The Return of Mom 1.0


(This is the follow-up to yesterday’s My New Mom, Choppers. This Mom Saga series began with My Runaway Mom–which was followed by My Runaway Mom–And Her Surprise Replacement.)

What had happened to our real mom was something my sister and I wouldn’t find out for two years after she’d left—after, for us, Life 3.0 had begun. During those two years we heard not so much as a peep from our mother. We didn’t know if she was dead, or kidnapped, or had runaway, or what. No phone call. No note. No visit in the middle of the night. No secret, coded, critical little communique that I was forever desperately searching to discern. Just … silence. Nothing.

As gone as gone gets.

To this day, whenever I see on TV or read about parents who have a child who’s been abducted or disappeared, I think, “God, I can’t imagine how that feels.” And then remember that, actually, I can.

And you don’t even want to be my wife coming home from somewhere later than she said she’d be back. Poor thing. If she’s, like, an hour late from somewhere, and didn’t call so I wouldn’t worry, I can totally milk my Serious Abandonment Issues to get free foot rubs out of her for a week.

It’s wrong, I know.

As it turned out, my mother hadn’t “disappeared” at all. She had, instead, been all along living and working (as a librarian!) only a few miles away from our house. For those whole two years, she’d essentially been right up the street from my house. Upon reentering our lives (“Son,” my dad said to me one day after I’d come home from a Little League baseball practice, “your mother called”—and just like that my legs gave out from underneath me), my mom explained to me how she had needed to get away to “find” herself; it turned out that, as she put it, “God never wanted me to be a mother.” And her idea whilst finding herself had been to remain utterly hidden from the children whom God never intended her to have, so as not to interfere with my sister and I settling into the life that God apparently did intend for us as a correction to his earlier mistake. It was right around the time of her Big Return that my sister and I also learned that our father had, in fact, known all along where our mother was—he’d been in regular contact with her, we learned—but that he never told us what he knew, because he felt it would be less painful for us to imagine that our mother somehow couldn’t communicate with us than it would be to know that she could, but simply chose not to. He was dead wrong about that—any closure beats no closure—but you can’t blame a guy for trying.

My sister ditched out of our home when she was but fifteen (and without question that was the Suddenly Missing Immediate Family Member that wounded me the most). I managed to gut it out until a couple of months into my seventeenth year.

And then—early out of high school, living in big city sixty miles away, trying to sell encyclopedias door-to-door in a ghetto neighborhood—my Fun Life Ride really began. (You can read a little bit about that new life of mine in my post, Labor Day, and Me Not Getting Killed by a Dealer/Pimp.)

Thanks to all of you who read this series, and for your many loving comments about it. They’ve meant a great deal to me.

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  • Latoya

    I wish you would write an entire story of your life. I think would read it all in one sitting

  • I actually am writing a memoir of sorts. I hope to have it done in about four months. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Wow! Thanks! After some of the (let's see … how to say this…) not altogether smashingly coherent comments I've been most recently receiving on one or two of my other posts, this is really nice to read. Thank you very much; I kind of needed that. Thanks again!

  • Wow! That was gut-wrenching to read. I have been working at the monsters' school for the last several weeks and have heard so many stories like yours. It is encouraging to hear that kids who go through this kind of emotional abuse can grow up to be relatively stable adults!

    It's also difficult to read this and not feel superior and judgemental! I have read your posts about forgiving your father and spending time with him! That kind of forgiveness is amazing to me!

    Thanks for posting these, John!

  • PurplePeople

    Left home at 16! Wow! How did that pan out for you? Were you able to finish high school? Could you legally live independently at that age?

  • Oh, well, that would all take to … bore you to death with. But you know how it is: You just … hang out. Crash where you can–at the house of friends, or wherever. I had a rash of crappy jobs: selling shoes, selling the encyclopedias I mentioned in the post, fast foods, and so on. Just … that sort of thing. Spend a lot of time high on nasty weed. Float about. Hang out with people older than you, since they seem to know what they're doing. Depend on friends. Then depend on new friends. Ignore the fact that you're living a little too much like an animal. Be young. Have friends to which (as it turns out) you're grateful for the rest of your life. People are good. They save you.

  • Dianne

    John, you are amazing. What I ponder is if you would be the same person if you hadn’t had all of that crap (Mom 1 and Mom 2). Who would you be? Would you have come out with the same values, would you be as real, would you be so willing to stand up for what you believe? I hate that you went through all that and I hurt for you, but I sure do like the person that you have become!

  • John, I wrote you a note earlier, but it disappeared. Then I came back and read your last entry, and I was glad it disappeared. Sorry I haven’t written in a while…my son suffered from a bad fall and multiple traumatic brain injuries in March. He’s recovering and won’t have permanent brain damage, so I won’t go into it right now. I’m so sorry for the behavior of your dad and both of your “moms”. I’m so thankful you have a wife who loves you. We have some parallels, and I understand the fear of abandonment! My husband and I have been married for almost 34 years, and we love each other more than ever, but I spent the first half of our marriage waiting for him to leave me or die. Your traumatic heartbreak broke my heart, and I still want to hear about your sister. Thanks for sharing your life with us.

  • toni

    So now I know how you understand so well. So sad, but with a happy ending, right?

    My own children's dad died years ago, and 6 years after that I foolishly subjected them to "Not a dad"# 2, and "Angry Dad" # 3. After 5 years, I am glad to be "just a single mom", and living in peace.

    (As peaceful as life gets, of course.)

    Thank you again for sharing with all of your "fans" who need to know we are not the only "losers" in life.

  • No words. You rock.

  • Latoya

    Looking forward to it! Hope you finish sooner than you planned 🙂

  • John John…. it's amazing that God took you through all this and you are as intact as it gets.. get that memoir of your life soon.

    By the way I found a quote somewhere…

    (The best step mother ever is a mother chicken… never cares who lay the egg that hatched the hck she feeds and defends….

  • Christine

    John thank you for this insight into your life. Was hooked. Have you written an autobiography?? If not could you cos I would love to read it all at once in a big dollop?? Loving it and really appreciate the fact tht you have let us into your life, especially when the painful memories are the ones you are choosing to share with us. God bless hun

  • Karen

    wow – I have not been on line much for the past two weeks, just getting a chance to read your articles I have missed – still working on then all. But I must say, you are an interesting man to say the least and I look forward to reading your memoir.

  • Jeannie

    I am trying to wrap my mind around what must have been going on in your mom’s mind, but I just can’t. I am dumbstruck. I don’t get it. I can’t conceive of it. Wow.

  • john, i do not think there is anything i could say to you that has not been said before.

    but i can say that your story of survivor~ ship is so powerful, so strong, so encouraging, so healing!

    your story, proves that there are plenty of us who not only survived, but succeeded in life.

    i am looking forward to your memoir john,

  • Diana A.

    Me too!

  • It’s so weird to me that you were going through all of this when I knew you in high school. I hadn’t the foggiest idea. Nothing. I remember you being kind of guarded about your home life, so I probably knew not to pry, but I really had no idea. I mostly just remember hanging with you and Keith Davis, laughing our asses off. If I’d known, seriously, I would have hugged you more often. <3