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The first Mother's Day I'm alone

Local Commentary

Posted: May 11, 2008 4:36 p.m.
Updated: July 12, 2008 5:04 a.m.
There is not a day that goes by when I do not think about the one person who made all the difference in my life. And at this time of year, the days seem to be strung together by a seamless, bittersweet preoccupation with yesterday. "Bitter" because death brings the weight of days lost; "sweet" because it somehow refines yesterday's memories to help one see just how good things really were. Those memories then become life's joys and lessons that cannot be spoken of enough, and that are held quietly in the heart.

Today, my heart is set upon the tip of my tongue. This is the first Mother's Day that I shall spend alone.

In a sense, I have spent the last many months alone. But it being being Mother's Day, the loneliness echoes.

Several months ago, my grandmother, whom I affectionally called MyMy, died. (It has taken me many months to get to the place where I can use the words "dead" or "died," rather than the softer words of eternity like "passed away." Coming to grips with the gravity of her really being gone allows me to use the blunt-object words of death's harsh permanence.) Before that, I had never experienced a major death in my family, and after that, I may never experience a more painful one — family or not.

For a child conceived out of, essentially, a one-night-stand between a 16-year-old alcoholic- and soon-to-be-drug-addicted mother and an 18-year-old alcoholic and arrest-prone father, MyMy was a godsend.

The toughest woman I will ever know, making Margaret Thatcher look like a pampered wimp scrambling for her next box of tissues, MyMy insulated me from the consequences of birth parents who ran from one damaging decision to the next. Snatching me from a street-corner upbringing of violence, booze, drugs, and court dates, MyMy sat me in the lap of luxury.

Not the luxury of worldly trappings, but of those things that exceed any monetary value. The luxuries of her home, ever in deep supply, were, first and foremost, a boundless love that enveloped my every move.

Come hell or high water, I never ceased to be convinced that MyMy loved, yea, cherished me as if I were her only child. It was an unconditional love that incessantly spoke words of encouragement and affection to the degree that I understood that I took first priority in her life.

Whenever I disappointed her, she would respond not with a cold shoulder or yelling, but with the gentle words, "Andre, I know that you can do better than this. You are better than this. You are." I could believe in myself because she believed in me. And before I would approach her with the disappointment, I knew that she would be my staunchest defender.

In sheltering me from drug use, she never let me forget that I was better than that. I, she would say, was meant for better things. That parenting method was a barrier that kept me from drug use.

Her love gave me a childhood with few regrets and the warmest memories. Besides providing encouragement and affection, MyMy's love had a bent to instruction as well. I cannot forget her verbalizing a priceless lesson for me when she said, "Andre, do not be a follower."

Whether it be drugs, sex, or politics — and she was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat who believed that Kennedy walked on water and that Reagan was all flash and no substance — she insisted that I always think for myself and not be finally persuaded by the prodding of others. She loathed the thought of me being a mindless, fearful follower because she was convinced that the "everybody's doing it" mentality inevitability led to trouble. "Stop and think" was a constant instruction.

Another lesson that she taught me dovetails nicely with the previous instruction. She taught me to value education and knowledge.

Before high school, MyMy had purchased three different sets of encyclopedias and various dictionaries and thesauruses for me, all because she wanted me to expand my mind by filling it with knowledge of history, science, geography, religion and cultures. She believed that knowledge was a sure path to success in any venue, and she wanted me to be whatever success I wanted to be.

She challenged me to learn and speak proper English so that people would respect the method by which I presented myself. She even convinced my school district to have me repeat the first grade because I had made Cs and Ds throughout the year. She understood that thinking for myself would require knowledge, so she drove me to it.

I miss MyMy. I miss her every day. Yet the weight of days lost is balanced by the weight of gratitude that I feel for her guidance that showed me the man I still strive to be.

And though I know loneliness like a friend on this day, I am still buoyed by the wealth of memories that comfort me with open arms. Happy Mother's Day, MyMy, from Beau.

Andre Hollings is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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