer every question on Jeopardy, but somehow literally painted herself into a corner. We all make mistakes, despite how smart we may or may not be.

For some reason we left that house and moved into a duplex. I remember the house very well, and the duplex only vaguely. We weren’t at the duplex long. Long enough for a man to catch Aaron in his vehicle and grab him by the arm, leaving welts. Mom called the police on the man, and while she was standing talking to them, a friend of hers crossed Aaron to the other side of the street to get us ice cream from an ice cream truck that happened to be driving by. I decided it was a good idea to bolt out into the street and ran into a moving vehicle, rolling over the hood and ending up with rocks embedded in my shoulder, elbow and knee. I remember looking up at the sky as I rolled over the hood of the vehicle and then as I was rolled into the ambulance on a stretcher.

After that is when shit got real rough with mom, real quick.

She met a guy and was madly in love with him. I remember her happy, hand making Aaron a ninja turtle costume. It wasn’t long after that when I started kindergarten. I came home one day to the neighbors from the house next door waiting for me. Mom was in the hospital. Through eaves dropping on whispered conversations I found out mom had OD’d, trying to commit suicide because this guy had broken up with her. She was in the hospital for a long time, and at some point child services sent police for Aaron and I, even though we were being cared for by these people. I remember kicking a police officer in the privates as he tried to take me under his arm to carry me out of the house. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I wanted to be home when mom got home because I knew she would have missed us.

We went for a brief stint into foster care, and we were soon home with mom again.

So, a quick look at the time line here to put things into perspective as to how quickly shit went down hill. I was four and a half, give or take a couple months, when the house burned down. Dad got custody of us when I was 6.

So. We got sent back home, and very soon after that mom decided to go out for the night. We lived in the duplex still and so she asked our neighbors sharing the duplex if she could leave us home to sleep and they pop in and check on us periodically. They agreed. Mind you this is how the story was told to me. My mother having just tried to attempt suicide, I can’t say for sure that this rendition is true. What I do know is this. Aaron and I weren’t sleeping. We had taken the couch cushions off of the sofa and were playing the ground is lava. We heard someone at the door and ran for bed, hoping we weren’t caught and in trouble. A man called our names, and it sounded like my dad, so I ran out into the living room.

It was a police officer. And we were taken to foster care again.

Strike two.

This time was for much longer, and we had supervised visitations with mom first at the courthouse, and then in the foster home. It was discovered that one of the boys in the home was molesting other children, and we were removed and sent back with mom.

I remember then going back to mom and us attending parenting classes, specifically the singing and dancing they made us do.

And mom met another man. A tall German man who was fun and goofy. He took us hunting for crawdad in the river, and tried to get me over my fear of heights by crossing trestles, but it was our secret because of mom’s anxiety about bridges and water. He taught me how to play spoons, and had family and friends who played the harmonica around bonfires. He built snowmen with us and we had snowball fights, and we went to the park and flew kites regularly. We were still under the protection of the state, my mom ordered to not drink, and had occasional visits from a caseworker at home and at school. But life was good. Mom was happy again. I remember singing along to Jimmy Buffet with them as mom cooked and he taught me how to wash dishes. And dad started coming around again, newly sober and now married himself. Life was looking up.

Mind you, the telling of this is kind of spotty because I was between the ages of four and six. During the time after mom regained custody, we lived in two places practically across the street from each other. One had a large play room, and I remember it was covered in toys. I have a vague memory of wanting to go outside and play and mom telling me that it was too cold. I came back with “but the suns shining!” And she replied, “looks can be deceiving.” This conversation has stuck with me my entire life. Looks can indeed be deceiving, with weather or in other areas of life.

I also remember trying to read a list mom had written and put on the fridge. I could make out the word “Christmas” but I was still learning how to read and mom had very fancy cursive. I always wished I would learn to write as beautifully as she did. Instead I got my father’s hand writing. Maybe it was because she was left handed that she wrote so well. In any case I couldn’t read that list. I remember collecting what I called roly poly’s as I called them, actually pill bugs I guess, and throwing them out the 3rd story window to see what would happen when they hit the ground – would they die? Would they just roll up like they did when you touched them? I remember mom giving me the lesson that this was a living creature that didn’t deserve to be mistreated, regardless of how unimportant it may seem.

I remember Christmas, when mom bought us matching Simpson pajamas that had glow in the dark designs on them, and that we were allowed to open them and only them on Christmas Eve. This is a tradition that I have brought into my life with my own children. And for our bedtime snack on cold winter nights mom made us buttered toast and hot chocolate. I remember being allowed to lay in bed and watch old tv shows before we were made to go to sleep – Get Smart and Mr. Ed and things from when mom was growing up. I remember Aaron reciting the commercials that aired during the programs word for word, and asking him to say it again. I remember being given this large stuffed elephant that I named Peterly after one of my moms friends who I loved dearly. Not everything during my early childhood with mom was bad. There was good, too.

And then another of my uncle’s passed away. And mom was drinking again, and her and the man started to fight. Knock down drag out fight at that. My mom sure was a force to be reckoned with, I will tell you that. I never saw him actually hit her, but I know it happened. But he never came out of the fight unscathed. He has a permanent scar on his forehead from first the mason jar mug she hit him with, and then the corner of a large square telephone. There was a time when he tried to smother her and my brother jumped on his back to try to pull him off. Yet another time he broke our bathroom sink as he had my mom bent over backwards over it, demanding that she clean the wound on his head. And dad disappeared again. I half wonder if this wasn’t my mom’s doing, but I was never told that she did. Very mysterious considering what followed, however.

The caseworker had come to visit me at school again, and mom had trained me to lie. She asked if mom was drinking and I said no. She asked if we were happy and I said yes. She asked about the man and I said all was good. But I was scared he was going to kill her. I was repeating kindergarten because I wasn’t emotionally ready for first grade due to all of the nonsense from the previous year, and in looking back and trying to remember these events I can see why. During a particularly bad fight between them I found a phone and called the police. It must have been reported to the caseworker because she visited me at school not long after her previous visit. And I didn’t lie. I spilled everything.

I had started to go to an after school program that was centered around dinosaurs, and I loved every minute of it. I knew all the names and we learned about archeologists and their jobs and that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. And then one day when I got home from the after school program, dad was there, and mom was crying. “You’re going to live with him!” She yelled at me. “Are you happy now?!” And then I was crying because I felt guilty and I didn’t want to leave my mom.

I remembered all of the good. The walks to school where we sang Carly Simon and Don McLean, waking up in the middle of the night and her sharing her food with me while we watched cartoons. I remembered coloring and how I was envious of her for being able to color so well. All of our stuff was packed up and loaded in my dad and new step mom’s van, and as we drove away I cried. I cried for the good, forgetting the bad and the hell Aaron and I had been forced to endure, how we were six and eight and could probably lie well enough to pass a polygraph. I forgot having to keep an eye out for Aaron while she partied. I just wanted to lay my head in my mother’s lap and for everything to be okay again.

There’s a lot more to tell, this is just the first six years (plus some back story) of life with my mom. I’m going to continue in another blog post, but it may be some time before I continue the story. This was a lot more painful for me than I expected. I lived this, and I’ve thought about these different instances at different points in my life. But I have never sat down and thought about the whole story. I cried a little while getting ready for work today, and I gave my boys some extra hugs and kisses today, too. My boys know love, but somehow today I didn’t feel I show them enough. I missed my mom long before her body left this earth. Today I’m feeling the loss of her in my bones.

Published by: A. Elizardo

Single mother to two amazing boys, sister to an inspiration, and the daughter of two opinionated, sarcastic, fun loving individuals that are no longer physically with us. Music, writing, reading, my family - living and gone - are what keep me going as I put on my rose colored glasses and navigate us through this crazy world.

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