As Mitch Albom once wrote, “There’s a story behind everything… But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”
Naturally, my story of motherhood begins with my mom’s. My father and mother were married relatively young and only a few years into their union, Dad cheated. He soon left her and abandoned us; I never grew up with a father figure of any type. In my household, Mom epitomized strength, perseverance, and love. She was a strong character who led by example and taught my brother and I the value of family, hard work, diligence, and honesty.
My brother began to exhibit signs of mental illness in his teen years. Mom did everything she could to get him help, but with a full-time job and two children to care for on her own, this task was nearly impossible. Thus, my brother’s condition worsened over the years. So did the consequent abuse Mom and I faced. He became an expert at funneling all his rage into an emotional warfare against Mom and I. She did a great deal to shield me from the pain and hurt of his violence, but Mom never stopped caring about him or doing everything in her power to help.
After a rather trying and tumultuous childhood, I went to college, and even though I lived at home, I was able to distance myself from the abuse. Time went on and as my brother regressed, I flourished. I can clearly remember an intimate moment I shared with Mom when I was around twenty-one. I had climbed into bed with her after a fraternity party. I snuggled into her (I was quite obviously the little spoon) and told her how much I loved her. I told her that she had been the topic of our drunken conversation at the fraternity house; my sorority sister had told me how much she had wished her own mother was like Mom. At that point, Mom started crying and sharing with me how much that meant to her. She allowed herself to be vulnerable for the first time in my life, and bared her soul to me. She expressed how hard our life together had been for her. She told me how excruciatingly difficult it was to believe in herself when she thought of herself as a failure. We talked all night. This would be one of my favorite memories of her ever; a few months later our ability to make anymore would be stolen.
On September 25th, 2007, three weeks after I graduated college, my brother murdered my mother. I came home to find her lying on the kitchen floor. My brother had escaped and then confessed everything to me over the phone. I should have known he had been telling the truth, but part of me was hoping this was just another one of his manipulative lies. Devastatingly, it was not. My life changed forever that night.
After her death, I floated through life. I had no ties to anyone or anything, and lost my value for everything. The person who had loved me more than life itself was absent, and thus I felt terribly unloved. In turn, I found it impossible to allow myself any type of love or happiness. As far as I knew, I deserved nothing of the sort.
Despite this, I met my husband-to-be a few months later. He accepted me and my flaws, even though I was figuratively scarred and beaten. Allowing myself to be loved was difficult, yet we still ended up on the fast track towards marriage. Eventually I became pregnant a couple years after our nuptials. My entrance to motherhood, despite being somewhat joyful, was extremely tainted. I was jealous of all my girlfriends who had their mother to guide them through the process. I felt alone and broken.
Then I had my daughter and life changed forever yet again. With her birth I was initiated into this – mostly – magical world of Motherhood. A world filled with infinite boo-boo kisses and bear hugs, side-splitting laughter, the most painful of tears, the ability to finally be the big spoon, (yay!) and a connection that transcends everything I’ve ever known up until now. Becoming a mother myself has allowed me to understand the unconditional love Mom felt for both Jesse and me. I had never quite understood how my mother put up with all that my brother dished out for us, but I am quickly learning. My hatred and anger has melted and morphed into acceptance. This acceptance has allowed me to find a semblance of peace and balance in my chaotic world.
As of now, Jesse is in maximum security prison, serving a sentence of fifteen years to life. I’d like to think he’s being rehabilitated, but over his last nine years in a correctional facility he’s added attempted murder to his rap sheet and tacked on a few more years to his time there. I do not speak to him, nor do I have the desire to. But over time that may change, just as everything else has.
(This post originally ran on This House of Love)
About the author: A.B. Chesler is a writer, mental health advocate, and family woman living in Southern California. Over the last decade, she has contributed content to many popular publications. This list includes four different non-fiction stories to five different best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. She just celebrated the release of her first solo book, “A Man and His Books,” which is currently available on Amazon in all formats! A.B. is also excited to share about her upcoming BlogHer award and being named a 2017 Voice of the Year for her piece, “Expressing Motherhood.” In her spare time, she adores having adventures with her family and traveling as much as possible. To contact A.B., please feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow along at her blog at http://thishouseoflove.net