Monday, June 8, 2009

Interview with Mom

One of my blogger friends suggested interviewing Mom and I thought it was a great idea. Sometimes being a “guest blogger” can be a little scary, but an interview is a good start…

~~ Interview with my Mom:

What was your favorite childhood memory?

Probably visiting my grandparents for two weeks during each summer. We, my cousins and I, would visit the state capital, and we would climb as far up the steps as the inside building would allow. We once watched the governor's elevator and noticed that many different people would use the elevator. My cousins said that it clearly had “governor” above the door. We decided that the next person that entered the elevator, we would tell that individual to "Get Out - that elevator is just for the governor!" And that's just what we did. A rather chubby man turned to us and stated "I am the governor" Oopse! Believe it or not we got a tour of his office.

Who were some of your friends growing up and did your parents like them?

My cousin was my best friend, but my mother didn't like her at all. They were probably too much alike. I do not mean this as an insult to either of them. My cousin often told me that I should run away.

What were some of your chores?

My chores were the typical ones. Washing dishes, folding clothes. When we moved to Opelousas, a very country area. We picked figs and berries. Once while picking berries, I was bitten by a snake. My sister said that I sailed through the air and landed on my back. My finger was purple and swollen to twice its normal size for many months. I couldn't pick berries with those fingers. I was glad because the sun was too hot and the branches scratched my skin. Living in the country was quite a shock for this city girl. One day my younger brother came home pulling the cutest little pig by the tail. I can say this was the first time that I really did see a piglet. Oh how he begged mother to let him keep it. Well this was one time that he didn't get his way. He was directed to immediately return the piglet to its original location.

Are you afraid to share your story?

I don't want to hurt others. My story is not any more different than so many others. Each person has a story. We are all here to love, learn and grow.

Did you love your mother even though she was abusive?

I absolutely loved my mother. I so desired her to love me. I saw her as this perfect, beautiful thing. As I grew I learned that she did love me in her special way. My mother was a beautiful strong woman, who lived in a time when the female body was her enemy. She often said that she never wanted children, but she was given eight.

What happy memories do you have with Nana?

We played games. I had to make sure Mom won, but at the same time put in a “good show.” At that time, I hated having to lose, but it was better than winning and making her angry.

This is the story of Mother break my jaw, so you have the details.

Mother cleaned the refrigerator. Someone spilled jam and Mother insisted it was me. To this day, in my heart, I know I didn’t do it. But she insisted I did it. She beat me and beat me and beat me. She kept saying, “Admit you did it!” Finally, I decided if I was going to get the beating for it that I should admit it so she would stop. When I did admit it, Mother screeched, “Now you’re going to get this for lying to me all this time!” She kept beating me.

Then I thought if I’m going to get this beating for lying I would go back to the truth and told her so. Mother become more and more infuriated. It was just the two of us in the house. The beatings that started in the kitchen ended in the living room. I remember hearing Mother on the phone with Dad, crying. I thought to myself, “I’m dead. This is good. It’s over.”

I woke up in bed the next day. I was scared to death and thought, “I’m alive. What will happen now?” I remember Mother being sweet to me, fed me something soft and told me I had the mumps. Mimi (younger sister) was in the bed next to mine. Mimi said that she was hungry and wanted some of the food. Mother turned to Mimi and said in a snide voice, “YOU’RE NOT EVEN SICK!” But Mimi was kept out of school “with the mumps” as well to confirm that there was a case at the house. All that time where I had to heal, Mimi was forced to stay in bed, she couldn’t go out to play and wasn’t treated sweet by Mother.

One time, as a young adult, I was in the room when Dad and Mother were in an argument. I don’t remember what the argument was about, but I was in the middle of it. I wanted to be on Mother’s good side. It was easier to agree with her and stay in her good graces. When I defended Mother, Dad yelled, “You’re defending her?! Do you KNOW what she’s done?! Do you KNOW what she’s done!”

I told Dad, “I know she broke Mimi’s leg.” Dad kept going, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT SHE DID TO YOU! TO YOU! TO YOU!” Mother grabbed a knife, like she was going to stab Dad. I yelled, “I know! I know!”

And there was another time when I was dating a guy named Michael. This is before I met Lester. Michael used to visit with my uncle who was a surgeon. Michael would call the house and ask how Dad was. We talked on the phone and Michael said, “One day I’m going to tell you what your mother did to you.”

Mother used to say, “God cursed women” because they had to have the children.

It's often said that abuse is cyclical - Were you ever afraid you would end up being like your Mom when you had children?

I wanted to love and to be loved. I wanted to love a child but not consume their love. That’s hard, because you want them to have their own life but don’t want them to feel like they owe me love in return. That’s how I felt towards Mother, that I HAD to love Mother. Sometimes I think that I didn’t love her, because I was scared. How can you know if you love someone if you’re scared of them?

When I was pregnant with you, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to love you as much as I loved Rob. Growing up in my family, there was a lot of comparing of each other such as “Who is the favorite?” “Who is the prettiest?” and I was raised that you only had so much love to give, like a pie chart. In that chart there is only so much room in the circle and you divide it up into pieces. I loved your brother and didn’t know if there was room to love you, but the minute you were born, I did. I immediately loved you.

I know that as a parent, I have made many mistakes. Remember that straight A report card that you brought home. You changed one of the grades from an F to an A to match all the others. I was so horrified that you would do that. The next day you showed me you sore little red bottom (actually it was black and blue). I felt so sad, but I was proud of you for showing me what I had done. Being a parent is much more difficult than one realizes. All one can do is the best that they can. Parents will make mistakes. Hopefully they can forgive themselves so that their children can do the same.

(To clear up the report card story. This happened when I was in the second grade. I had straight A's on my report card, except for one - English. I turned the F in that class, which is the lowest score you can make for a grade, into an A. This was the first 9 weeks of school. When Mom realized I changed the grade on the report card, she gave me a spanking like never before. When I couldn't sit down, literally, I was in pain and showed Mom. I was a little afraid to show her, but I knew I deserved the spanking and at the same time, I knew Mom would take care of me. I should add - I made A's in English thereafter. It was also the same year my parents received a letter from the school that basically stated I was deaf. Which I'm not, but it was the first signs of my severe hearing deficiencies. I couldn't understand the English teacher. We had to say the words out loud and I couldn't pronounce them correctly (example: I couldn't tell the difference between the sound of "R" versus "W", still can't to be honest..) Mom worked with me on a daily basis so I didn't end up with a speech impediment.... Ok, I've rambled enough, back to the interview....)

Did Nana love her grandkids?

At a distance. She liked a baby as long as it was a good baby, but she couldn’t handle it when the baby developed its own personality.

Do you think that your siblings were jealous of you? Did they think you had special treatment because of having albinism?

Not when I was a child. They thought I was a freak. They didn’t want to be me then. Now, as an adult, it might unsettle some people. We grew up thinking of measurements by comparing each other, “Who was the smartest” etc. Kids thought they were superior to me when I was young. But now as an adult, I showed that being different didn’t have to make a difference in the quality of one’s life.

Therefore if I am as good as they are now, then something is wrong with them type of mentality, because something is definitely wrong with me (physically). By becoming the adult that I am, it took away that superiority feeling and left them questioning themselves. I’m not trying to say what a person thinks but how I’ve seen attitudes change and insecurities develop.

What is the worst injustice that you feel you've incurred?

I feel healed. Living in a time when abnormalities were not understood was a daily battle.

You recently made this comment: "Trash your tape, it doesn't work. Don't come around me with your darn measuring tape." I know what you meant, without going into the exact situation to protect certain family members... can you explain to my blogger readers what you meant by this?

I feel that people too often want to compare. Who is best? Who is worst? Wanting to compare who is most beautiful, least beautiful, who suffered most etc., etc. It doesn't matter. There is no way to measure what someone is going through. And "Who cares!" Each person is as special as they can be, with their perfections as well as their imperfections. Just give the love that one can and let the rest go.

Why have you never said that you are disabled?

I have to give Mother credit for that. She never allowed me to be disabled, because it wouldn’t be nice, I’d never get married if I was disabled. Back then, being disabled was a disgrace and she couldn’t have that. Mother would take me outside and say, “You see the airplane. Do you see the airplane?” It made them happy when I said that I saw the things I didn’t see.

One time there was an article in the newspaper. It was one of those “take this test to prove your level of intelligence” articles. The article showed only PARTS of an object and the person had to try to identify the object based on the bits and pieces of what was shown. The newspaper was passed among the family and when it came to me, I held it close to my face and looked real close. I could identify every single one of the objects. But this was how I saw things. I don’t see a whole object. I see it in bits and pieces and I imagine the rest. The article rated me as a genius. Dad said, “Oh, look. She’s able to do them all.”

Then there were other times, when family members would lose something and I was able to find it. I found it because I would touch things and find it through touch. Family would say, “See, she can see better than all of us!”

If there were one thing you could change about yourself, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change anything now, because I am who I am. I’m 64 almost 65. This is what I know. As a child, I wanted to be normal, but I’m not a child now. I’m used to who I am. This is my life. I’m happy.

If you knew someone who had children with albinism, what suggestions could you make for the parents?

Dye the child’s eyelashes and eyebrows! Does that sound awful? But it will help them to fit in. Get the latest technology available, like the zoom text and get Kindle. Make sure they are in some type of sports, like swimming that doesn’t require vision. Of course, protect the child’s skin. And above all, tell the child that they are special.

We have children at our school, which attend the classrooms that are in wheelchairs and other obvious physically differences from “normal” children. I explain to my students at the beginning of the year, “Everybody has a disability, at least they (children in the wheelchairs, etc) know what their disability is, because it is right there in front of them. Some children’s disability aren’t as visible. Everyone has a disability, just some are more obscure, like being able to sit still in their chair or know when to listen to a teacher and pay attention in class.”

Look at you with your hearing, Aleta. You learned how to cope. That’s what people need to do, cope and don’t let a disability…. I hate that word. DIS abled. It should be, “Things that make it harder to function, because we are ALL abled!”

When I grew up it was a disgrace to have a child with a disability. It’s not like that now, but there is still the anguish for the parent.

Mother wanted to deny I had a problem. She made me feel like a stupid child. Children in the 4th grade were reading and writing. I made scribbles, following the motion of other children, but I didn’t know how to write. I couldn’t read. I didn’t learn how to write properly until I was in the sight-saving classes.

Nowadays, children want to help one another. At the school where I teach, children help kids with disabilities. Do you remember the day we had regular sighted children put blindfolds on so that they could understand what it was like for a blind person on a daily basis? It gave the children empathy and acceptance and more willingness to help.

As an adult, did you ever seek out a community of people with albinism either in person or online?

I met a person once with albinism. He was nice. I’ve taught two students with albinism and their mother was glad to meet me, to see what can be accomplished. I’ve read about people online, but just because there is a physical condition doesn’t mean there’s a connection with them otherwise. I do have it, but I don’t like having it and I don’t want to be forced with other people just because they have it too.

Do you think most people realize you are legally blind?

No, because I handle myself like I see things when I don’t, because I visualize them in my mind. People don’t want to be bothered with someone with a disability. People don’t want to be burdened by helping other people, so I do what I have to do on my own.

I was not one to wallow in self-pity, poor me thing. That’s not going to get you anywhere.

After you read the four-blog posts that I wrote, what emotions did you feel?

I'm really not sure. Probably all because I was somewhat shocked that in telling you my stories that it would have such a profound effect upon you. I regret that it hurt you so much. In sharing with you, I was able to let things go. This was very helpful for me, but I do worry about the effect that those stories had upon you.

~~ End of Interview

Don't ever worry about that, Ma. I needed to know your history. You're my Mom. You want to know what effect it had upon me? Let me tell you ~ It made me realize that even with all a person goes through, there is strength, courage, love that far exceeds anything this world can dish out. Love being the strongest.

Thanks, Ma, I love you ~ I know it's not easy to share your experiences with strangers across the Internet, wondering how people will react. Mom actually asked me if anyone had anything negative to say about the four-blog posts. I responded with, “All of the responses are in the comments for you to read.” I wanted her to know how people felt. She was teary-eyed and surprised with your support.

Blogger friends ~ if you have questions you'd like to ask my Mom, please feel free to put them in the comments section. I can't promise she'll answer, but I'm sure she'll read what you want to know and offer what she can.
The Four Blog Posts that I mentioned are:


Ugich Konitari said...

“Everybody has a disability, at least they (children in the wheelchairs, etc) know what their disability is, because it is right there in front of them. Some children’s disability aren’t as visible."

Aleta, you know the poem=post on which you wrote a comment on my blog ? Well, I wish the "cloud" in that poem could really sit down and talk to your mother. And why children, I have seen grown ups , who are so thought-and-empathy-disabled, you feel sorry for their families.

Great set of Posts and Interviews. Maybe you can publish a new edition of your poetry, and include these writeups in there, as a special extra. ...

I wish I could meet your mother . But for now I guess commenting must suffice.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Oh Aleta, I am inspired by your mother's bravery and by you for ask these questions. xo

DysFUNctional Mom said...

I just want to tell your mother thank you for sharing her story. Aleta's mom - you are an inspiration!

Hillbilly Duhn said...

Inspiring, is an understatement. This was so great Aleta for you to share, and your Mom too.

I can't even find the words I want to use to comment. I'm lacking them at the moment. There is none really to say, because she's an incrediable woman. She said it all.

Debbie Y. said...

I sit here overcome with emotion for the little girl your mother was for what she went through.

She is right all of us are disabled in some way or another and we are All abled.

Jesus teaches us that Love is the greatest gift and your mother's story echos His teachings. She is a strong woman and I know you are so proud to have her as your mother.

Thanks for sharing Aleta!

the Bag Lady said...

I said it before, and I'll say it again: your mom is an amazing woman! She has an incredible attitude toward life!
Thank you for sharing her story.

Letterlady said...

Wow! What an interesting interview with your mother. Sounds like the two of you understand each other well. And your Mom sounds like such an amazing person. I wish my mom and I could share the type of closeness that you two seem to have.Thanks for sharing.


Rush said...

Thanks for sharing this..brings out mom and her great persona..u guys have an amazing bond...missing mommie now!!

Vivek Patwardhan said...

This is a post I will visit once again and read, all I want to tell you is that if I visit your country I am going to meet your mother!

The little story about grade F to A and your mom's reactions resonates with me.

Thanks for this post,


Big Girl said...

What a wonderful idea... we should all interview our mothers and have memories like these.

lailani said...

Wow! What and honest, real post! Thanks for sharing.


Darlene said...

Your mom is such a wonderful inspiration! She never let anything hold her back!♥

Margaret said...

That is such a great interview. I love the idea of interviewing your mom.

Thanks for becoming a follower.

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

Wow. Rather amazing. Not sure I can really imagine such a strong and good person. :)

Speedcat Hollydale said...

So glad I stopped by, this was an incredible post! Very well done - the answers are heartfelt ... and full of real human emotion.

Lauren said...

Had very long week. I'll do my best to read this tonight. Running around and off to work. Be back later!

Grace said...

wow, aleta, what an amazing post! i have to commend you for sharing it with us, and i must applaud your mother for her strength and inspiring spirit. :)

Lilly said...

This is fantastic Aleta. Your Mom is a wonderful woman with lots of important things to say. I am so glad she became a teacher - imagine all the little lives she has influenced. A Book would be amazing. Yes, we are all people with disabilities, and as she says many people have theirs hidden unfortunately. Loved this whole series!!!

♥ bfs~"Mimi" ♥ said...

When I went back to school at age 55 (yes, I read your recent comment on my post, you know, the one about being born in 1969 --- go rub it in!) anyway -- one of the things I had to do was write my autobiography.

It was going through that process or memory and putting it on paper that allowed me to understand so much that I had not understood, and forgive so much. I saw patterns very clearly. It was an ah-ha moment for me many times during the writing of that.

There is a certainty that your grandmother had mental illness. I don't know if it was severe PMS for which there is treatment now, or what -- but your angelic mother made the buck stop there, so to speak. She broke the cycle of abuse.

Yes, our outlook on life stems from so much. Somehow, your mother rose above; she triumphed. And what joy you must bring her in immeasurable ways.

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Aleta, your Mom is one gutsy lady, dealing with her own disability and her difficult mother with such candour, courage and grace. It is amazing that despite the abuse and the problems, she never loses empathy for her own mother.

A really really wonderful post about a brave and positive person.

Heather said...

What a beautiful post. Truly, your mother is a gift and it's such a blessing that you have each other.

Lauren said...

You're mom sounds amazing. I'm glad I wasn't able to read this until tonight. I needed to read this in a calm moment where it could affect me as it needed to. I didn't have the supportive mother and father you seem to have had. I know they did their best but I do wish I had the emotional support your mother obviously gave you. You are so blessed and I am blessed to read your mom's story. Thank you for sharing.

A Buns Life said...

This series about your mom was wonderful. Thank you BOTH for sharing it!

*Akilah Sakai* said...

Wonderful interview. Your mom is one courageous, inspiring woman. She's awesome, Aleta.

Many thanks to you and her for sharing this with us all.