The Lesson

Dear Mom,


You got diagnosed with cancer in April. I’m heartbroken. On the heels of losing my Dad not even a year ago, believe me when I say heartbroken. I can hear the worry and unease laced in your voice that maintains that confident timbre and cadence you’ve had my whole life. Cancer is scary. Cancer is…FUCK CANCER to be real. But ma you’re like cancer in a lot of ways. You started in an undetectable way, mistreating me, bullying me, making me accountable and responsible for your perceived failures. By the time I was 16 you metastasized and I was flipping couches over and you were choke slamming me against the door. Why? Because I wanted to treat myself, I wanted to combat your disease, by standing up for myself. I was put down. But I went into remission temporarily. But you never left. Just like your problems now. They just haven’t quite gone…left.  This isn’t a diatribe to villainize you and victimize me this is a “let me be real with you real quick at the crux of what could be your downfall” type shit.


See it’s 1:18 pm on May 26, 2017. We just got off the phone. I have ignored your calls. Yeah go ahead and call me a shitty kid, I’ll own it proud. But also know that it’s a struggle and an internal beat down every time I do it. It isn’t because I’m disrespectful it’s because after 2008 I found my chemo,  my therapy, my release. Y’all…I found my peace. Disjointed like the soldered lines of stained glass but as beautiful as the diamonds of dew laying on a lawn in the AM. I healed…I started at least. I came a long way. But that isn’t a story for right now but it’s a foundation for what lies ahead.


I can’t be there for you the way I need to be, the way my obligation demands of me, the way God intends because you don’t know that you don’t deserve it. The damage you have done to me. The subtlety in your poisonous presence. The toxicity you have nurtured that is more pervasive than any needle or shot. It holds me back. My brother, my keeper, to his credit and my shame he keeps me conscious. Of you. Aware of the maelstrom that has been cultivated in the midst of what most would have filled with love and familial fortune. He, without knowing, or with full knowledge gives me permission to be whole. Where you have revoked my every right to sovereignty of destiny and intention and robbed me of my right to feel, express and disconnect and having done so with my captive audience grade consent. He will not let me abnegate my needs, sacrifice my soul, to honor and aid that which has baptized me in darkness and pain for so many years.  The surface is your Ph.D., charm and disconcerting smile that lulls those who do not know you into submission and acceptance. Many are those that you have swayed to mirror your admonishments about my lack of personhood. When those are strangers, shadows, who wouldn’t’ fucking know my face out in this wild that we call the global hood.


I’m a shitty person. I am a fuck up. I am whole and I will remain so. You are in your hour of need and I can’t be there. My own personal hell. You need me and I do not need a thing from you. My grace and grit have turned to a stoic acceptance of never having a mother. My high hopes and fervent prayers of reconciling this bone deep rift have been retired on the grave of my father. Where you laid your love for a daughter I will never know. But heed me when I tell you




Chalk this up to my adjustment disorder that you so readily color me with. Chalk it up to me being a punk ass kid. I don’t care.


Read that again.




27 YEARS. I finally can distance myself. 27 years. I can walk away and swallow the guilt and the disappointment because it isn’t a part of me. It is a side effect of you. It is the symptoms of the radical poison of setting oneself free from the certain destruction of self. I will continue to apply that salve, imbibe that tincture, steep myself in those waters. Concentrated power of will. Reinforcement. Remembering. I will not drown.

You have my civility. My sympathies. Nothing more. No one deserves cancer, least of all my own mother. I love you, Mom. But the loneliness you feel now is just the beginning. The bed you’ve made, the row you’ve sown. This is my lesson for you.


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