My mama use to say a drunk man spoke a sober man's mind.
I loved being with her, drunk or sober. When she was sober, she never made excuses for her behavior when she was drinking. It was a part of who she was. Drunk or sober I loved her. Sometimes she had seizures. I was so little and they scared me so bad - I'd think she'd be dying. I remember people putting a spoon in her mouth and how her body would thrash around. It was only when I became older that I found out she had been diagnosed with a tumor on her brain. I'd later see the scars on her lips where she had bitten herself and I would want to kiss them to make them better, but I was afraid to. Maybe I was afraid she wouldn't let me. I'd want to but I never tried. When I got bigger she told me she had meningitis when she was younger. I didn't understand how fragile she was. It was only until I was much older ....when our roles would be reversed and I would become the mother that I would understand.
When I became an adult my mother's dependence on me never felt like burden. I always wanted to protect her...to make her safe. When I was eight years old, during a drunken fight with her then lover...he hit her in the face with a piece of wood and took her eyesight. His name was Mr. Johnny. By the time she sought help...it was too late...her sight was gone. One eye gone and the other covered by a cataract. She was blind but she still drank and she still got beat by Mr. Johnny. Years would pass. She became able to make out colors if there was a strong light. But she was still blind. During these years I would come to know how much my mother loved me .... when her power had been taken. Things would happen. She was blind. She could see colors.
I would need her and be old enough to go to her. She would welcome me.
They took me away from my momma and gave me to a father I had never known, who almost beat me to death in a drunken rage when I was four years old and who then went home and shot his wife to death during an argument. They gave him custody of me and sentenced him five years in prison. He was familiar with the liquor lady, so I went to 1721 Moore Street and became a ward of Mr. Nap and Ms. Alberta. This became the address of my own hell for the remainder of what I remember of my childhood until when we moved to Grants Chapel Alley.
For the first part of my life on Moore street I missed my momma so much. She and Mr. Johnny had moved to Sandersville. But she didn't forget me. She came to Macon on the Greyhound bus every month to pick up her check which came to the Moore street address. It was quite a feat for a blind person. She would catch the bus in Sandersville and get a cab to come to Big Momma's. That's what I called Ms. Alberta. Earlier in my life I had renamed them. It was during the day that I remembered them hanging out laundry in the sun and laughing. My first memory. I said " One of you is big and the other one is little". My mother became Little Mama or Lil Ma, for short and Ms. Alberta became Big Momma.
I think Lil Ma had her check sent there so that she would still have some kind of contact with me. She didn't have custody of me, but she made sure...every month...that she was a presence in my life. It was during this time that I remember her hugs and her kisses. And she stayed a presence until she had a fight with Ms. Alberta and was told she wasn't welcome anymore and that she couldn't come to see me. I remember crying and wanting to go to her - go with her- but they wouldn't let me. I wonder what she felt when another woman told her she couldn't see her own child anymore. I know how bad it hurts to be deprived of seeing someone you love.
She could see colors. And there came a time when I needed her and she was there. When an event happened to me that tore me finally... bodily and forever from childhood, she was there.
The last sight my mother had of me before she was blinded, I was six years old. The next time she saw me I was seventeen. She had regained her sight. The story of how she regained sight is not for now. Not yet. Nor is it time to relive the event that brought us back together. Not yet.
A week ago I found out that I had some kind of inflammation of the brain or a tumor. Life comes full circle. I wonder how my mother felt when she was told. Was she scared? Back then they didn't have MRI's or CAT Scans. The medicine certainly wasn't as advanced. I remember her taking a white pill every day. It was Valium. It was the best that they could do for her back then. Maybe that was why she drank. Maybe it numbed the fear. She probably felt so alone. I know I do. I'm scared. I mean Lord haven't you thrown enough at me? I've been a good girl. I know the story of Job. But God I'm getting so tired. I know you've walked every step of this with me. But I'm not as strong as I use to be. I'm tired. I don't know if I can get through this. And this morning God, I get the call that says they're adding Lupus and Sarcoidosis to the mix. Enough.... please....enough.
I've always been afraid of dementia or strokes. Because then you had to rely on strangers. Their kindness or their cruelty. Who will take care of me? Will anyone miss me? Have I made a difference? Will anyone sit down and write about me and call me by name? Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
Lord I need you to carry me but if you have to take something. Take my life. Don't leave me here without a mind to protect myself with. I know I've made mistakes. The ones I've made, I've taken full responsibility for.
I am Catherines daughter and I make no excuses for myself. .. I speak a sober man's mind.