Te-Erika’s Diary: Mama Said “Just Keep Going”

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I swear I make up so many of my own worries by thinking of old thoughts and dwelling on them. Today I was creating more worries for myself concerning my Mama’s role in my life and how I feel she could have done things differently.

Intellectually, I understand that she did the best with what she knew of at the time.  Having had her own parents die by the time she was 11, she was raised by her wayward sisters and basically had to raise herself too. Because she had no guidance she just grew into what she knew. A woman who ran the streets, did what she had to do to survive, including sleeping on bus stops, selling drugs at some point and I’m sure a lot of other stuff she would never admit to me.

Regardless, she had me when she was 17. There I was, this bright eyed little girl she named Te-Erika, and she tried her best to care for me even though she was a parentless teen. With all of my wisdom and hindsight there are so many things I wished she had told me, things I now share with my sons, hoping to give them a headstart on life.

She did give me a headstart, more than what she had, she gave me  a parent who was present but wasn’t often totally engaged. I had to figure out life on my own. I made my own decisions. I set goals for myself and achieved them. I had to make my own vision for my life and create my own standards, some of which were way too low, I’m learning now.

I was hurt so much and she could have stopped it. She could have helped. She could have done something but in the end, I carried the pain with me as she sat in silence, moving forward in life.

Today I had planned to confront her. I planned to finally say what was on my mind after 35 years of holding on to the pain of my past. I called her up to talk and I heard her laugh.

That one sound, her voice giggling over the line, stopped me and made me think.

My Mama is in serious pain right now. Physically she had surgery that left her completely hurting and she has no pain medication, she has to endure the pain without any relief at all. My Mama has not had an income for more than a year after her surgery forced her to resign from her job, which caused her disability, and they offered her no disability benefits from her job or the government.

My Mama has been through so much and continues to, with me across the country with no one to see if I’m okay, her other kids living their lives with no safety net and her own ragged past.

And through all of this, she can laugh?

If I were her I would be devastated, blaming myself for my life, passed out on the bed crying every day wondering why I was being punished so much by life.

But she laugh anyway.

So instead of asking her to explain why she didn’t live up to my expectations for how she should have interacted with me, instead I said to her, “You always keep going, Mama. No matter what.”

“I’ve told you that plenty of times. Just keep going. If your leg fall off, just keep going with one leg. Just keep going,” she said.

And that is how you survive in life. You may not get it right all the time. You may make a mistake. You may win. You may even be so hurt that you feel it is impossible to go on. But don’t stop. Keep going.

Yes. I understand.

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