With the help of my younger brother who is 30 years old, and my sister, who is 28, I have spent the last month nursing my mother back to health after she had surgery. Her doctor found a tumor in her stomach, and she had to have her stomach taken out. The surgeons connected her esophagus to her intestines.
She’s doing well now.
But it was through this experience I learned that the real cancer in African-American culture, or at least for me, is the pain suffered at the hands of parents. I learned that pain is recycled unless confronted, acknowledged or somehow resolved.
I thought I buried those issues.
My mother lay in the hospital for seven days. For seven days I had the responsibility of making sure my younger brothers, who are 8 and 13, get to school with lunch in tow. I then had to go about my routine, go back and pick them up, take them to the barbershop, make sure they did their homework, ate dinner and went to sleep. And I had to visit my mother at the hospital. Finally, I had to finish whatever I couldn’t finish during the day. I even updated my Facebook status as: “New found respect for mothers, esp. my own. I did it for a week and I am knackered and not to mention that my lil bros are 8 and 13.”
By Day Four, I was exhausted. I started to resent my mother, not for the cancer, but for the fact that hardly anyone else came to visit. I started to feel upset about nights during my teenage years when she chose to spend time with other men than with me, times when she left me to the elements of Austin. I started to think about all of the other things that I could have been doing with my time besides taking care of her children while she was recovering.
I think parents sometimes forget that children have feelings, too. I think they dismiss the notions of individuality. My parents were ones who didn’t take kindly to asking the reasons behind some actions. They always used some generic term: “Because I am the grown up and you are the child.” Or if you had really religious parents, they would beat you, then quote some scripture about honoring thy mother and father, or spare the rod spoil the child.
I learned that I still resented her for some decisions she made that affected my life. I realized that unless I dealt with these issues they would manifest in other ways, against other people. And I’m sure I have done that a lot already (I apologize). Some people say that the way a man treats a woman is dependent on the relationship with his mom, I don’t know. But I do know that for the first time I think she dug deep to hear me and not listen. And maybe those times when I spoke out or acted out was to get her attention. Either way, we got what we needed.
I forgive her now, but it wasn’t until her hospital stay that I had to confront issues that I still harbored. I finally found time to express those feelings to her just recently. She acknowledged them and said where we both went wrong. We understood where we both took each other for granted.
We are both still healing.