“Is The Nightmare Really Black Or Are The Windows Painted?” Elton John

For two months now I’ve waited and hoped for good news while praying that this virus would leave as quickly as it came. I’m not alone. The news is so depressing these days.

From anxiety to depression Covid-19 has set the world on edge. For inmates the fear of dying is valid. For loved ones of inmates worry and concern go hand in hand.

There isn’t any good news these days. Gloom and Doom fill the internet, news and media.

Finding hope amidst hopelessness is no easy task. In fact it’s similar to searching for a needle in a haystack.

My hometown of Lompoc, California is saturated with Covid cases. The COVID-19 time bomb ticking inside the Lompoc prison complex since late March detonated in dramatic fashion this week as the federal facility confirmed 912 open cases among inmates and 25 cases among staff. The outbreak remains the largest in any federal prison in the United States.

The rest of Santa Barbara County has reported 475 total positive cases.

My sister, Tammy called me alarmed, worried and concerned about filing for unemployment. It’s something neither I or my sisters have ever done before.

Tammy has worked at an upscale restaurant in Buelton since she was 19 years old. Everyone in our family learned the value of working at a very young age. We didn’t have anyone to “fall back on.” Instead we had each other and strong work ethics.

There are three things that I remember most about Lompoc every time I roll into town, the prison, the base and the flowers. Lompoc is known as the valley of the flowers. Tammy never left Lompoc.

Many of our relatives stayed in Lompoc but Cindy and I had no real choice about leaving. Our mothers mother adopted Tammy.

Our father loaded up Cindy, Jerry and I and left our hometown and everything familiar to us behind.

I thrive on structure and predictability. My reasons are based entirely on my childhood. Nothing was predictable. Bounced from relative to relative my siblings and I were often unaware of where we would be from one day to the next.

Cindy has stayed in the same house for nearly twenty five years so her daughters and granddaughters could attend the same schools. Structure is important to her too.

My son attended private school so moving wouldn’t change his structure. I drove him thirty minutes to an hour away until he was able and old enough to drive himself.

I wanted my son to go to school with the same friends. Predictability and structure during his school years were very important to me. Being the mother I didn’t have was never easy or inexpensive but worth my effort and attention.

I wanted predictability for my child I had never had for myself. Cindy and I both shared the same importance of stability for our children that we had never had as children ourselves.

Cindy and I broke the chains of our broken childhood. We changed the outcome for our own children and grandchildren. We gave them the childhood we would have wanted for ourselves. It was entirely a joint decision.

Cindy and I have both raised our children and grandchildren together.

Mothers Day is always a hardship for me. It’s a day of gloom and doom even in the best of times. I can never understand why our mother made the decisions she did.

Further I cannot under any circumstances send a sappy card about what a wonderful mother she was. None of my mothers children can. We struggle through every Mother’s Day fighting to remain positive. Pretending we have a normal family. Knowing we don’t. We never have. We never will.

Our mother broke our family. She exposed all three of her daughters to predators. Addicts and “friends” of hers who took advantage of her children often right in front of her. We had no one to protect us. We had no one who cared enough to step up or step in.

My depression each and every Mother’s Day occasionally takes me several days to put away.

Posts from happy families celebrating their mother. Internet “tips” for making this Mother’s Day perfect for your mother. The best way to treat your mother to a wonderful holiday based entirely on the sacrifices she made for her children. Ugh.

Cindy and I switched up this Mother’s Day ooh la la stuff when our children were old enough to realize we prefer to treat it like any other day and treat our kids to lunch and a movie or a trip to the casino. Our older kids are in their 30’s.

Cindy’s twin grand daughters often buy gifts for her and I while shopping with my husband or their Papa. They don’t understand why Mother’s Day is a dark day for us.

The twins don’t know why their MiMi’s dread the yearly phone call to our mother to wish her a happy Mother’s Day while secretly wondering why we continue to keep up this “faux celebration” of a day that reminds us over and over again that we never had a real mother. We never will.

Monday while scrolling FB and waiting on the police to report my fathers truck stolen, I saw a post from Naquitia about Mother’s Day that grabbed my attention. She was hurt that her children hadn’t bothered to do anything for Mother’s Day. I was relieved my son hadn’t. Why rub it in? The day of the year that kicks off my yearly reminder of having absent parents is Mother’s Day.

Don’t even get me started on Father’s Day. Ugh from the frying pan straight over to the fire. Tit for tat. “You wouldn’t be where you are without me.” Really? I’m where I am because I learned that in order to keep from starving I would need to work my ass off. I don’t “owe” anybody. I’m well off and live comfortably. I don’t have to work. No one gave me financial security. I earned it.

By the time I slap myself together enough to put Mother’s Day behind me it’s Father’s Day. You get the point.

Anyway, I’ve been driving by my dads house for two years. What am I looking for? Broken windows. Signs of an intruder. The usual. I had driven past when I noticed his truck was missing. Ugh. Now I had to have a conversation with my dad BEFORE Father’s Day to “update him that the truck was missing.”

My father and I have a very strained relationship. My father never forgave me for hiring an investigator to locate my mother in my 20’s.

In fact most of my fathers side of the family and even my brother were angered about it.

I wanted answers. I really wanted an apology. I got neither. The same day my mother met me in exchange for $1500 she was in a debilitating car accident that she would never recover from.

I was so shocked by my meeting with her that I lost the opportunity to tell her what a shit she was. Why couldn’t she lie and say she was sorry or that she wondered what had happened to us? Why couldn’t I express my anger? I was dumb struck at her cold responses while she counted my money.

I would never have the opportunity to “say what I really think” to my mother. She has no memory of what she put her four children through. I believe she knows more than she lets on but challenging this fact would upset my sisters and our already fragile faux normal family. I zip it instead.

My sisters and I pretend normality around our mother. It’s strained, awkward and always emotionally debilitating.

My friend and prison bride, Naquitia had written on her FB wall “my kids don’t even know what day this is.”

I was immediately struck by her post for a few reasons. First, her kids should know what day it is the older ones at least and second I was busy trying to forget Mother’s Day.

I commented on the post and advised her that Cindy and I try to forget Mother’s Day every year.

Her response touched me though. “If I had a husband at home, he would be taking these kids to buy me gifts and teaching them to celebrate me.”

It’s something I had never really put much thought into but she was right. My prison clients in numerous states are often alone on Mother’s Day. Those who aren’t are often forgotten by their children.

Another prison bride sent me a message on FB that read “my son isn’t talking to me it’s been six months. What can I do? My heart is broken.” Karen like many mothers would like to mend this rift but her son doesn’t approve of her plans to marry an inmate. I suggested sending her son a card or letter expressing her love for him while acknowledging that she must make her own decisions when it comes to choosing a life partner.

I have no idea how this will turn out for Karen but I firmly believe in the power of communicating your feelings unless of course you are me and my sisters. We communicate our feelings to each other and skip our parents.

When Cindy’s husband was home and Leigh Ann and Stephaney we’re younger, Steve took them shopping for Cindy to celebrate Mother’s Day.

When my son was still living at home, Matthew not only took him to shop for a Mother’s Day gift but even got a card from my dog, Foxy lord rest his soul. I’ve missed Foxy so much during this pandemic. He would have loved having me home.

I decided to send Naquitia some fabric. She’s an excellent seamstress and I knew she would enjoy some of our LV fabric to make masks. She did. She also sent me a photo wearing the mask she had used my material to create.

Naquitia is a good friend. All of my clients are. They are amazing, resilient and sadly, alone. Separated from their loved ones by prison walls. Sending the fabric to Naquitia, I decided to send a few of our custom masks to a few of my prison clients who had messaged me regarding being miserable on Mother’s Day themselves. Better late than never. If their kids wouldn’t celebrate them I would.

The inability to visit their loved ones along with the worry that their loved ones will become sick with Covid spreading through the prison system keeps fear and hopelessness at an all time high.

My clients have resilience, strength, patience and perseverance. They have also taught me to focus on other mothers on Mother’s Day rather than my own. It’s taken me 55 years to get past hating Mother’s Day but my clients have.

The police finally arrived at my dads house to take the stolen truck report and logged off FB to begin going over the details.

Google images showed that the truck had been parked exactly where I had last seen it and tread marks appear to have been from a trailer hauling it off.

The truck had sat there for five years. Flat tires and all. Who would steal it?

Someone was unaware that I regularly drive by and would notice it was missing.

Three months ago my sister and I hired a tow truck to move my dads other car a Mitsubishi Galant to her home until we could find an international carrier to move it to our brothers home in Monroe, North Carolina. It’s expensive to move vehicles ya all.

The policeman needed my dads date of birth. Ugh. I have no idea of my dads date of birth. I called my sister in law, Michelle who knew it.

I have no idea what my mothers birthday is either. I know my parents were both 21 when Cindy and I were born. We’ve never celebrated our parents birthdays. They’ve never celebrated ours.

I’ve never had a birthday gift from anyone in my family in my entire life. Cindy hasn’t either. For many years after locating my mother that fateful day in California and wishing I hadn’t, the benefit of meeting my mothers mother who never forgot my birthday or Christmas and even my sons birthday was the sheer delight of finding a greeting card in my mailbox.

When the cards stopped coming I knew that grandma Tinney had passed on. No birthday card in November no Christmas card in December. I called Lompoc and confirmed that grandma Tinney was gone.

The only person in my entire life who bothered to send a birthday and Christmas card every year to not only me but also my sister Cindy and her daughters. You remember things that you never had. You are thankful for them too.

Father’s Day is right around the corner. There are 3 days I intentionally overlook every year. My birthday, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I’ve decided to start focusing on others instead. It’s a good place to start.

My clients are the family I never had but was gifted with instead. They bring me joy. They call to check on me during this pandemic. They are amazing.

While I continue to hope and pray this virus finally leaves the prison system and the former structure of my life can be restored, I’m hopeful that Father’s Day this year will be different for me. My son is a new father. I’m a new grandmother. I have many things in my life to be thankful for. I will focus on moving beyond my anxiety of going down the card aisle with others buying sappy cards for their parents and buy a sappy card for my son and his wife or my clients.

I will work on accepting that not having parents in my life made me a better person. A kinder person. A compassionate person. The things in my life I didn’t have never defined me. I became the person I wanted to meet. The mother I never had. The father my son needed. I was capable of far more.

You don’t need parents in your life to be a good parent. You need patience, love and understanding…