This month’s theme is “Aha-Stories of revelations, epiphanies.” Bring a true 8-minute or less story about a time when you realized something about yourself of your life. This is as close to an open theme as we’ll ever get at FGS 🙂
The biggest revelation I’ve had this year is a few months ago when my babysitter from 1969 wrote me out of the blue to ask if I wanted to know why my mother had always been so angry. Googling my mom had led her to a story I wrote about how I’d always wondered what had been the source of her temper. My mother died when I was 17 so I never got to talk to her as an adult. I never got to ask her the question that shaped my life for as long as I can remember. Why was I such a burden to her? What was I doing that made her so upset?
Now suddenly, I was going to find out. The woman who took care of me between the ages of 3-5 and interacted with my mom on a daily basis was probably the only person still alive who had the answer.
I wrote her back immediately. “Yes. I need to now. Please tell me.” Even though there was a part of me that didn’t want to know, there was a bigger part of me that had to know.
“She hated children,” she wrote back. “She hated children, hated your father, and hated being married. She loved the idea of you but was tired of playing the role of your mother.”
And there it was. It all made sense. I was the burden I always suspected I was. It wasn’t anything I did that made her upset, it was my existence that she resented. I would have made a better nephew. Maybe even a great stepson who moved on when his dad left. But I was hers and my father didn’t want to raise me either so we were stuck with each other. It’s a shame I didn’t get to experience her as a crazy aunt, a role she was more naturally attuned to. If she had been the loud New Yorker who lived across the street I probably would have been the kid she took under her wing and told stories to. Instead, I was her son and needed more than a quick joke and a lesson in the old soft shoe.
In the end, I know she did her best. When cancer finally took her, she went down swinging. When she knew she wasn’t going to survive, she snuck out of the hospital because she knew I’d need every cent she had in the bank to find a place to live and make it through high school. She wanted to die at home because it was cheaper.
When she got home I called a cab and took her back to the hospital. The cancer had already eaten away so much of her brain that she couldn’t speak. If there was anything she wanted to say to me it was too late. It was too late for both of us. All I knew was that she couldn’t say anything to hurt me anymore and I wanted to keep it that way. So I took her back to the hospital where she could die in peace.
Taking care of her in her final days would have taken a selfless love that I didn’t have back then. I didn’t learn about that kind of love until seven years later when my own son was born. I couldn’t give him much in the years I spent raising him in tiny apartments on minimum wage, but I made sure he always had one thing. He knew he wasn’t a burden.
And that’s the type of story we’re looking for. Come tell a story where you learned something about yourself. How did you figure it out? Did it make you happy? Sad? Relieved? Did it change how you saw yourself in general after you found out? Did it explain something you’d been wondering about?
Remember to practice out loud and time yourself to keep it under 8 minutes. If you have trouble getting it under 8 minutes send me an email and we can talk about how to cut it down. I swear it doesn’t bother me. I’d rather help you cut a couple minutes off your story than have to bump someone on the night of the show because we’re running long.
Here are the rules and guidelines for telling:
Take care. I hope to see a bunch of you on the 20th, 7pm at Roy Street Coffee and Tea. 🙂