(Please consider making a donation at my mom’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/ym939shg)
I thought I’d give some personal background information about my mom. It’s easy to just think and write about her in her current condition, as someone severely disabled by a serious mental illness (SMI), and ignore or lose sight of who she was before her illness gained its debilitating grip. I actually wanted to make a photo essay of sorts, but am having trouble locating early pictures of her. They could be in boxes or could be lost. We, unfortunately, have lost a lot of her personal possessions during this ordeal.
My mother was born in the early 1950s in Fresno, Ca., the youngest of eight children. (An older sister died of pneumonia as an infant. Including her, it’s nine.) Her parents, my grandparents, immigrated from Mexico and, like so many Mexican immigrants to California, made their living as farm workers in the Central Valley. For my mom and her siblings, this would mean growing up and missing significant periods of time of school in order to work in the fields. This occurred mainly before Cesar Chavez led the farm workers’ movement for better pay and working conditions. Essentially then, my mom grew up in poverty and at a time of great inequality and discrimination against the immigrant, farm worker and Mexican-American communities. Several of my mom’s siblings didn’t finish high school, due to these conditions. My mom, fortunately, did graduate high school and it was there she met my dad.
My dad was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s. A few years after his tour ended, he married my mom in a big, fancy wedding. Both were fortunate enough to find stable and good paying jobs early in their adult lives. My dad would work for more than thirty years with a utility company and my mom would work more than fifteen with the State of CA. Within four years of marriage, my parents would have two children, me and my sister. Hard working, my mom still made time to play an active role in our education. With mine, in particular, I remember her being a strong supporter of and advocate in both my academic and sports lives. During high school, she intervened several times when I wasn’t performing well academically. I had several meetings with her and my counselors. When she felt baseball coaches were playing favorites too much with players, at the expense of my playing time and that of others, my mom questioned the coaches about it at a parents meeting. Other parents thanked her for it after. She also was president of my high school’s Mexican-American cultural club.
My mom beamed with joy when I received my BA and then my MA degree. It was only a few years after that, though, that my mom would start showing glaring signs of her serious mental illness. By then, my parents were divorced and my mom was laid-off from her job. I haven’t been able to spend much quality time, as a mature adult, with my mom. Her mind is fractured, not unlike a glass window or mirror. I still see many of her positive attributes many times, notwithstanding. She’s kind, intelligent, funny, curious about the world and is as articulate a person as I’ve ever known. Someday, I hope my sister, our extended family and my mom’s friends can sit and laugh together again like we used to, before her illness took over.