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  • Lawson D'Nago

Jo Ann

My relationship with my mom has always been complicated. Both of us telling people that the other hated them. My mom always felt like a relationship with me was a lost cause and was too late to try and salvage. I always waited for her to finally show up. As far as a mother-daughter relationship went, we failed the course and didn't show up for the retest. As friends-- she was my best friend. If I needed a sidekick to cuss someone out or be a rabid wild little 5ft dramatic psycho right next to me, I knew I could call her. She was my confidant for everything and I didn't realize the gaping hole that our daily traffic conversations would leave until I reached

for my speed dial and I retracted my hand like it'd been burned by a flame. She was complicated and broken and allowed herself to welcome situations that left her hurt and alone. We saw in each other what we couldn't see in ourselves. She always saw me as strong and fearless. She envied my ability to not back down from whatever it was that I'd set my eye on-- even if it was damaging. She envied my stubborn determination and how it always led me to success. She never considered herself capable of being that bold.

I thought she was a superhuman. She had all the character traits. She was my own personal IronWoman. To me, she was invincible. This woman had a battery operated heart and had faced death without fear all her life. She would be lying in a hospital one moment and walking up a rig floor the next. She never allowed her flaw to be her weakness. I saw that my entire life; and felt like any burden I had was never worth complaining about when she was capable of being all that she was. She was a force and an energy in the room who always sought for everyone's attention. She was the funniest, loudest, more dramatic human in every circle. Her laugh was a signature that would have me in tears laughing with her. She saw the world in a way that I understood.

Like all great friendships, we spoke our own language of interests and inside jokes. We shared secrets, stresses, and cried together.

As an adult, my frustration with her was that she could not see her potential and her ability like the rest of her world did. She was jaded by the dependence and fear of being alone that she didn't see that her energy was lost; and like a thief in the night, her spirit was no longer the same fire the would engulf everyone who was close to her. She was lost and sad and felt unworthy all because she allowed others to eat at her confidence.

Both her and I were raised by the same woman, my grandmother, her mother. Another strong woman who fueled both of us to think more of ourselves.

My mom was the youngest of three daughters and it showed. The woman was a brat and even in her 50's, the chick could throw a tantrum and hated when I'd call her out for it.

She'd make me cry. She'd make me cry when she wouldn't show up. Cry when she would leave me out of family engagements. Cry because I never felt like I'd ever be her first choice. I cried like a little girl-- you know the hiccup, can't breathe, and it hurts type of cry, because I broke down begging her in the corner of a coffee shop that I just wanted her to choose me. I never felt like she would. And the small little girl who used to wait for her all day at the front window until I fell asleep, believed that she never did and that's why she's gone. However, the adult child who misses her human and the heartbeat of her life knows that she's gone because she never chose herself. No matter how many times I begged her to choose to leave bad situations and runaway and be with me; I believe that it was not because she couldn't choose me, but she didn't know how to be there for herself. And that makes me most sad. I loved that woman with all her quirks. She had a personality and wit that only she could skill. She had a voice that would make the coldest heart warm when she sang and a love for God that never hindered. One of her last texts was, "God always provides."

I want to be so angry with her because that's my instinct of protecting myself from being hurt by her. I want to yell at her for not taking her health more seriously and not getting to a doctor sooner. I want to scream at her until I cry just for her to hold me while I tell her how much I hate that she left me for good. I want to guilt her for what she did to me and be selfish with how I feel toward her death. I want her to come back and remove this ache because this ache breaks the scale of any disappoint I've ever felt in our relationship before. I want more time to say the word, "mom," and to read it pop up on my phone when she calls. I feel robbed of all the small things that all children take for granted; while also understanding that my moments of youth have died the moment she did. I lost a piece of myself, too. I miss her calling me "pudding," and "possum," and speaking in old movie quotes to me.

She spoke politics in a way that I understood and we both understood the under the table conspiracy of possibilities because we came from a family rich in our own stories. She spoke understanding my heart and it's ache for her mother who'd passed away.

She was my best friend.

The zinger is knowing that I will live more of my life without her than I did with her. That everything that's happened to me so far she would be flipping out with and think it's "just WOW!" She'd be my phone call that'd be filled with brags and unfiltered thoughts.

Her death gave me time to reflect on my own life. Understanding that there is a generational similarity between my grandmother, my mother, and myself feeling stuck in situations that we shouldn't. I've also seen this and understood her frustration with me and wanting to save me from making a decision that was similar to the ones she made. I've finally learned to own the strength that she envied in me. The best parts of my mom are my best traits. The parts of who I am that have gotten me this far are those that I saw in her and mimicked growing up.

And I'll share those same traits with my son. Because the best gift she could've ever given me was to never limit my potential. She never binded me to thinking I needed to stay close to home, close to her, stick with something even if it hurt. She wanted me to do whatever I wanted and also released her attempt at trying to stop me because she knew that she couldn't. I hope that where she is, she remembers me and sees me and waits for me. Until then, I hope she continues to visit me in my dreams.