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My mother, although I usually don’t refer to her as that, had me at 17. My father left before I was even born, leaving my mom alone. My mother, Roseanna, was a hard worker. I knew that much. Since the day I was born, she never stopped working. As soon as she was realised from the hospital, she was off to work. But her single income wasn’t enough. Month after month, she struggled. Barely paying rent. I had no diapers. Only a cloth she used and rewashed when needed. I was fed water and milk from a cartoon my first few months.Roseanna could barely feed herself more than two meals. A day came when she’d have enough. Babies needed attention and cleanliness. They needed products and quite frankly she couldn’t afford that. She didn’t want to let non-family adopt me. Her mom was the only person she had. So I was sent to live with my grandmother in upstate New York. My mom decided to kill herself a couple of months after she gave me to my grandmother.The only thing she left behind was a letter stating,” Committing suicide was the only way he’d be okay.” That’s how she ended it. No,” I love you’s” or “take care.”
My grandmother told me all of this the 15th year I lived with her. I didn’t fully understand my past until last year, and by then it was no longer relevant. That’s all I knew about my mother, she worked hard just to give up in the end and blame it on me.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
“What are you still doing in bed?! It stopped snowing two hours ago! You have to get ready for your job interview!” My grandma yelled waking me up.
For a very small woman, she was very intimidating. Other days I would’ve done what she said immediately, but today just wasn’t my day.
“Why does it matter? I’m probably not going to get the job either way,” I told her. I opened my eyes to find her looking for my good clothes.
“ Don’t you dare say that Angel. Your mother didn’t work so hard to see you become this laz-”
“Roseanna worked hard to kill herself. She didn’t care about me.”- I said cutting her off
I heard the sound before I felt the pain. It was as if someone clapped in a deep tunnel. The sound echoing into my ears. Stabbing me with regret instantly. I reached up to touch my cheek, finding it numb. Looking up at my grandmother's face, I could imagine that it was very red.
“Don’t you dare talk about my daughter that way. She is your mother and you need to respect her. Now go get ready, you’re lucky I’ve allowed you to live in this house this long without forcing you to pay rent.”
I looked at her once again, her eyes stared at me,not daring to blink because if she allowed the first tear to break free the rest would follow in an unbroken stream. She still cared about her. Pathetic.
She didn’t say anything afterwards, she stormed out.
“Yes ma'am,” I quietly whispered.
I changed into the only pair of dress pants I owned. The black color hadn’t even started to fade from how rarely I washed them.
Deciding what to wear was always hard this time of year. Not because of any fashion statement, but because how cold it was. I discovered that clothes from the ARC were very affordable, but they were very thin as well. I usually layered clothes, although I couldn’t do that today, it’d look weird at an interview. I grabbed a blue button up and looked in the mirror.
I looked way older than my age. I was only 19, yet the bags under my eyes seemed to belong to an 80 year olds. My wrinkles were more defined on my forehead than on my smile lines. I used to find my eyes amazing, they reminded me of the color of the sea during a sunset.When I was little Blue with a tint of orange, an impossible color to have. But you couldn’t tell a 7 year old that his eyes weren’t the reflection of a ocean, it just wasn’t right. Yet, now that I look at myself again all I saw was a night sky when it snowed. Dark and cold. You’ve changed.
Once I got dressed I walked into the kitchen. I didn’t see grandma so I assumed she probably left to work early. You really screwed up. I grabbed my winter coat and walked outside without making myself any breakfast.
I don’t really remember Roseanna. Well, actually I don’t at all. I always hear my grandma talking about how great she was, how hard she worked. But most importantly how beautiful she was. I once found a picture of Roseanna before she got pregnant, it was at a football game. She looked so healthy, her smile reached to both sides of her face, she was truly happy. But I'm guessing that all changed when she got pregnant. The only picture I was able to find with my mom and I together was when I was born. If you put the pictures next to each other you wouldn’t believe that it was the same women.
It’d seem normal if she looked tired. She just gave birth. But she didn’t look tired, she looked broken. Her eyes weren’t shining, they were dull. She was practically a deer staring into a car's headlights. Terrified.You could tell she wasn’t ready for a kid.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Once I got to the building I could immediately tell that I wasn’t going to get the job. The position was for a janitor for a new fast food place. It was such an easy job, they could’ve hired any idiot and that’s exactly what they were doing. There were about 6 guys waiting to be interviewed. Money was money when you were poor, but this was ridiculous; I wasn’t going to compete with these guys to become a janitor. They probably needed it more than me anyway. I didn’t even bother walking in. I checked my wallet, 10 dollars. I was going to make it up to my grandma.
I consider my grandma to be my mom. She doesn’t agree with that concept because she feels that's disrespecting my mother. Growing up with my grandma wasn’t easy, I didn’t make it easy. I would always ask where my parents were and she never knew how to tell me the truth. She finally told me when I was 15. After sitting through the story I never asked about them again. I hated them. I still do. My mom committed suicide because it’d be the “only way I’d be okay”, that’s cowardness right there. She just gave up and left me with my grandma, not even considering the situation she was in. She barely had enough money for her, then I was shoved into her care and she had to make things work. She somehow did, but no one gave her a thanks. The only thing she received was the news that her daughter had killed herself and a reminder of why she did.
I rarely buy anything for my grandmother. I never have enough money to buy her something nice and she always gets mad afterwards. She tells me how I could’ve spent that money on something useful. So, instead of buying her the typical box of chocolates or flowers, I bought her a new blender from Goodwill for 7 dollars. Everything we owned in this house was worn down, all our utilities had to be turned on differently then the way it was intended to.To use our old blender you had to hold the plug and the first button at the same time. It was a huge hassle, but we couldn’t complain because it was the only thing we had.
I got home pretty early, I expected the interview to keep me busy for most of the day. Since that didn’t happen, I had a clear schedule.
I was headed to my room to take a nap, but once I got in front of my grandma's room I saw how messy it was. Grandma never let me go into her room without her permission, which was never. I now understood why she never let me, I was astonished on how cluttered it was. There were bags of clothes everywhere. Clothes that my grandma didn’t want to throw away in case we needed it some day. I looked into another bag. It was completely filled with baby clothes, my baby clothes. My chest started to hurt, all these years and she’s been keeping my clothes. Why? I immediately started to clean. It wasn’t as if she needed these things anyways..
My grandma got home around 10 PM, she cleans hotels and office buildings for a living. They’re hard jobs to do for a women her age, but there’s nothing else she can do, she’s been having those jobs for years. It was starting to take toll on her, her back would hurt all the time now. I knew that I couldn’t tell my grandma about not going for the job interview, she’d be disappointed in me. I hated letting her down.
“Hey grandma, how was work?” I asked.
“You know Angel, this jobs really going to kill me one day. I don’t think my body can take it anymore. But you know, now that you applied for that job I might be able to lay off one job,”she responded.
“Oh, well, I think it went good. They said they’d call,” I lied.
“You should go tomorrow morning and ask if you got the job, they’ll see you as a persistent man.”
“Well, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just a janitor’s job..”
“ Angel, its a job. It gives you money. That’s what we’ve been needing our whole lives. I really think you should go tomorrow.”
“I don’t think that’s necessary, I don’t want it that bad anyways.”
“ I cleaned your room.”
“Um, don’t try to change the topic. Well, that’s the least you could do Angel. You’ve been living here for 19 years and you haven’t even lifted a finger to help,” she responded.
I bit my tongue. Don’t start an argument.
“ Wait, you mean my room?”
“ The room I specifically told you not to go into without my permission,”
“ Yes, but it seemed so dirty and you had so many things we didn’t need anymore. I donated it al-”
“Why did you throw all of that away?! They’re not your things Angel!”
She pushed me aside and started walking towards her room
“ Grandma, you didn’t need anything of those things. It was basically trash, it was just junk cluttering in your room.”
“Those things were not junk Angel. They were MEMORIES. Memories of when things were easier.”
“What do you mean?”
She walked into her room and looked around. Her shoulders rose up and dropped down quickly.
“ They’re memories of my daughter being alive,”
“ Grandma, she’s dead. She’s been dead. You need to let her go and start worrying about you.”
She turned around, her hands in a fist on her chest.
Great, you ruined it.
She didn’t say anything to me afterward instead she put her hand on her chest and started to cough, really loudly. Do something you idiot. I tried to give her some water, but she pushed the glass away. I looked at her trying to gasp for breath and failing.
What do I do?
I smacked her in the back, hoping for the best. She stopped coughing and took a deep breath.
“ We need to take you to the doctors.”
“No,it was just a cough. It won’t happen again.”
“That wasn’t just a cough grandma. You couldn’t breath!”
”Angel, we can’t just go to the doctor whenever we feel like it. We don’t have the money.”
“Grandma, there’s something wrong with you. We need to get you checked.”
“No Angel. I’m fine.”
Get her to a doctor.
“Are you sure?”
“This won’t happen again. I promise.”
She broke that promise quickly.
A week went by and it only got worse, a lot worse. Her coughing would keep me awake at night. I tried to get her to stay home, but she went to work anyway; she said we needed the money. Realistically, it was true. One day came by when I found her on the floor gasping for air. I couldn’t take this anymore, I had to get her help.
“Grandma we need to get you to a hospital,” I said.
“Angel, we don’t afford that. I don’t need-” (cough)”need it anyways, just make me a cup of tea and I’ll be fine.”
She didn’t eat for a full week after that. Whatever she’d eat she’d throw it back up. She was loosing a lot of weight so I tried to force her to eat something, but she would just tell me to leave her alone. The worst part was that we didn’t have enough money for medicine. If you took that job, you could’ve bought the medicine she needed. It’s your fault she’s dying.
“She’s not dying.” I said out loud,” She’s not dying.”
I was wrong.
I found her dead on her bed a week later. I wasn’t shocked when I saw her like that. She looked peaceful at first but the more you stared, the more you saw how destroyed she really was. I didn’t know what to do. I felt nothing but everything at once. I knew this was going to happen, but there a way I could prepare myself for when it did. Seeing her like this made me hate myself. You should’ve stayed for the interview. I didn’t know who I was anymore. You’re no one. I had no one left that cared about me in my life anymore. You’re alone. I didn’t know what I was doing here. You have no purpose. I could’ve saved her.
The cops arrived 30 minutes later expecting to see more people dead. This neighborhood wasn’t really “friendly”.
After they searched the house and took the body away in the ambulance they gave me a letter that my grandmother wrote it before dying.
It said,” Angel, I know I’m not going to make it through the night. I wish I could’ve told you this before, but I always thought you’d realize it. You are the best thing that happened to me. It was a tragedy to what happened to your mom. I know you hate her because of what she did, but you need to understand that she did it because she thought it was the right thing to do. She didn’t give up, she let go. And I’m sorry if you feel that I gave up on you. I didn’t intend to leave you the way your mother did. I hope you can forgive me for it. I love you and please don’t give up after this night. You are capable of doing things your mother and I weren’t able to. I love you.”
I reread the letter and felt a cool tear start to roll off my cheek. Why do you hate your mother? My grandmother really didn’t believe that my mom gave up on life, yet I still do. Look at yourself, you basically killed your grandmother because you were too lazy to stay for an interview. You’re just like your mom.
My grandmother believed that I was capable of doing great things while she was dying. I will not become my mother.
You will fight like your grandmother.