Mother’s Day has always been a holiday I’ve dreaded when I saw it on the calendar — not because I didn’t love my Mom, but I didn’t know her. Since I was 8 months old, my Mom has battled schizophrenia, which never allowed me to form a true mother/son connection with her. Even on her good days I wasn’t able to make the connection every child wishes for with their mom because she wasn’t able to.
That’s what made every May difficult for me; it was a constant reminder of what I didn’t have, which was shortsighted thinking because that lack of connection allowed me to build stronger relationships with other female family members.
Being a single father, my Dad leaned heavily on my Grandma to be the maternal influence in my life. She became my best friend and confidant, and Grandma helped shape me into the person I am today. I get my straightforwardness from her and my love of making sure everyone else is taken care of before I sit down. She lived till 92, a good run for a woman who helped shape multiple generations of my family into better people. Looking back on it, she passed away right after I married my wife. I wonder if she hung on until she was confident I had another strong woman in my life?
The torch my Grandma carried that kept the family together was passed on to my cousin Denise — a selfless woman who puts everyone’s needs before her own. Throughout the years, Denise babysat me and was there for my first breakup, many Little League games and other life milestones that mothers typically would be there for.
I’ve had a number of other people in my life who helped fill the motherless void I felt, no more than my sister Beth. Sure, we had our sibling rivalries and fights, but I knew she always had my back and is still just a phone call away to help me work through the hassles of life.
Looking back, I’ve been lucky to have three great women (four when you include my wife) who helped guide me through the ups and downs of life. Few of us have a traditional upbringing, so when we celebrate Mother’s Day, we should take the time to thank those who stepped up to fill a void and for those who would if they could.
We recently moved my Mom into a new assisted living house where she is making new friends and where I’m trying to reconnect with her as much as possible. Wish me luck!
– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.