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  WINDY CITY TIMES

En la Vida: It feels like a lifetime ago
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by Raven Rodriguez
2016-01-20

This article shared 4739 times since Wed Jan 20, 2016
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It feels like a lifetime. Thirteen years ago the very last installation of my column, "Por Lo Que Soy", was published in En La Vida, a sister LGBT publication of Outlines newspaper, which merged with Windy City Times in 2000.

At that time I was a 32-year-old Latina lesbian who had decided to stop speaking to her mother for reasons outlined and detailed in every column up to the last. Since my writing was dedicated entirely to the interaction between my mother and me, or rather her negative reaction toward my life and my resentment for how she raised me, once the relationship was severed there seemed to be no reason to continue the column.

For those who never followed it, my mother and I had a long, ugly poisonous relationship that stemmed from a lot of warped and antiquated views on love and loyalty on her part and a lot of rancor on mine. In her eyes I was sick, I was wrong and I was a disappointment. In my eyes, she was evil, she was heartless and she was a disappointment. In reality, she was very lost and I was very angry.

I was recently reminded that people actually read that column all those years ago despite its short run: a fact that still boggles me. I honestly don't know what I thought was happening to my words once they were in print. Even now, as back then, if anyone recognizes me from that column it shocks me. However, after a recent and rather casual conversation on it, I felt like maybe I owed that handful of people some closure and let you know what has transpired in the last 13 years.

When we left off, I had recently given birth to my youngest, the product of anonymous artificial insemination. My mother, who had, to that point, told me she would try to take my oldest away from me by soliciting the help of her biological father, told me she would not care for the thing I was carrying in my belly because it wasn't "natural," and had accused my then-wife of being a drug dealer … and these were her better moments.

It took me awhile but I ultimately decided that in order for me to be the best mother I could to my two beautiful daughters, I could no longer be subjected to the negativity that came from continuing a relationship with my mother.

It was rough at first. Initially, my sisters and extended family members disapproved of my decision, particularly because I also decided my children would no longer have anything to do with their "wita." It caused a lot of friction and strain with those family members I did speak to. Que chisme, let me tell you!

At one point one of my sisters, while taking care of my daughters, allowed my mom to visit with them. As you can imagine, this caused a reversion to the Humboldt Park hood rat in me. Not pretty. Attending family functions was no longer possible. My then-wife and I started spending the holidays with each other and our daughters, as she didn't have any family in the city herself.

We were fine with it, quiet nights with the girls, no longer feeling the tension or obligation. I still attempted to visit with my sisters when possible but sometimes that would result in physical pain.

I remember one time we were in my sister's back yard and by chance, having taken my youngest inside to get something, I spotted my mother coming up the front stairs. I immediately scooped up my daughter like a football, ran out back, grabbed my things and other daughter, and looking like OJ in an old Hertz commercial, I hopped the railing and scooted out through the gangway with my kids as my mother made her way through the house to the backyard. I lost many a shoes, toys and the occasional layer of skin that way.

I was also surprised by the reaction of some of the people I knew. In our culture, family is family. You don't get to choose them but you don't turn your back on them no matter what. NO MATTER WHAT. I never got it. Behavior that I would never accept or tolerate from anyone else was to be overlooked because we were blood related? I would never associate with a pedophile but if I had a creepy uncle who made inappropriate passes at me when I was 10 years old, I still had to respect him as my uncle and elder?

Did this not register as insanity to anyone else? Even the people that kept up with my column questioned how I could stop talking to my mother. That was my MOTHER. It befuddled them as much as their reaction befuddled me. The way I saw it, this woman made homicidal attempts on my soul with every encounter. I mean, I wouldn't welcome Jason and his machete into my home when I knew he wasn't there to open coconuts with it. So why allow this from my mom?

I was surprised how often I found myself defending my decision, especially to people who were going through similar relationships with their parents. It took me a minute to realize how deeply rooted the dysfunction of "familia" was in our culture. How ingrained in our DNA it was that we were to tolerate from family that which we would never dream of from people who were not.

I also realized that people, including my mother, didn't understand that severing the toxic relationship did not mean I hadn't forgiven her. It simply meant I was no longer willing to continue to put myself in the same situation which granted her the opportunity to keep hurting me.

Through my sisters my mom would send messages. That I was "una malagradecida," that I was hurting the children by denying them their grandmother, that I needed to learn to forgive, and a slew of other things that, to be honest, have been polished away from memory by the waves of peace that washed over me as the years transpired.

Yes … years. Eventually my sisters stopped trying to get me to change my mind and eventually my mother stopped going through them as well. Silence and peace … and all was right with the world … until it wasn't.

To be continued …


This article shared 4739 times since Wed Jan 20, 2016
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