By Mary Pimentel
My mother inspected my sleeping father and 3-year-old me and decided that we weren’t enough. She vanished in the night in search of the ultimate high that would never satisfy her yet always keep her coming back for more. My mother became friends with this monster, drugs. Very quickly she then worshipped the monster and allowed for it to have command over her entire existence. The monster that dripped into her veins became the cloaked figure that would not only destroy her but inevitably everyone that ever cared for her. Five children she birthed into the world, and all five she damaged.
When I woke up the morning after she left, I didn’t know the massive part of me that longs for a mother’s touch was just forming, that it was only the beginning. I didn’t know that 12 years later I would cry myself to sleep as I read books about drug addictions, trying to understand how something that could be bought off of the streets was more important than me. Years from that moment I would understand my mother’s reason for departing and hate her for it no matter how close we would become. Her leaving me helped mold a sensitive yet strong personality. Mentally, I have lived and learned plenty on my own, more than I would have liked to.
For the rest of my life, my mother deserting me will constantly rest in the back of my mind day after day. It will always affect certain decisions I make and emotions I feel, but learning to appreciate the ones around me rather than longing for the ones that have gone has made all the difference. I have ultimately taught myself that life truly begins when you let go of the past, and live in the moment.
My mom and dad weren’t together for very long, and truthfully I don’t think I was meant to happen. Since her leaving, I have often attempted to put the pieces together. Why did she disappear? Was there another man? Where did she go to first? Wasn’t I enough?
Over the years my dad’s lips have been bolted shut over the idea of the monster that stole my mother away. I do not blame or condemn him for this, for I know the pain he endured after her vanishing. He was catapulted into depression and had his heart broken, left with a daughter whose features resemble the very woman he now hated. Everything I know is due to my own investigation through other family members or asking my mother herself. But who knows if what she has told me is true, for I know the monster is always lurking.
All of my younger years lost from a mother’s love and affection took a toll before my pre-teen and early teenage years. She teased me with a half-truth about her addiction. So I tried to help my mom get better, and I thought that she was trying to help herself get better too. However, I learned that it isn’t my monster to fight, and he was smirking in the shadows every time I came to her aid. The monster now laughs at how I once believed I was special enough to ruin his bond with my mother. The words I say are trash to the lines he whispers into her mind at night.
In my well-being and self-esteem, my soul, there has been a heavy hole dug. It is dreary, filled with lost hope and love. In there lie the few memories that I like to believe were spent with my genuine mother, no monster present. No part of me is willing to patch the hollow inside of me, nor will I act as if it does not exist. At 18 years of age I simply acknowledge and accept what has happened to me, and understand that it does not define me as a person. I am much more than a girl whose mother left her behind for a drug. And this discovery is only a chapter of my life so far.
The view from my upstairs bedroom window overlooking the roof and darkly painted night sky flows into mind. It is the view I encountered almost every night as I asked the moon the lingering and still unanswered question, “Will she ever come back?” In reality, I am now well aware that whether or not my mother decides to pop into my life is simply due to how heavily she allows the monster to influence her thoughts. It has nothing to do with how much I miss her.
As a child, she visited me sporadically. These are the memories in which I feel as though the monster wasn’t there. I watched her circle into the cul-de-sac on her cherry red motorcycle, and then together we rode letting the wind tickle our faces. We pulled leaves off of trees and colored the textures and shapes into scrapbooks. She is an artist. We also carefully walked along the edge of sidewalks with our arms spread out wide as we tried not to fall into the street, then called the hot lava.
Years later on a Mother’s Day, she startled me with a letter explaining that she wanted to kill herself. At the tender age of 13, I realized how deep in despair she had fallen, and for that moment we traded the roles of mother and daughter. That was the beginning of the wall that I started to build between us, and on that day I began to distance myself from her no matter how much it hurt.
(Click on images to view captions.)
A wall wasn’t started because of selfishness or fear, it was built because after so much effort of trying to help my mother get better, I realized that there wasn’t anything I could do or say that would work. In the end, I realized it was her willpower that needed to step up and confront the monster. I was continuously being lied to about her sobriety. I experienced mental breakdowns — hers and mine — that I wish I could forget. There were times where I was her favorite and times that I wasn’t. Our relationship never truly felt like mother and daughter, it felt more as if I was a friend that tried to help her become clean and someone she had fun with sometimes.
Our separation didn’t happen all at once, however, It was a slow and agonizing process. It was hard for me to let go. In November 2015, she was blocked from any type of communication with me. Occasionally she sent a letter in the mail; I was still too tender to respond. I had heard it all before. “I will get better. We will get better. I miss you. You are my favorite.” It was a cry for help that I had to ignore at the time. I had to heal and rebuild strength in order to let her back into my life. I had to fully accept who she was and the battles she had.
Now, we are strangers, yet connected by something that is unable to be seen. She is no longer blocked, but I see her once or twice a year. The difference in our relationship now compared to my pre-teen and early teenage years is night and day, but it is better this way. I’m not the only one to admit that she is reflected within my mannerisms and appearance, and it weakens me still. The furrow of my brow or the pouting of my lips is enough to make my father tell me “Don’t make that face, you look like your mother.” Right now my mother is miles away, hopefully growing, as I sit here, hopefully growing.
For a long time, my mother’s absence made me feel that a part of my life was missing. I couldn’t glance at a mother and daughter in a supermarket without my eyes watering. I couldn’t hear words of encouragement from any older woman in my life without imagining the words coming from my mother instead. A day did not go by where I wouldn’t hold a photo of us, or a letter from her, and weep myself asleep. Tracy Chapman’s “The Promise” and Hoobastank’s “The Reason” are songs she dedicated to me, and they are still to this day my ways of talking to her and connecting to her, even though they sadden me greatly.
For a long time, I couldn’t think of her without being thrown into heartache and tears. Talking to a therapist helped immensely. It was soothing to have someone let me explain my brokenness without being judged. She made me understand that my mother’s departure does not mean that I am not special, that I am not unworthy of love. It is a problem of hers and only hers. If it is too painful for me to speak to her while she is unsober, that is okay. And if it is too painful for me to speak to her while she is sober, that is also okay.
I owe my strength to handling this better to my therapist. I have learned that communication during grief is the key to recovery. I still think about my mother every day, and I always will. I will continue to experience things in life where I ask myself, “Would this be easier if I had a mom to talk to?” This sensation of loneliness has made me strong.
One day when I have children, I will aspire to be the mother I wish I could have had. I will never leave them questioning my return, and I will shower them with affection so that they will never struggle to remember what my presence feels like.
Today I am strong with an open and forgiving heart. Every day I live with my mother’s lips, freckles, passion for writing, thrill for running, creativity, impatience, and free spirit. I’m sure there are more traits handed down from her. I live my life with pride and appreciation knowing I share so many qualities with such a beautiful human being yet with sorrow knowing that something evil took away the chance of having a mom to braid my hair and wipe the tears from my first heartbreak. I love her immensely still, and no matter the negative, I am living.
My mother fell into the world of drug abuse before she became a teenager. At an age when a girl should be playing with dolls and playing tag at school, she lived a life of abandonment, sexual abuse, and then later drug abuse. The monster that shot into her system told her that the despairing childhood she lived didn’t exist. Soon she met my father and had me, but the monster continued to remind her of the freedom that eluded her. So she left.
Several times throughout my life I have tried to reconnect us. It was hard, but I now accept that my mother is a drug addict and will recover when she understands that she has power over the monster. All it takes is for her to stand tall and admit she needs help.
Mom left me as a toddler and teased her affection to me throughout my entire life. I hope one day – drug-free — she can watch me graduate from college and walk down the wedding aisle. I hate the aftermath of what her leaving has caused for me, but I am appreciative because it has made me treasure a parent’s love more than anything and realize its effect on a child. I can’t thank my father, stepmom, and grandparents enough for their support and the life they have provided for me.
All in all, drugs are destructive and evil. They steal the souls of human beings and replace them with heartless thoughts and manipulative actions. Drugs are the monster that have taken over my mother and resulted in me once feeling abandoned and worthless… Overcoming this monstrosity has been a curse and a blessing.
Mary Pimentel is 18 years old, living with her father and stepmother, often visiting her grandparents. She represents her small town in central California as the reigning Miss Newman — and was voted Miss Congeniality by her peers. This September she will begin college at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with an interest in Writing and Literature. She also aspires to move to New York one day to continue her writing and possibly attend graduate school there. It is a dream of hers to spoil her parents and grandparents as a show of gratitude, knowing she was raised with such a loving and supportive family.
Editor’s note: Mary is the granddaughter of my second cousin, Debbie Pimentel, whose grandfather, Pedro, was a brother of my grandfather, Luciano. (Debbie’s mom, Julia, therefore was a first cousin to my late father, Catarino.) I’ve been hearing nothing but great things about Mary from her grandma. Working with her to edit this piece — an essay she initially wrote for a high school class — gave me plenty of reasons to understand why.