Monday, June 19, 2006

The View From Here

"Antonio" - 30
Los Angeles, CA
1 child - son (8 mo)

I distinctly remember the first time I heard my mother talk to herself. I will never forget it. I was eight, and I was sitting in my bedroom. She was walking down the hallway in our duplex in a flowery blue dress. I can't remember what she muttered, but I remember seeing her and thinking, "Is she talking to herself now?" The beatings and the weird accusations had gone on for years. I didn't know it then, but my mother was beginning her descent into a schizophrenia.

If anything, my father was my "mother." Though my parents divorced when I wa
s only two years old, my brother and I remained very close to our father, spending our weekends and holidays with him. For us, it was a respite from the whirlwind of life with our mother. He loved, he cooked, he cleaned, he instructed, he nurtured, he did homework. Everything I have and believe, I owe to him, and I thank God for him every single day. Because of his example I cannot, for the life of me, understand how a man can abandon his child.

For a long time, I was mad at my mother. When I was in college, I would often dream that she was healthy. I would picture her and I on a bridge together, and her hair would be flowing, her face glowing in the sun. I'd wake up in the middle of the night thinking, "Wow! She's healthy
!" Then, a few moments later, I'd realize it was just a tortuous dream.

My mother and I have now switched positions: I take care of her; I pay her bills; she calls me to ask permission to go to the store; I take her to the doctor. In many ways, she acts like the baby. No longer in a constant rage, she's now a little old lady who doesn't want any trouble. On my instructions, she calls me everyday to check in. Sometimes, I'll be in a big meeting and I'll look down and see "Mom Calling" on my cellphone. Though I still have pain from the past, I don't dwell on it. Instead, I chose to love her for giving me life. This realization did not come easily, but rather over years of prayer, reading, self-analysis, meditation and conversations with my wife. I forgive my mother for being sick, because it was out of her control.

My relationship with my mother has made me a more sensitive man. Though I'm strong and disciplined, I am also understanding and compassionate. My son is eight months old and I don't think I really understood what unconditional love was until he was born. Yes, I love my wife, and very much, but my love for my son is inexplicable. There is no greater feeling for me than laying in bed with him, playing and babbling. My relationship with my mother, and it's effect of forging a closer bond between my father and me, makes me a better, more sensitive father--and husband.
I'm the type of dad that wants to be home every night to read bedtime stories. I don't want to miss football games because my dad didn't. So, in many ways, my son will benefit from my childhood experiences with my mother.


Blogger soledadsista3 said...

It never seems easy for children to deal with the so-called weaknesses of their parents. They are the rock and foundation of our development and we have so many (expected) expectations of them. I am happy to hear that you've come to terms with your mother's illness and didn't stick to your anger, but found a way to understand how you could help her work through it.
And your father! I can only pray that more children have men like that in their lives.
be blessed.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous jasai said...

My family has also lived through this same kind of devastating experience with mental illness. For children, it is often bewildering and terrifying to see someone you love go into such dark inaccessible places.

I will be forever grateful to my mother that she had the patience to explain to me and my siblings what was going on with her mother and sister and admonished us to love and respect them despite their illness.

I commend your father for his strength and perseverance; he did as all fathers should do in support of his family, his children.

I pray that you continue to have an open heart for the gift of this experience with your mother. As a mother, I know that it must be a heartbreaking thing to not be able to be there for your children fully.

Be blessed.

3:10 PM  
Blogger The Phoenix aka ThatGirlTam said...

My heart goes out to the granddaughter of someone who suffers from mental illness, I commend you for taking a healthy approach to dealing with the situation as an adult. My mother is 56 and STILL has issues with my grandmother. And I doubt she'll ever move past them.

My husband often questions how many generations this illness skips (he's terrified that I will one day suffer from it). No one really knows how or why it hits, they just get damaged along the way...EVERYONE involved.

4:53 PM  
Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

I'm Antonio. Mental illness is an incredibly common occurrence, though it's rarely discussed. I used to be embarassed about my mother; now I talk about it freely.

I recall, one time, my brother and I attended a support group for people with family members who were mentally ill. At the time, my mother had just been released from a facility, my brother and I were financially broke and in our early 20s, chain-smoking cigarettes, stressed the hell out, not sleeping, listenign to grimy rap to get through the days. We went into the meeting and everyone there talked about how "defeated" they were; how their lives were terrible, etc. I felt the same way. My brother, who is 3 years older than me, looked at me and said, "A, you and me are stronger than these people. We can handle this. Let's get out of here!" We left. That day, I realized how important strength and positive thinking are. And I haven't looked back--except to let it go.

Many men who grow up with abusive mothers tend to view all women as untrustworthy attachments. Getting to know my wife was very hard for me because of what I had been through, and the bad memories it brought up. But I knew that she was the one for me, and I was willing to fight to the death before I let my insecurities take her from me. When I was a young teen, I wondered how my relationship with my mother would affect my relationships with women later on. Because I had other aunts and cousins who were positive, loving women, and because I was exposed to cutting edge ideas in school and with my Dad, I prepared myself at a very young age to overcome what I had endured.

They say soul comes from suffering and prayer. It's true. In this life, our true character is forged during the hard times. You can either overcome and be a champion, or let them destroy your life. It's all up to you.

10:15 AM  
Blogger cloudscome said...

Antonio, beautiful story. You are inspiring, as is your family.

12:00 PM  
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4:34 AM  

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