Any conversation that starts with “Did I ever tell you that my mother was murdered?” is going to be awkward.
And that’s why I don’t typically share this story with people. But my friend Debbie is of that rare breed that has a knack for gently drawing your truth to the surface. The Maya Angelou quote mentioned above is Debbie’s favorite quote. She lives these words. She doesn’t bear her untold stories nor will she allow her friends to bear them alone.
It came as a surprise to both of us that I never shared the story of my mother’s death. I honestly thought I told her.
Then she admitted that she never felt “permission” to ask about my mother. I was a bit taken aback at her comment.
How could she think she didn’t have “permission” to ask me about my mother? Looks like I have another wall to break down.
My mother and I were never close. She was an alcoholic who turned her back on me twice—both times indicating that she “wasn’t up for dealing with me.” The first time, I was ten, and she sent me to live with my estranged father who, along with his friends, sexually abused me for two years. The second time, as an adult, I was attempting to invite her back into my life after not speaking with her in twenty-four years. She declined my efforts, so I eventually let her go.
I hadn’t spoken to her in years when I received the phone call that she had been found stabbed to death in her mobile home.
Her murder occurred two weeks after my last reconstructive surgery for stage-three breast cancer.
I never even told my mother I had cancer, and now I would be asked to take a lie detector test to prove I didn’t kill her.
Ironically, I had a great alibi. Due to a stage-three breast cancer diagnosis, I was rehabilitating from my third reconstructive surgery to my chest that rendered me too weak to hold a steering wheel for more than a few minutes at a time for roughly six months after the operation.
It started when she fell and hurt her hip. She was in a rehabilitation facility until she was strong enough to go home on her own. My sister called to tell me she had taken care of our mother for long enough, and it was my turn to take care of her. Please note: I am fully aware of how ludicrous this sounds. I had not even told my mother I had cancer; my hair was maybe the length of a very short crew cut; I had surgery two weeks ago; and my sister was stressed out about adding another thing to do to her schedule. Really?
Against my better judgment, I went to see my mother at the facility. It was during this visit that I realized I had very little emotional attachment to her at all. She was a stranger to me; she had never even had the pleasure of meeting my daughter. And when she walked out of my life, she walked away from my son, my husband, and me. I couldn’t believe she chose a life of isolation and loneliness over a loving family. She mentioned a friend who was helping her out.
Right after I arrived home from visiting my mother, I received a call from this friend asking me to send her money to have my mother’s house cleaned. According to the friend, it was the least I could do after abandoning my mother for so many years. I did not send her money. Nor did I ever speak to her again, until the deposition.
Soon after, I received a call from a detective that she had been murdered in her mobile home and would I come to the station to answer some questions.
While other cancer survivors spend their time mourning the loss of their health, breast(s), and/or hair, I was mourning the loss of a mother with whom I had no emotional connection while explaining to detectives that I couldn’t possibly have stabbed her to death since I didn’t have enough strength in my arms to lift a cup of coffee.
Reader: At this point, I would highly recommend seeing the humor in this situation.
The investigation into my mother’s death went on for a year or so. Although they never found her murderer, the detective in charge of the case was patient and kind. He was very sensitive to the awkwardness of the situation. He made my involvement in the investigation as painless for me as he could.
At some point during the investigation, I had to sit in a room with my mother’s friend being deposed. She told the court that I abandoned my mother, never took care of her, and, as a child, made her life hell. It was all I could do to not go across the table straight for her throat. She had no idea what I’d been through, and there was nothing I could do about it. She was being deposed, not me. I had to sit there in silence while she told half-stories.
The newspapers reported that I’d abandoned my mother.
I felt like I was being Punk’d. If Ashton Kutcher had walked in, I would have smiled and walked away.
Then the detective called to tell me that they had to “rule out” people who weren’t suspects. In order to do that, all the non-suspects had to take lie detector tests. This was the final insult. I hated the whole situation, but to make it worse, I was once again being brought to their level. I was being called in to answer why I wasn’t there for my mother.
Not one person ever asked me why I didn’t talk to her for twenty-four years.
At the end of this humiliating escapade, to her credit, the administrator of the test said, “On behalf of everyone involved with this case, we apologize for putting you through this. You are free to go.”
Eventually, the investigation was put on the back burner as more crimes occurred. The detective still calls me every once in a while, and I’m happy to hear from him, but he never has any answers.
Given that fact that this sounds like a pathetic country-western song, I never would have even thought to share this story if it hadn’t been for my friend Debbie. My way of handling these types of experiences is to not talk about them…EVER. I can’t seem to do that with Debbie. She offers me such a safe environment; I fold like a cheap tent and tell her everything.
And as I tell my story, I remember: This experience is just another thing for me to learn from, to find humor in the situation and let go of it so I can be present to enjoy all of the amazing things and people in my life, like Debbie.
Do you have a secret that is buried so deep you don’t even think of sharing it? I read and respond to every comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In 2006, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Lockey Maisonneuve underwent chemotherapy, bi-lateral mastectomies with saline implant reconstruction, and radiation. During this time, she saw a real need for recovering cancer patients to exercise—not just for the physical rehabilitation, but also the mental aspect of regaining control over their bodies. After completing specialized training through the Cancer Exercise Training Institute, Lockey created MovingOn, a rehabilitative exercise program for cancer patients. Lockey and the MovingOn program have been featured on WABC, WCBS, News 12, WKTU, Overlook View, Shape, Park Place, and The Patch. For more on Lockey, visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
*Image courtesy of evita2005.