Sorry for Being A**holes, Mom

A Mother’s Day letter in the form of a dialog co-authored by David Dunn and Joan Dark (a.k.a. Toni Carr). David writes in plain text. Joan in italics.

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There comes a time in every parent’s life when they will say to themselves, “Oh! This is why that one time Mom lost her shit.” Our mother lost her shit many times. She lost it because there were many times when we were pretty shitty children. What is remarkable is how many times she managed to hold it together.

I feel sick to my stomach every time I think of the hard times I gave Mom. Every time I said “I hate you” or “Okay LINDA!” because of course, calling Mom anything other than Mom was a smack in the face.

Especially when I remember the sacrifices. I have vivid memory of eating those cheap, frozen pot pies for dinner. You and I had one, Mom did not. I asked her why she wasn’t eating and she said she wasn’t hungry. But of course she was hungry! She just didn’t have the money to feed all three of us. As a Mom now I get that. I would give my kid my last scrap of food. Hell, I would claw my heart out of my chest with my bare hands if she needed it!

You know the worst memory? We were up late and Mom was passed out exhausted. She had scraped together money to buy us new pants. We decided, in our amazing wisdom, to cut up the pants and tape bits of them to the wall as a surprise party for Mom. She woke up and sobbed because we had ruined the clothes she had saved up to buy for us. (I think I tried to tell her a mouse did it)

No Mom is perfect (She chanted to herself as she takes the baby in public and realizes it’s cold and baby has no socks on) but our Mom tried as hard as any Mom could. As an adult I can appreciate that a lot more than I could as a kid. It’s because of Mom that I can be a mother myself. Not only did she help me with the grueling IVF process, she showed me what sacrifice is and how you can and will do everything for your kid.

I don’t remember putting the scraps of pants on the wall. But I do remember you saying something about a mouse. What I definitely remember is the Christmas when she bought us lots and lots of clothes. I think it was our first Christmas in the new house. There are photos of me throwing a box across the room as I opened yet another package of underwear or socks or something. I don’t like to think of it.

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We were super!

My kids are older, and there are plenty of times when I got them a gift that was sub-par. We have had some tough financial times ourselves. One Christmas, I got everything from the Dollar Store. It worked out okay. You can buy a lot of things at the Dollar Store, but I could also tell the kids were disappointed. They were trying to put on a brave face. Still, I felt awful.

I feel awful every time I get them a small gift they don’t like. I cannot imagine how mom felt after getting a divorce, having the first Christmas in the new home, and then seeing her children rage against the injustice of getting socks and underwear. I think the worst part of it is that she sort of blames herself a bit. She tells me that she read somewhere in a magazine that you should wrap up a lot of presents for kids under the tree, and that she should have just given us the clothes and let us open the few toys there were. I can see why she takes responsibility for it. I do that all the time for all sorts of things. As a dad, I am always doing the best I can, with what I have, and for who I am in that moment. Mom did too, and she had even less. When I think about it now—when I picture that photograph of me chucking a box—I say to my younger self, “You were a real dick, kid!” Of course, we were kids, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

Oh man, I’m so nervous about presents. I want my kid to be cool and not care about material crap, but I also remember the SHAME of having the payless birkenstocks and not the real ones in school. You could tell because the buckles were smaller, and everyone made fun of the kids that didn’t have the real ones!

Mom worked hard for those knockoffs! They were the best knockoffs that the almost total absence of money could buy!

At the same time, how much stuff does a kid need?

Clearly not as much as we thought when we were kids.

I have a friend that takes her kids on a big family trip every year instead of Christmas presents. I like that idea way better, but then will my kid not be cool for not getting a ton of gifts? Will she care? Will I be able to raise her to not care about material things?

We are both fighting an uphill battle there, but I would like to think you and I grew up not to care about material things. You should ask Mom for advice about that.

I get to see how good of a mom our mom was when I see her be a grandma. She is an awesome grandmother. I wish we lived up near you sometimes so that she could see her grandkids more. I am jealous of you for that.

Mom is an awesome Grandma. You should be jealous. You should be so jealous that you move back.

Find me a job, and I’ll get the U-Haul! For now, Mom has been coming down to help in the summers. I am glad my kids get to spend time with her. In July, she took Kyla with her to the Virgin Islands for a fencing tournament. Kyla was initially very upset when she learned that she could not take any of the seashells she collected back home her. So mom had her pick out her favorite and said, “I say we smuggle it!”

And that’s what they did. Toni, our mom is a smuggler!

I am glad now that we’re older we realize Mom is cool enough to be a sword fighting smuggler.

…who is willing to risk prosecution for customs violations for the sake of her granddaughter’s favorite seashell.

Is this our mothers day letter? Is it enough to just tell her that we regret being assholes and wish we could go back in time and appreciate her?

I think that is the best we can do. Sorry, Mom for being assholes and not appreciating you enough when we were kids. We appreciate you now!

Also we promise to put you in the good home.

All our love,

D.J. & Toni

 

 

An Open Letter to Matthew Heimbach

Dear Matthew,

May I call you Matthew? I would prefer that over “Mr. Heimbach.” When you are “Heimbach,” you are a white supremacist SOB. When you are “Matthew,” you are a young man who is going through hell right now. So I am going to call you “Matthew” to remind me, in my weakness, to act like a Christian.  Continue reading “An Open Letter to Matthew Heimbach”

The Annual Mother’s Day Post

One day my mother will die. This is a certainty. For her. For all of us.

What a way to begin my annual Mother’s Day post, right? Every year, I try to tell a story about my childhood or young adulthood that illustrates the impact my mother had on me. I’m not sure I have one this year, at least not one in the traditional sense. Honestly, as I write these words now, I am not sure where this is going to go. Continue reading “The Annual Mother’s Day Post”

Messy Prayer

This morning I went to pray, something I will confess I do not do enough, when I noticed how messy the area around my family altar was. There was a vacuum cleaner under Augustine, a basket of things for Goodwill hanging out under St. George, and to the right of Nona a bunch of crap that my kids left in the hallway and never picked up. Looking at the picture I snapped of it all, I just noticed a crack in the wall. I wonder how that got there. It was probably the kids, though I am sure none of them will have any idea how that happened.

I thought about cleaning up the mess before I prayed, but there is something about the vacuum cleaner and Goodwill basket being part of that space that seemed right. In her book The Quotidian Mysteries Kathleen Norris talks about finding spiritual meaning in the ordinary. Housework itself can become an act of prayer. I have tried to remember this as I pick up after my children. It is very easy for me to bark at them about the messes they leave about, or worse yet to make them feel guilty. “You say you shouldn’t have to pick up a mess you didn’t make, but I pick up messes I didn’t make all the time.” Poor me. Dad the housekeeping martyr. At times I have found myself thinking, “If you loved me, you wouldn’t do this.” I am not proud of those thoughts, but they come at times when I am feeling sorry for myself. Lately I have been trying to reverse it, thinking, “I love you, and so I am doing this.”

I pick my daughter’s boots up off the floor and chuck them into her room and quietly pray, “I love you.”

I pick up the scattered candy wrappers my son left in my favorite chair. “I love you.”

I empty Gallifrey’s cat box, a job they promised to do when I agreed to adopt him.“I love you.”

I pick up my youngest’s bowl of milk leftover from his morning cereal, milk I keep asking him to drink so it doesn’t go to waste.“I love you.”

Yesterday we read from the Gospels about Jesus saying to take up our cross and follow him. A litter box is not a cross, not even close. Christianity demands sacrifice. One must die to one’s pettiness. There is no salvation without sacrificing the inner child, much like how Abraham laid Isaac upon the altar, killing him in his heart before he could receive him back. If I cannot raise the knife above the whiny brat in my own heart, then there is no hope for me. The kingdom of God is not for the petulant. Or on second thought, maybe it is. Jesus said we must come to him as a child, did he not? So perhaps there is hope for me yet. Perhaps God treats us the way I know I should treat my children. We leave our stuff lying around, we make cracks in creation, and God says to us, “I love you.”

That is why I chose to leave the crap lying around my family altar. Prayer is messy, just like life. Prayer is not about a presentation of artificial cleanliness. Prayer is, so to speak, ugly. Or at least it is not always pretty. Prayer is interrupted by our children, our spouses, or our own thoughts. Though we pray in the church about setting aside “all earthly cares” before we receive Communion, I cannot help but hear that prayer with a kind of irony. More often than not we are unable to lay aside our cares. We have to push through them, like a child pushing its way through a crowd of grownups, hoping we do not get lost along the way.

So I left those cares right in front of my face this morning. I have to vacuum the living room tonight, and I really do need to remember to take the stuff from that basket to the thrift store. I will do all that later…or, to be honest, I may not. All that quotidian stuff that is a part of my household is also a part of my prayer life; it is part of what I must learn to make a living sacrificing, laying it, like Isaac, upon the altar of my own petulant heart.


I tweet stuff like this, and other quotidian things, at @DrDavidJDunn. Thanks for following and sharing.

 

Reflections on the Wise Words of Cartman

Preach!

Last summer a friend of mine from work laminated this for me. It sits behind my office desk now, and I try to look at it everyday. It’s been nearly a decade since I watched South Park. (I have less of a stomach for raunchiness now.) But the episode from which this quotation was taken has stuck with me. Cartman decides he will take it upon himself to enforce traffic laws, and when he feels people are not showing him proper deference, he starts hitting them in the shins with his nightstick.

Why do I keep this poster by my desk? To remind me of this… Continue reading “Reflections on the Wise Words of Cartman”

My Wife is in the Hospital

Stephanie is a type two diabetic. After feeling crummy for a few days, last night she woke up several times vomiting. She got dehydrated. Imagine boiling a pot of salt water. The salt-to-water ratio gets higher. Blood sugar is like that. The more dehydrated she got, the higher her blood sugar went. For a while I was telling her she just had the flu, which may have been the case. But when her blood sugar hit the 450s, when it was in the 470s after I gave her insulin, and when she became delirious and incoherent, I decided we needed to get her to the ER.  Continue reading “My Wife is in the Hospital”