When I was a young child, I enjoyed my mother when she was drinking. She would sing and laugh. Sometimes she’d recite nursery rhymes. It was like having a playmate who would play whatever I thought of and enjoy it.
As I got older, it wasn’t as much fun any more. She’d go on binges and she’d make me call her boss to say she had the flu and wouldn’t be in for a few days. Every day I had to call again to tell that man that she still had the flu. I found out years later that he knew what her “flu” was. But she was an excellent employee. She was sharp. She was smart and she would catch up when she felt better and went back to work. Still, those phone calls haunt me today, and any time I have to call in sick, I feel guilty, even with the doctor saying I have to take a few days off, or be out twenty-four hours, or whatever his work note says . . . I feel guilty.
When I became a teenager, there was a lot of shame associated with my mother’s drinking. She didn’t always stay home. She’d go out and people in our small town would see her. I wondered if they knew she was my mother?
One day I was in the grocery store and one of the clerks told me my mother had written a check that came back. It was only for a bottle of wine, but if somebody – and as she said “somebody”, she looked me directly in the eyes, didn’t pick it up, the sheriff was going to take care of it. In fact, it had already been sent to the sheriff and somebody needed to go to his office and pick up that check. The check was small, but the fee because of how far it had gottten in the system, would be more. I told her to call my mother. She said they had. She said as her daughter, I should go pick that check up. I didn’t. My mother was mad at me when she had to handle it a few days later and pay court costs as well as everything else, but I didn’t care. I worked from the time I was thirteen. I didn’t get paid much. I wasn’t spending my money on her drinking problems. I was going to use it to buy myself something to eat or something to wear.
My clothes, even my shoes, were hand me downs. I had better things to buy than a worthless check written for something that shouldn’t even have been bought in the first place.