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This is my Mom.

Well, that’s her in the mid-1960s.

But that’s her—that little girl, full of life.

Before life started happening.

Before traumas.

Before abuses.

Before a turbulent adolescence.

Before an unplanned kid (me).

Before an abusive relationship.

Before navigating her way through an era, and in an area, where having three kids and being unwed was frowned upon and judged.

Before working two full-time jobs to feed us—one a 3rd-shift factory job, and the other a day job as an administrative assistant at the local college. Before she got the day job, she worked full-time and went to school to get the degree she needed for it. She probably thinks I don’t remember, because I never really expressed much gratitude for all she did for us. But I do.

Regrettably, I cost her both of those jobs—she couldn’t possibly keep them and keep up with me and the hell I put our family through.

That little girl and I have been pretty angry with each other at times.

I thought for a long time that I had a lot of good reasons to be mad at her, but the truth is if I’d have known a fraction of the pain she’d endured before even knowing me, I’d have never slighted her in my lifetime.

I owe that little girl a hundred thousand apologies.

See, I never knew that little girl . . . the one that loved life, and knew innocence. By the time I came to know my mom, she’d experienced forms of pain that no one should ever suffer. I never knew that her deepest pains were both caused and denied by those she loved the most. I never recognized that she was still in pain, and trying to raise me and two of my siblings on her own through it all.

I never knew the depths of her pain, but I blamed her for the effect that pain had on who she was.

That little girl has had a number of battles to fight in her lifetime. Some she’s responded to in a way that showed me how strong she can be, and some seemed to get the best of her at times.

For some time, my mom forgot about that little girl. My mom didn’t love her the way she needed to be loved.

For some time, that little girl got lost.

Recently, my mom had her second heart attack. Years of not loving herself caught up with her, and she nearly paid for it with her life. She had open-heart surgery and was given another chance to be convinced she’s worth loving. But it wasn’t going to be easy.

That recovery effort was threatened sevenfold when the patriarch of our family, her beloved dad, passed away after succumbing to Covid in the middle of her recovery plan.

But Mom hasn’t caved under all of that pain.

In fact, Mom decided to take her life back. She decided to keep working her aftercare, and she hasn’t had a cigarette in a month. She’s feeling better, and moving better every day. We talk a lot nowadays—a trend I hope continues—and it’s much different than it was before. She laughs. Her eyes are brighter, and her smile is genuine and contagious.

She’s finding that little girl again.

I hope that little girl knows how proud I am of the warrior she became.

I hope she knows how sorry I am for all of the pain I caused her.

I hope she knows that I have forgiven her, and I hope with everything in me that she forgives herself.

I hope she knows that even though I didn’t know it, it was never her I was angry with.

I hope she knows how loved she is.

Love you, Mom.

If you’re in a place like I was with your parents and they’re still here, take the leap and tell them how you feel. Don’t wait to let them know, no matter what it is, because you never know what tomorrow brings.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

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