Mom, I Need Someone to Talk to

This past Friday, the 27th, marked three years and six months since my mama passed. For a time, I’ve been wanting to write a post, a fictional piece, on what it’d be like to have a heart-to-heart conversation with my mama. I figured I’d do it now. What would make it fictional? Because in my fantasy, my mom would be well. She wouldn’t be suffering mightily from her untreated serious mental illness like she was for the last 1/3rd of her life.

By the time I was 24 years old, my mom was beginning to show signs of her serious mental illness. As time went on, and it went untreated, I would have to be extremely careful about what I shared with and told my mom. For one, I didn’t want to cause her any more stress. A stressful situation or event could induce an acute psychotic episode. Two, it could cause conflict with us in some way, since she could integrate anything I’d tell her into her delusional world. For close to a decade, she’d often implore me to quit my teaching job in San Francisco because she didn’t want me to teach “in a city with Satanists,” for example.

Christmas, 2007

As a grown man, I could have used my mom’s support and advice about such things as work and relationships. I didn’t get that, though. Not the way I should have, anyways. So here is what I imagine a conversation would be like with me and my mom if she was of sound mind.

Me: “Work is a drag. They are cutting our pay substantially. But, of course, I still have as many students as ever in my classes. I’m never going to be able to buy a house in the Bay Area at this point. I’m fed up. The situation sucks the joy out of teaching.”

Mom: “Those devils. They certainly don’t appreciate the work you do as a teacher. You should pray on it and think about what you want to do. And, you know, it’s not too late to go back to school and get your Ph.D!”

Me: “I know, mom. But I don’t want to go back to school. Academia isn’t really for me. I don’t want to be a poor college student again and I can’t really stand the culture. It’s too snobby.  I’ll try to stick it out at work a little longer. You remember how happy I was when I received the job offer?”

Mom: “Yes, of course. And your father and I were very happy for you. I tell everyone I talk to that you’re a community college professor.”

Me: “I know, mom. I was just starting to make pretty good money too, after 15 years of teaching. If I knew when I was 20 years old how much I’d be making, at least before the pay cut, I’d have been thrilled.”

Mom: “You’ll be a success no matter what you decide you want to do.”

Me: “Yea. It’d be nice to find something without the long work hours. Maybe I’ll move back to Fresno soon enough.”

Mom: “That would be nice for your father and I. But what about your female friend? What’s her name again? Stacey?”

Me: “Yes. We aren’t seeing each other anymore. I broke it off before it could get too serious. She was hinting at wanting something exclusive. Ever since my relationship with Marie, I’ve had trouble opening up to women I’m dating.”

Mom: “That relationship was not healthy for a large portion of the time you two were together. That was, also, some time ago now, though. I know your father and I argued a lot in front of you and your sister when we were married, but we did try, as you know. You should try not to repeat our mistakes.”

Me: “I know, mom. You made us go to family therapy. I didn’t appreciate it or really get it at the time, but I think it was admirable and smart for you to do, looking back.”

Mom: “Yes, therapy helped a bit, but your dad was set in his ways and emotionally shut off. He changed when he came back from Vietnam.”

Me: “Yea, when you first told me that, I wasn’t sure whether or not to believe you. But then cousin Melissa confirmed that you said that about dad back then. Whatever it is exactly, it prevents him from even listening to me when I want to talk to him about important things, unless I demand it. I practically have to yell at him to listen to what I have to say sometimes. It’s going to be hard on me if you end up passing before dad. He doesn’t understand me or just the world like you do.”

Mom: “Your dad has a big heart. Just try to be more patient with him and watch your tone when you speak to him. You get impatient quickly with people.’

Me: “I know… that’s what Marie said. That’s what Stacey says. That might be a little bit of what I picked up from dad growing up. I’m trying to improve that.”

Mom: “Maybe go see a therapist. Hahaha”

Me: Maybe…Are you proud of me, mom? At the man that I’ve become at 45 years old?”

Mom: “Yes, of course! Why are you asking me that?!”

Me: “Cause I’m a very different person than I was 20 years ago, even 10 years ago. I have a demanding job with a lot of responsibilities and, I’m not complaining about this, but those years I had to help you when you got sick were hard on me. I feel like I didn’t really enjoy my thirties and now, at 45, I’m single and don’t own a home. It makes me doubt myself.”

Mom: “I’m very proud of you. I couldn’t be prouder. I, of course, wish you would develop a closer relationship with God. But that’s between you and him and I know you try in your way to have a spiritual practice. I think you live by your principles and genuinely care about people and others. And your smart and successful, yet humble and grateful for everything you have. God will continue to bless you because he knows your heart and sees your actions, and I take comfort in that. Knowing he will look after you, even when I’m gone.”

Me: “Well, I’d hope that you’d look after me too, assuming you could from the afterlife.”

Mom: “You may not be sure, but I am. The love I have for you and our family is undying. You’ll see!”

Me: “I know, mom. You are a wonderful mama. You did a great job.”

Mom: “Thank you, mijo.”

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