A few weeks ago, Dania thanked me for sending her a series of thoughtful notes over the course of our several month relationships. I received her acknowledgments, which was a bit difficult; due to harsh criticisms from my father echoing in my memory. These memories moved me to share with Dania a story about my childhood. I’m not ashamed to share that my mom made my lunch until I was a senior in high school. I remember extending the folds of a familiar brown paper bag, always with “Love You Miss” etched on one side in my mother’s trademark hand writing. Inside, the consistent, comforting ingredients were found: a turkey sandwich on wheat, sliced carrots, fresh homemade cookies and Mission tortilla chips. Alongside those familiar items was always a handwritten note, penned with love and encouragement that offered support throughout my day.
Sparked by Dania’s appreciation for my affinity for note-writing; for the first time, I realized that my mother is probably the reason why I love to write notes. It’s in my DNA (scientific research still pending). Subconsciously my mother’s characteristics had once again left an unmistakable mark. Needless to say, my mother and I were very close.
You can imagine how much it hurt me when she sided with my father in his choice to disown me after I ended my collegiate softball career in my sophomore year of college. This instantly began a period from 2001-2010 that I’ve entitled, “The Dark Years”; a (roughly) nine year span in which I went without talking to either of my parents. During that time I reluctantly built my own family, from strangers and supportive figures. It was only by way of many trials and errors that I begrudgingly learned the life lessons that allowed me to form a foundation for my authentic self.
“The Dark Years” were illuminated by two very memorable occasions; once in 2006 and again in 2010. In 2006 I traveled across the desert, making the six hour drive from a small mountain town in Tollhouse, California, to my cousin’s house where I arrived shortly after 1 a.m., greeted by a temperature just above 100 degrees. The heat was suffocating. I constantly wondered what had brought me there.
The following day when I heard my mother’s distinct knock on the door, I hesitated, questioning whether or not to open it. When I opened the door, she immediately began her very familiar probing; asking questions about my life, as if she hadn’t been the one that had removed herself from it. She shared details of her recent excursion; to visit my aunt.
All was pleasant, until I addressed the gigantic elephant in the room, my father. (The Wright’s have mastered an unparalleled art of speaking an entire conversation with hidden meanings to every word. When I asked where he was, what I meant was, “Why hadn’t my father made the five minute car ride over to my cousin’s house to see the daughter that he hadn’t spoken to in almost a decade?”
My mother answered, “He loves you, he just doesn’t like you right now”, meaning he had allowed his pride to prevent reconciliation. Our conversation quickly ended only an hour after my mother had arrived. I left, unresolved, a couple days after that.
In 2010, during my second attempt to visit my parents, I had gone through the emotional processing that I needed to, and I was a new woman. I was lying on the couch one day and without deliberate forethought, dialed a number. After a few rings there was the rugged voice of my father on the other end. Our conversation led to planning a trip to visit both my mother and my father. This time, I invited my friend Jodi to accompany me and we set off a few months later. I was hopeful that this trip would produce a more positive outcome than the last.
I drove to their house, heart palpitating the entire way. My mom answered the door and I distinctly remember the first words out of her mouth “Have you gained weight?” Part of me wanted to blurt out, “OF COURSE I’VE GAINED WEIGHT, IT’S BEEN YEARS SINCE YOU’VE SEEN ME”, but I let that one go.
Unexpectedly the lunch dialogue was seamless and light-hearted. My plan of bringing Jodi along to support me, and distract them, worked brilliantly as most of the time was spent questioning her. I left Nevada feeling optimistic at the possibility of rebuilding a relationship with my parents.
Then, eight months of silence – without contact from my parents.
I’m not sure why, but one morning my heart was heavy as I got out of bed; I was filled with an indefinable anger. More accurately, I was enraged at the fact that I had made the first step, twice to reestablish a connection with my parents yet they were, ultimately, disinterested. I dialed their number, not knowing what I was going to say.
When my mother answered the phone, I spoke succinctly. I was hurt and tired of trying. In their absence I had transformed into a woman. I didn’t need or want their influence in my life anymore. I felt complete without it. I was not interested in any further communication. I was done.
Last month I turned 31. Between you and me, quite inexplicably, I waited all day for my mother’s familiar yet infrequently witnessed number to flash across my cell phone screen. The anxiously anticipated call came the next day. In a tone that transmitted pain, my mother left a voicemail message promising to send a detailed letter that would explain everything. My heart raced in anticipation. What could she possibly say to explain the fragile situation in which we found ourselves?
Now here I am holding the letter that my mother wrote to me a few weeks ago…unopened.