With the days going by too fast, you can reach me on Insta @motherlesswriter and (for now) Twitter @DanielleASigne. Email: email@example.com
I never used to hate my mom. 37 years later, I finally forgive my mom for leaving. Every time she got sick and had to go away, she came back. The last time, mom never came back home. That was when my childhood ended. I was 10 years old.
From the first slap and the first verbal assault from him, my anger grew in the pit of my soul. For years I began to believe it was my fault that she left. He blamed me for anything and everything. He would hold me responsible for things when I wasn’t even there. I turned to food to try and numb the pain. I turned to books to escape reality. Many times, I wished it was him who died, and not her. Often, I thought about joining her. He remarried two years after my mom died. My life became so wrong. I only spoke when needed to.
Then my life was going to change again. I broke down during high school acting class and told my truth to my teacher. A few months later, dad and stepmom sent me to a psychologist. When the doctor stated that whatever I said to him was only between us by law, I spilled the six years of pain and grief that I endured in silence. After the psychologist confirmed my age, he delivered a big surprise like a magic wand… I legally didn’t have to live at home. The darkness dissolved away and I got to be behind the wheel of my life for the first time.
Fairy dust landed on me with one phone call. My mom’s best friend, and my Godmother, offered a place of solace. My childhood was able to begin again. Yet, the pain of the life I was cheated out of lingered for years. Mother’s Day, her Birthday, and her death anniversary were the hardest days to get through.
Then, I became a mom. I had always recognized the mums in my life before, but it hurt. When I had my first Mother’s Day while I was pregnant, I was working. Despite feeling being displaced, I felt more like a fraud. I never planned to be a mom. I only had her parenting lessons for the first ten years of my life. All of my past baggage was forgotten when I gave birth to the sun in my universe. When we brought our baby home, we had no clue what to do. No grandmother to tell us how to do this parenting thing. We just winged it.
Once we found our footing, we had another baby. Surprise. I felt flooded in the world that other people wanted to be in. I desperately needed my mom to guide me. What did I do to be abused by a parent that should have been protecting me? Why did the one parent that loved me leave me?
When my kids were babies, I used to write stories of our oldest cat. When my youngest was eight months, I began to write about being motherless. The grief lessened by connecting to others who understood. My articles and blogs began to be published, it was a haven for a deep wound. Something amazing began to happen, readers sent me emails, DM‘s, and personal messages. I stumbled into worldwide grief. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so alone or isolated.
My children carry a part of my mom’s name. When I watch them sleep, I can’t help wonder that if my mom were alive, would my miracle babies be here? I know it’s not her fault. I know I need to focus on my own health. As I write this, it has been two months since I went through colon surgery, and a Stage Two tumour was removed. Thankfully, they got it all out during the surgery. I joined the Cancer Club. This time.
For once having a crappy family history made me a medical priority. I will always be grateful for my Rockstar medical team. I am still here to watch my children grow up. My mom never got that chance. I will not take that for granted.
I’m so sorry, mom.
I forgive you, and I forgive myself.
I pour a second cup of coffee and turn around to lean on the kitchen sink to observe the kitchen and living room. The destruction of Christmas is evident on every surface possible. The smell of the overnight breakfast casserole cooking is making me drool. I am so relieved to have prepped it last night. The dish is tradition now.
It is 10:30 am on Christmas morning. We are all still in our PJs and will remain in them all day. We wouldn’t have it any other way. A few years ago, I was very ill. I had no Christmas spirit in me at all. So, hubby and I took Christmas Day off. Off from the crazy running around to visit people. Off from having people over, which meant off from cooking and cleaning and no fun for us. Even thinking about it exhausted me. We agreed to less gift giving as well. We did our phone calls to love ones. The four of us played games, enjoyed our presents, watched movies ,and ate. As we devoured the meal we prepped, our oldest exclaimed it was so much fun and can we do Christmas in our PJs again! Our tradition was born.
My hubby and I grew up with Christmases being loud and crowded with family coming and going. Sometimes we would spend most of the day in the car going from house to house. For my sister and I, we often had to be up and dressed to get out the door early to get to one Grandparents house, then the next.
I was ten years old when I spent my last Christmas with Mom. There was a big gathering at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. She was tired, but got her wig and clothes on just right. My Dad and uncles helped her into the house with her walker. She couldn’t move without it. My Mom’s youngest sister even came for the day from her group home. I remember hearing the cameras click constantly. I didn’t realize how precious that day had become when she died 8 months later. I don’t remember the sadness that lingered behind my aunts’ smiles. I don’t remember my grandma asking for one more kiss as we left that day. I remember the laughs, the songs, and my mom’s bright smile. Since that Christmas, every other one dimmed in comparison. And the pain of missing my mom comes back every year.
As I grew older, I had a career in retail. For my one day off from the chaos of Christmas, it was never a day off. My hubby and I would spend Christmas Day going from one family’s house to the next After becoming parents and parenting a child with extra needs, it was bone-exhausting to travel. So, we would host at our house for anyone needing a place to go to for Christmas. The prep and cooking would take a full week beforehand. It was a lot of work.
Then, I said no to it all. And I have never looked back.
We visit with others on days around Christmas. We might entertain a few people, but not for a meal. We downsized the gifts we give to each other. We have too much stuff as it is. We find a few places to donate instead. I loved the shift of doing what we felt obligated to do and doing what we wanted to do. It became more about spending time together. We eventually would take quick showers after the kitchen was cleaned up and climb into fresh pajamas for the remainder of the day.
The year is busy enough as it is. Putting the world on pause and enjoying each other at home is the perfect gift. You never know when it will be the last Christmas.
“ It was pre-cancerous.”
The words just said by the doctor hang in the air within a cartoon bubble. I watch his mouth keep moving. However, his words are on mute to my ears.
When I finally tune in again, I realize he is talking in a serious doctor tone explaining that I will have to remove gluten from my diet. After years of medical treatments, yo-yo weight swings, surgeries and medications, I have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
I nod and took the papers he handed me. Somehow I got back to my car and buckled myself in. To say it is surreal isn’t the right word. I grab my phone to call my husband. I had promised to call when I was done. He answers on the first ring.
I stutter out the words before I realize what I am saying.
“ They caught pre-cancer.”
With the words out, I begin to cry. I babble out the words the doctor said about me having Celiac Disease, and I have to change what I eat.
The relief washes over me like a consistent tidal wave. Years of fighting with my thyroid and losing it, the weight never came off. My endo sent me for blood work, which came back positive for the disease. She then sent me to the gastro specialist who then sent me for more tests, including a colonoscopy. A procedure that was originally scheduled in 3 months time. The doc got me in sooner. I am forever grateful that he did.
We could of had a chemotherapy conversation, instead of what I can and can’t eat anymore. I was so close to history repeating itself as I was 10 when my mom died, the age of my oldest daughter now.
Cancer is all over my family history. I am the only one in my immediate family circle that hasn’t had it. AND I ALMOST HAD IT.
I meet my husband for a celebratory ‘last gluten meal’. The shock slowly wears off as perspective sinks in. I am grateful for having such a strong medical team. I am still here. I am older than my mom got to live and I don’t take that lightly.
As I break the news to friends and family, I get the pity noises. I can’t understand why changing what I eat is a bad thing? It could have been worse, I could have died from the silent killer.
I dive into what I can put on my plate. Sure, I grieve over the fast food I no longer can have anymore, but it was bad for me. It almost killed me. I didn’t lose weight quickly, but I began to love my body again. I started to feel taller. I began to not crave the junk food, but craved popcorn and avocados! My kids and husband commented how happier I seem.
Knowing what was hurting my body felt so empowering and I welcomed the solace the diagnosis gave me. My mom couldn’t change the fact that cancer took her from us. I can change what is on my plate to be here for my family. I will take that gratitude and never let it go.
My nine-year-old daughter just put me through an interview. She asked questions about my favorite movies and favorite foods. I was delighted to answer every question. Her curiosity shows off her brilliant mind.
I only knew my mom for ten years. Without a doubt, I know what I would ask her today.
Mom, here are five questions I will ask you in an interview:
- Besides being a teacher, what else did you want to be?
- Did you want to be a mom?
- How was my birth, really?
- What were you trying to tell me on the day you died?
- How am I doing as a mom for your grandchildren?
I know it will be many years before I can hear your answers. I feel like I know some of them already based on how much you love me.
What would you ask your loved one in an interview? Ask them anything.
It is 2018. Many fellow Canadians are opting to not travel to the United States because of the current political climate. I can’t help to think of the American experience we had in 2013. It was the first Family Day here in my province. And we had to leave our country for the day.
My husband rolled down his window as the car drove up. I handed all of our IDs to him, fanned out to be make easier for the border guard.
“What is your purpose for entering the United States today?” he asked.
After a long night planning to make sure we had everything, and the extra bag for our kiddo with special needs, I couldn’t believe how we made good time to get to the border. I wished it were for a better reason.
“To attend my wife’s uncle’s funeral.” My husband replied.
The guards looked at all of us dressed in our formal wear in the early hours of a Monday morning. He glanced briefly at each of our pieces of identification. As he handed them back , he informed us that we only needed one piece of id per person to cross the border by car.
“I’m sorry for your loss. Hope the next visit will be for better reasons.” He concluded
We thanked him and drove away. I was so grateful that there weren’t no issues. We were early by the time we got near the church, so we stopped at the local Starbucks. We could stretch our legs and snack up. I lined up to place our drink orders as hubby spread out snacks from home for the kids.
I got to the counter and told the barista our order. She asked what we were doing today since we were all dressed up. I told her. Her face fell.
“I am so sorry for your loss. The coffees are on us today.”
I couldn’t reply, the tears bubbled in my throat. I was overwhelmed by the kindness we were shown from strangers. It is only 10:30am!
We arrived at the church with ten minutes to spare. My husband stayed with our youngest because she likes to roam. Our older daughter joined me to honor my uncle. She wrote in my notebook as we sat near his casket. At the reception, many people from my aunt and uncle’s church community had come up to me and complimented how my oldest had behaved during the service. It amazed me how much kindness could surround grief.
As the reception wound down, it was announced where the vehicle procession to his final resting place would begin. We joined the line in the adjacent parking lot, and was the last car. As the cars started their engines, we did too. A State Patrol man on a motorcycle had fallen in behind us with its lights blazing. As we proceeded through the streets and ran red lights with the escort, I was awestruck at how many cars pulled to the side, and some pedestrians took off their hats and put their hands to their hearts. They didn’t even know my uncle, yet they showed their respect to our grief. He wasn’t a celebrity and was important to so many that loved him.
I have been to multiple funerals here in Canada. We never had the support of the RCMP to make sure all those mourners could make it to the gravesite. Nor were those who passed on treated by passerby with such dignity like we had seen for my uncle.
It has been 4 years since that day. While it was sad for our family, it also showed how grief has no borders. We were treated without judgment or prejudice because of where we were. We were treated with kindness and empathy. From the border guard, to the police officer escort to the cemetery, we felt enveloped in the kindness that is America.
Like a sunrise I didn’t know I needed,
you marched into our life to make your claim.
Your silent words I should have heeded,
delays past milestones, red-flags everywhere.
Your eyes expressed when words failed.
The simplest thing could trigger a storm.
I pulled every trick I could until you sailed
back to the moment, back to me.
As my heart aches, helpless to you.
You wrap your arms around my neck
Thaws my winter chill, I feel anew
Ready once again, to chase your seasons.
You can’t edit a blank page, just like you can’t make a kid take a nap.
When my oldest was a baby, inspiration hit me to write a children’s book for her. Our oldest cat was getting on in age. I was afraid she wouldn’t know him as she grew up. One day while she napped in my arms, I grabbed a crayon and wrote the outline on the back of the cable bill envelope in 30 minutes.
I had self-published Harley Finds His Family and Harley as a gift for my baby. Those books sparked my writing cravings ever since I was in high school. I loved Creative Writing as a kid. Life has now taken me far away from it.
During her naps, I realized I should keep a notebook and pen around for ideas in between Mommy and Me classes, diaper changes and feedings. I also wrote in a journal to give to her one day.
Just as I hit my stride with my vice, I was pregnant again. In between all the interruptions, I kept dusting notebooks with my ideas. When I dove into the world of blogging and was published, I knew I found a sweet haven where I could be a wife, a mom, and me all in one place.
My books were read by many, including celebrities.
After having multiple articles published online, I began to submit for anthologies. If anything, I would have great stories to leave for my kids in case I had the same fate as my mom. She died when I was ten years old. I didn’t know any of her stories.
I will admit that I got a charge to see my name in print. Writing my stories of what I had been through was validating. I always hoped that there might be one reader who saw themselves through my words.
I was ready to quit writing many times. The last time just as I was about to delete my blog, a reader emailed me. In the message she said how grateful she was for the honesty of my pain. She said she didn’t feel alone by reading my words. Fueled by her reaching out, I kept writing. It became larger than me.
My health took a bad turn a few years ago. I turned to reading books rather than writing for publication. I wrote in journals using my favorite pen. I wrote in hospital waiting rooms. I wrote while watching my kids play in the backyard, at 3am because I couldn’t sleep, and when I knew I couldn’t block my thoughts.
It was during those stolen moments that I realized I have always been a writer. I write to find my voice. It is the cheapest therapy in a place where it doesn’t ask for more goldfish crackers or has meltdowns .
There may be weeks that slip by without writing. It is always lingering under my skin. I crave it now like I used to crave chocolate. I might not get it everyday, but when I do, it is well worth the wait.
Snuggled on the couch with photo albums spread out, my kids ask again for stories about when I was in school. It is the end of the current school year. We are chatting about the good memories of the year. My kids are amazed that there was life before them.
“Who was your favorite teacher ever, Mom?” My nine-year old asks.
I smile at the question. There is no doubt how I will answer.
“That’s easy. It was Mr. Vint, my high school drama teacher. “
It may have been 26 years ago, but I can still hear his laughter in the theatre. I had taken his class as part of my first semester in Grade 11. His reputation was famous in our town. Colin Vint is not only the fun acting teacher, but a real actor too. He has done many shows that are filmed a few towns away. Mr. Vint is the closest thing to Hollywood around.
From the first moment he spoke in class, I was mesmerized. He projected his voice all over the theatre. There was a sense of magic in the air by being in that environment. Everything that hurt me was left by the door. I can escape into whatever character he directed me to play.
Until that one monologue.
I scoured books in the library and the local bookstore. One afternoon I snuck on the bus to go downtown to check out the main library. I found the perfect monologue. It resonated with me. I know the character because it is in my soul. Not only was I going to perform circles around my classmates, I was going to get an A for it.
The day arrived to perform it. Mr. Vint called my name and I took my place on stage. I heard the whispers from the mean girls and I muted them out. I breathed in my nervous breath and out the negative energy.
“ Do you remember, Mama? I love you and you love me. And what went wrong..” I couldn’t speak anymore. All the air left me and my face became wet. I leaned my head over my knees because I thought I was going to faint. A hand on my shoulder snapped me back into reality.
Mr. Vint guided me up and down the stairs into his office. As we walked he told the class to take 5. That is acting speak to take a break.
After sitting me down in the spare chair, Mr. Vint filled a cup of water and handed it to me. I gulped it fast. I have no idea what made me snap. He went to his phone and tapped a few buttons. I couldn’t hear what was said.
“ Do you need more time?” he gently said.
I shook my head as the office door opened. It was the school counselor, Mr. Crampton. Everyone called him Alf. The two men stood by the door in stage whispers.
Mr. Crampton leaned beside my chair and asked if I wanted to come to his office to take a break. Nodding, I drifted to his office.
With the door to his office closed, I began to cry again. All he did was push the tissue box across his desk to me and waited.
Without heisitation, I begand to tell my truth. I told of the immense loss of my mom, the verbal and physical abuse and the hell that is now in my house. I did not leave anything unturned.
Mr. Crampton nodded and told me I did the right thing. He told me to wait in the hall as he made a few phone calls. Then, he said I can go and that his door is open anytime.
When I arrived home, I was met with my dad and stepmom. It was odd because they were supposed to be working. My feet felt like cement as they sat me down to talk. They had received the call from Mr. Crampton. My heart began to pound so loud I thought they could hear it. I could not tell how that conversation went. I thought that I would be dead or kicked out.
As the fear dispitated, I realized they told me that they were worried about me. They made an appointment with a psychologist to get answers. I was dumbfounded. I had no idea how this would play out.
Over the next two weeks I saw the professional that they arranged. I told him the same thing that I told Mr. Crampton. Dr. Golden asked how old I am. When I told him, he smiled. He informed me that legally I didn’t have to live at home anymore. I was shocked. There is light after all. Only, I didn’t know what that looked like.
One week later, my fairy godmother called to check in. I moved in with her a few days later.
I hate her. There, I said it, or at least in my head. She was supposed to come home today. All those medical talking heads said August 15 would be the date. Adults are liars, even grandma and grandpa. They say we get extra time at their house. Are you serious? I’m supposed to be at home in my own bed tonight!
Grandma has to stop for groceries on the way back to Vancouver, where we spent most of our summer. This is not fair! Stupidest summer ever. We are told we can wash up and get ready for dinner when we arrive. Grandma opens the door, my nose wants to throw up and never smell again. It’s Grandma’s rubbery ham. I walk into their kitchen and see the pale pink blob in the oven. The frame of pumpkin colored carrots and translucent potatoes highlight the big. After I put my napkin over the pink flesh and a mix of white potatoes and the radioactive carrots, Grandpa tells me that we are going to his sister’s house tomorrow. I tell him we need back-to-school clothes still. I am rebuffed.
We have to play cards at my great aunt’s tomorrow. Cards are as fun as it sounds for any 10-year-old. The tea in the fancy cups is cool, along with the tiny sandwiches with the crust cut off. I just suck at old lady games. The day passed into a blur of old people stuff. Finally it is time for me to plan the perfect pre-night braces meal.
I wonder if I should call dad to see if he can pick me up to take me to Big Scoop. Both mom and dad promised me I could have whatever I wanted the last meal before I got braces. I can picture the three-scoop ice cream sundae covered with hot fudge sauce and lots and lots of nuts. Maybe I can ask if they could put extra whip cream on because of the occasion.
By noon I wonder if I should call dad or mention it to Grandpa that I need to go for my ice cream dinner. After I help Grandma with the lunch dishes, the phone in the hallway rings. She ends up closing the door to the hallway after she answers the call. I don’t think anything of it and just go to the TV Room to read my book. I hear Grandma and Grandpa talking at the front of the house. I take a book break and ask what is going on. They say mom is coming home today. So we will be going home tomorrow morning. I stutter but.. but… but in my head. I find my voice.
“But I’m supposed to go for my big sundae. I’m getting braces tomorrow. They promised me a good size treat!”
Grandma and Grandpa look at each other and said maybe there will be time to go out for ice cream after dinner. I feel like my head is going to explode with all the blood rushing up to it. I race upstairs to the room I use. I can’t believe it. I scream into the pillow. I hate this house. I want my own house!
I should runaway. I should’ve demanded to talk to dad. I wait upstairs for as long as I can until I’m told I have to help with dinner. We’re having roast beef. Gross. I think when I grow up I want to be a vegetarian. I push around the food as much as I can and ask to be excused. I hide my food under the napkin and dump it in the garbage right away. Grandpa says hurry up so we can go out and get a scoop of vanilla ice cream at McDonald’s. So, not the same. I know he’s trying. They always forget about me. Like, did she have to come home today? I despise her. I know I’m not supposed to hate, but this has been the stupidest, dumbest summer ever.
We go out for ice cream anyways. When we get back to the house I ask if I can go to bed early. I pack up what I can so that way we can be ready in the morning. My head hits the pillow. Before I know it, the sun is already creeping out from the blinds. I don’t even know what to think, will I be here again or get to home. I give up hoping. I hear grandma’s voice calling up that it’s time for breakfast, and then we have to go. I am actually going home.
It turns out that we won’t be going home before my braces appointment. Dad is meeting us there. I don’t know if I even want to talk to mom anymore. I probably won’t be able to talk later because of a mouthful metal. But, at least I get to go home today. My own bed. My own clothes. My own records. Maybe back to skating?
The appointment took a long time. But at least I got to look out at my hometown through the office window. Dad picks me up. He tells me we have to go home really quietly as mom is already sleeping. Our dog is napping when we walk through the door. I can barely talk, so I don’t even bother. I keep mopping up the drool from having my mouth open for so long.
She sleeps so long that I go to bed before she wakes up. For the first time in almost 2 months, all four of us are actually under the same roof. But it’s like she hasn’t come home yet.
It is a week later and school has already started. Nothing has changed at home. I still take care of my sister. I continue to have no life. I didn’t want to get braces, but at least the kids were kind about it. I can’t eat a lot of the gross meaty things now so that’s good. No more celery or broccoli, or it has to be complete mush.
In two weeks time I have the first skating performance of the season. I wonder if mom will be well enough to come see it or help me with my costume. Dad doesn’t know how to sew and neither do I. But mom at least could patch things up. She continues to be in her room a lot. Sometimes I hear the TV. Sometimes I was allowed to go in and say hi. She’s a quarter of the mom she used to be. I hate cancer. I really hate it.
On the day of the performance, I get everything ready and I sneak into mom’s room to grab her pretty sparkling little purse that she lets me use sometimes for special occasions. I want to look good. Plus it matches my costume. Mom is sleeping. I quietly go in and get it. I’ll tell her later that I took it.
I say goodbye to my sister and dad. Of course mom didn’t make it. But apparently we’re going to pick her up afterwards. Dad says he’s going to take everybody out for McDonald’s after the performance. He brought his cameras to take a lot of pictures. I go off to the dressing room to meet with my coach. There’s one thing I really love, and that is to skate. When I’m on the ice is just me and the music. No cancer, no mom problems, or sister problems. Just the ice and my body. There is nothing else like it. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be allowed to skate. I know it’s expensive. Plus, Grade 6 homework comes home every day.
I begin to stretch and warm up in the dressing room before it’s my turn to skate. I’m feeling pretty good now. Then I feel a rip in my arm. Somehow I managed to rip the armhole on my right side of my costume. It looks awful. Then I get angry all over again. Mom should’ve been here. Mom should’ve been here with the sewing kit. Only moms are allowed in the dressing rooms with us. No males.
”You need help?” An angelic voice interrupts my anger. I look over. It is my skating club friend and her mom shadowing over me under the fluorescent dressing room light. Jean’s mom had a sewing kit and stitched me up while I was stood in front of her. Done. She takes my hand and whirls me around in a slow dance. I hug her my thanks.
My name is called. I feel excited again and at the same time calm. I slip off my pink skate guards and place them under my cubby. I will be awesome. I can do this. Somehow my legs take me to my mark on the ice. The arena is silent. And I’m off.
I blink and we are in the car on the way home. My cheek still feels the burn from the cold ice, rosy with happiness. I knew I wouldn’t win. Mom taught me that it’s about the journey not the ending.
It is months later from that beautiful skate. School is going great. Skating will end for the season soon. I’m allowed to go to the mall with friends. The dismissal bell rings. I grab my backpack from the locker and head home. It is a short walk. I put the key in the front door and let myself in. Not everyone has a key for their house at my age. Mom still naps a lot so I could be waiting a long time for her to open the door. I listen if the house is quiet. I slip off my shoes, skip up the steps, and I drop my backpack on the living room floor. I tiptoe into the kitchen. I open the fridge and grab the orange juice container, place it on the counter, and get a glass from the dish strainer. I guess dad was able to wash the breakfast dishes this morning. Cool. It was my turn.
“Where is my silver purse?” I almost drop the glass. My mom is in the doorway wrapped in her red robe. She’s looking at me funny.
“Mom, you scared me. How are you today?” She tells me to find it now tone of voice I’ve never heard before. She turns and goes back into her room. The door slam that followed shook the entire house. I leave my juice to tiptoe to my room. I trash my room looking for it. Crap.
I lost it. I can’t even leave this room again. I wipe my tears and put on my headphones. I turn on my record player and grab my journal. I need to remember how to breathe again. My inner Harriet the Spy finds the answer to my turmoil. I turn up the music, grab a pen with my journal, and go in my closet to sit on the floor to write. This is my safe place. Closing the door is the most magical thing. I am alone.
The door opens. Without looking up I scream, “Go away.” The light from my room reveals my skating friend standing high above me. In her right hand is my mom’s purse. The one I lost.
It is like being stuck in a traffic jam and all of a sudden the road is clear, and I am all alone. I can’t get up. The room is spinning. I’m not 10 years old anymore. I am 15. My skating friend is not my friend, she’s my stepsister. Her mom is my stepmom. My Mom didn’t come home on August 15. She never came home at all. She was supposed to be here.
The purse is one of the few things I have of hers. If mom didn’t die I would have gotten to have that argument with her.
I miss her.