by: Max Alborn
As evidence of the letter I wrote in class when I was 12 (which you insisted on framing as mothers do) we both know I’ve thought you were remarkable from an early age.
Given I was 12 then, there was a special emphasis on all the “nice things” you provided for the family. A child’s priorities can be a little screwed up when putting pen to paper, so please allow me to expand on the note that I started eleven years ago.
We are not an uncommon family unit, yet we have been called a rare breed. I haven’t come across many parent/child relationships with a rapport like ours. You almost have to see it to believe it, most times. The rest of the world could be damned with their massive households, multiple marriages/divorces and disgruntled relations. We had each other (plus the dogs, cats, birds, horses and one disgruntled goat) to lean on. That was more than enough.
I’ve done my best to do right by you as a son, though I fear on some level, I’ve failed you. I left. I’m the closest thing to family you’ve had on a long, hard road and I left. I didn’t leave because I hated home or wanted to get away from you–far from it. I was scared as hell to leave everything and everyone I knew.
But I also knew that if I stayed in Oregon, I wouldn’t grow. And I think on some level, you knew that as well. You had always raised me to strive for greater opportunities; the ones you gave up your youth for so you could raise me. You’ve never vocalized that to me and never made me feel guilt for existing but I always knew what you sacrificed to take care of us. With so little help from anyone else, you put me first and lifted me up in ways you were never given by your own parents. And you did it alone.
When I chose to stay in Chicago, I know that while you were excited for me, a part of you was very hurt that I didn’t return home. We had gone from talking every day in my freshman year, to a few times a week once I started my first real job downtown. You tell me how you miss me, wish we spoke more often and are sad of how things have changed from when I was younger. I am so sorry if I have hurt you or made you feel less important to me. This has never been my intention nor is it true to me.
I have changed. You told me recently how you have changed since I’ve been away. You tell me that the rest of the world sees you as “fat”, “ugly” and nobody talks to you. You don’t care what other people think but you care how they treat you. You don’t like being treated as if you were invisible or not worthy.
I’m here to tell you that you do not deserve such treatment, from strangers or otherwise. Don’t let anyone tell you different, not even yourself. You deserve to be recognized and you deserve to be respected for everything you have done on your own. Just because you pulled it off doesn’t make it common: you’ve been a one-woman show for over 40 years, Ma. Very few could ever hope to say that. Most lack the strength.
Everyone I know who has met you has only had the brightest things to say. You’re “full of life”, “funny as hell”, “kind”, “vibrant” and “the coolest mom” they know. You’ve always had a way with people, especially the younger generation. You can make them open up, feel safe and comfort them. You’re a healer in many respects and in a world that is slowly ripping itself apart, healers are hard to come by.
I know that you’re tired. I know that you’re lonely. While I don’t know how it feels to be in your skin, I am familiar with isolation and how stifling that can be. I know that with me here and you there, it feels like a gap has grown between us for you. I want you to know that no amount of distance can break a family like ours.
I never wanted to bring you sadness. I only wanted to make you proud. In a way, I felt like I was following your example by staying here and building my life–one you always told me you wanted me to build. When you moved to London right out of high school, you established yourself, built your own life and made exceptional memories. You always spoke so highly of that time, I sometimes wish you had stayed. Even if that meant I wasn’t born. Maybe you would be happier today.
But I am here. I can’t go back and I finally feel like I’m beginning to live and enjoy my life. I aim for a brighter future. A home of my own and a family I love. I imagine getting married one day somewhere near the Pacific and you making a toast that will surely embarrass me…Rock-a-doodle…I’ll never live it down. I see myself having kids and you taking them skydiving when I’m not looking. You’re always present in these scenarios I cook up in my head and always laughing from the gut–because “that’s where the best laughs come from”, as you once told me. The world is better for having you in it.
I’m going to do what you raised me to do. I’m going to live. I’m going to try and do good for others. Be patient and remain focused. I will do everything I can to keep the punches of the world from crippling me. I’ll do everything I can to support those I love at their best and worst of times. I’ll try to be a better man every day. I might not always succeed, but dammit all I’m going to try.
I know you’re going through a dark time now and it hurts that I’m not physically there. I give you my love and support as a son and want you to know you will always be important to me. You’ll always have family in me. I’ve seen much of what you have accomplished and overcome and I know you can do it again. I believe that you will come to find you are important to a great many people you have yet to meet.
I can’t live your life for you, Ma, and I can’t make your decisions. You’d be the first to tell me that. That has always been your right. Whatever path you walk, I want you to know you will always matter to me. After all of this time and all you have been through, I can’t know if a son’s love is enough to keep you going but I hope it is. I will continue to keep you in my thoughts every day and work towards a better future for our family. I remain optimistic that our best days lie ahead.
Until then, your loving son,
Max Alborn is an Oregon-raised graduate of DePaul University, specializing in Media and Cinema Communications studies. He began writing about the entertainment industry during his Junior year and has done so for the DePaulia, HEAVEmedia and Player Affinity since then. Often on the outskirts of the Chicago LGBT community, Max has slowly been integrated through LGBT-focused volunteer work–with an interest in LGBT seniors/youth outreach. He spends his off hours writing, threatening his roommate and spinning as fast as he can in swivel chairs. He was also an RA for two years and was run over by a horse at the age of 5.