My mother was a single mom but my experience with her is a little bit more tumultuous than some of the experiences that have been shared, so I’ll do my best. My mother immigrated from from Haiti. She was born there.
She mostly went to school there as well so she came here, I think, in her late teens, maybe 18, with my grandmother and she had my brother around that time. Not too far after she came here and then she had me around in her 20s.
But my experience with her was like I said some altruist because she had addiction issues and so for most of my childhood she was very much in and out of my life. And the times that she was around she was kind of in the midst of her addictions. So there will be times where my experience with her would be–she was under the influence and I would be, you know, maybe she’ll pull me out of wherever I was, because at times I would stay with grandparents or friends of the family, and she’d be under the Influence and very emotional. And as you can imagine, super traumatizing as a child.
So part of my knowing her is a very fragmented, heard history. I learned from third party sources. From what I know of her, she was a fighter. She would always come to the defensive of a person. My brother told me once, how someone had stolen his bicycle–and this was in the middle of the “Projects,” which if anybody’s aware of what the so called “Projects” are, it’s those large tenement buildings that are joined together like joint jointed and a lot of people live in very like close and cramped spaces. Somebody had stolen his bike, so she went there and retrieved data, probably by any means necessary. She would always be that person coming to someone’s defense.
I know of her personality when she was herself, where she was very passionate and she cared about how people were. She could help people in need, sometimes to her own detriment. Let people stay with her and that sort of thing. She passed away around 2002. I was not too long out of high school.
Let me backtrack, from the time that she was using she contracted the AIDS virus. Well, HIV, and it turned into AIDS, but you know.
When I had the time I was living with my grandmother around middle school. I went to live with her and she was sober so I got to experience who she was at that time. And she was just super loving. We would go everywhere together. She was involved, as a parent. It was like a dream come true because half my life I didn’t really have for consistently and so I went to live with her. It was her and a partner.
She was with a woman. I had never met until that point but by default, that woman was like my parent too. And so, you know, I kind of had two moms I guess. I got used to that kind of situation. That situation of being with someone I didn’t know. And then my mom who was sort of new and had to get to know, but it was it easy for me. Like I said, it was a dream come true, because I really always yearned for my mom. No matter what. And it was wonderful.
For a while, like I said, she was involved. She was involved in my schoolwork. And so I really thrived living with her. And so, I would say maybe second year of high school, she relapsed because her relationship had failed. And so, then I because I kind of became the parent figure, as a high school student in my house.
And of course, her health deteriorated and she also nearly passed away. But what I can say from that experience that I learned. And from her that I learned how not to be that person, you know? I’m a mom. Now I’m a single mom now and it’s been like kind of a motivator to always be present and loving and stable for her, because I learned from my mom what instability could be.
I’m studying social work now at my MSW program and of course that involves learning about what substance use and substance abuse can be and what mental illnesses are and it really helped me reflect on my relationship with her and what her life might have been. And from little tidbits I understand that she went through her own traumas.
So, you know, so it was really important. I don’t look at that experience, even her death as tragic as I used to. I look at it more as like a blessing that I was able to have her and you know I look at her with more empathy as an adult than I might have in the moment, and so I try to take that with me in my life and caring for people who deal with those same issues and caring for my daughter.