Wednesday, June 17, 2015
That's my mom up there. Isn't she beautiful? I'm ashamed to say that this is one of the few pictures I have of her, it's not entirely my fault, we share a deep abiding distrust of cameras. My mom and I.
She held my hand as we walked to kindergarten my first day. She told me later that she cried for a week afterwards. I was her baby, the last one. It hadn't been planned that way, but my brother Steven had been stillborn a year earlier, and so, the title of baby of the family remained with me. With all of its trappings and last ditch expectations. My mom is the baby of her family too.
Over-protective is too pale a term to use when describing Ruth Bohatch Hickey. The daughter of a mean alcoholic and an angelic mother, by mom's account, she came by it honestly. She once told of a night her mother and she hid in the woodshed because her dad was chasing them with an ax. Her oldest sister, Arvella, became an alcoholic and died at the age of 53. My mother always claimed that Arvella was the beauty of the family, at her funeral my mother insisted on a closed casket so people couldn't see what had become of her. I only met her once, years before her death, and I remember her as a hobbled, shadow person. Raven hair, bent over a cane, smiling tremulously at this strange tow-headed creature that was her niece. A few years ago, I thought I would end up that woman's legacy. The next generation of female alcoholic in the Bohatch family, gone too soon, leaving people scratching their heads wondering whatever happened to the bright little girl she'd once been.
But my mom had other plans for me, even though I chose to ignore them for 39 years. Even though I hadn't talked to her since her death when I was 27 and she was 57. Actually, I hadn't really talked to my mom for a over a decade before her death. Not since I'd fallen in love with her nemesis, booze, at the age of 14. That little tow-headed girl had disappeared down the rabbit hole and what had emerged was a surly teenager. A surly teenager with a drinking problem. Oh sure, my mom knew I drank, I pinballed off the hall wall outside her bedroom door too many times for her not to know it. But I'm sure she thought I'd outgrow it. We all did.
Then she died. And the secret weekend binge drinking that I successfully managed to hide from my mother burst out of the closet, danced across the floor and out the door for the whole world to see. Free at last. Free at last. Good Gawd Almighty, I was free at last!
But my mom did not give up that easily. Even after death I felt her disapproving eyes on my back. Her concern weighing down the bubbles of my inebriated life. So I drank more. And more. And more. And still she stayed. I left her name out of my litany of saint's names when I was calling out for help. But she was already there. When I was broken, she gathered me up.
Because see, she had decided years ago, another dead alcoholic female was not going to be her legacy. She deserved better things.
Last week, June 12, was her 83rd birthday. Happy Birthday Mom! June 15 was her and my dad's wedding anniversary. Thank you both for loving me! Yesterday was the anniversary of her death 29 years ago.
Thank you, Mom, for never leaving me.