Dear "Mom 2":
I remember when you first referred to yourself as "Mom 2," in a routine e-mail. I was taken by surprise; you already thought of me as your daughter. I was not prepared to think of you as my mom. Nevertheless, I was warmed by the gesture. I was going to marry your son. We were going to be a family.
Somewhere along the way, you disowned me. Was it when I made the decision that you wouldn't have made, to carry my precious son to term despite his prognosis? Was it when I urged you to come out for Gabriel's birth, the birth of your first born, and thus far only born grandchild? Was it when I brought him home and gave him a life and death with dignity, although it hurt to spend ten days wondering how much time was left?
You just don't know - you'll never know - what you missed when you chose to miss out on Gabriel. You can't imagine the love the filled the room, along with Gabriel's two parents, his two grandfathers, and two of his three grandmothers - but not you. You'll never know the peace that was given to us, despite our loss, when we had the opportunity to meet that little boy. You'll never know the most incredible person your son and I have ever met.
I think of your beautiful Southern home that I loved so much to visit, and the pretty details of your decorating, and the fresh scent of your linens and towels, and the family photos that line the hallway. And I know that mine is no longer hanging there. And I know that your only grandson's never has.
I know what it is to be a mother. I know what it is to love your children above anyone else, and desire their happiness above anything else. But I don't know how you, or your son, turned your back on me so coldly. You both turned your back on me when I had already lost the biggest part of my world. He just stopped loving me, and if you ever loved me too, it seems you also just stopped. I was just a blip in the timeline of your lives. Blip. After you had the nerve to call me your daughter, to compare our relationship to that lifelong, inevitable bond. And then you turned your back. Blip.
I recall, fondly, watching you and your son dance to "Simple Man" at our wedding. Today, the song causes me to swell with mixed emotions as I think of the simple conversation I will never get to have with my baby boy.
You taught your son to tie his shoes. You taught your son to cook. You taught your son to respect his elders.
You love your son; and I love mine. But somewhere along the way you failed to teach your son what I never had an opportunity to teach mine: You don't leave. You don't give up. You don't love with conditions. You don't run when times get hard. You brace yourself to face them. You love your wife, even when it's hard. Your promise is everything, until it's broken, and then your promises never mean anything again.
You failed to tell him not to hurt your daughter. You failed to feel your daughter's pain.
You called me your daughter. But you never called me to ask how I was doing. You didn't offer your shoulder to me to cry on; instead you offered my partner an escape. You offered him safe harbor to run to when he abandoned me.
You called me your daughter. But I don't regret that I could never call you my mother.
Today I took the sapphire earrings that you gave to your son to present to me when he proposed. I opened the velvet box and observed the untarnished glitter of the metal and stones. I closed the box, and placed it next to me in the passenger seat of my car and as I drove to work, I rolled down the window and threw the box to the side of the road. I hope someone finds them and hocks them and either has a warm meal or gets very drunk tonight - Whatever makes him or her happy.
I don't need your earrings. I don't need your "mothering." I don't need your conditional love and support on your terms.
You called me your daughter, but some "mother" you are. I suppose, though, we all take lessons from even the worst of mothers. Thank you, for giving your son somewhere to run when he abandoned me, so that today I could be free to love the people who are worthy of my love. Thank you for cushioning his blow and leaving me to flail, so that I could grow stronger and love harder and live better. Thank you, for teaching me the kind of woman I never want to be - It's made me the kind of woman I hope I'll always be.