The One Thing My Mom Got Wrong About Our Family

James Patton Family

One of my mother’s many special traits was her strong belief that people are inherently good. I guess in theory, it’s the right belief to have. I myself once held onto that concept, especially as a child. Perhaps that is why both she and I never fully grasped the severity of certain storms brewing beneath the surface in our family.

At some point, much later in life, I began to loosen the grip on the belief of the “good” in all people. Of course, as an adult, I was facing a much different world than the one my mother witnessed growing up. I sometimes think the world in on a fast-track to hell and we are all too busy bashing politics and staring into our smartphones to even notice.

I would like to think that our family began as inherently good. All these years later though, following my mother’s death, I am left to wonder just where things started to go south. In my dad’s case, maybe it involved my birth and my mom’s struggle with ovarian cancer.

She was diagnosed while pregnant with me. The diagnosis caused her to worry about two frightening outcomes. One, that she wouldn’t survive long enough to raise me. Two, that I might be born with cancer, or at a greater risk. Fortunately, neither of those two scenarios came to pass. Once I was born and after a hysterectomy, our lives continued but were changed.

Mom was very overprotective of me, her brand new, breach baby born prematurely with a case of bronchitis. I am sure both my father and brother felt left out. Years later, she confided in me that my brother once announced that “He would never have kids, because you always have to do things for them.” It is certainly true, she did a lot for me.

Over the years, I guess that continued to some degree. My mother and I remained very close and me and my brother’s age difference didn’t help matters any. In turn, later in life, he pivoted towards my father. Beyond the age difference, my brother being nine years older than me, our lives were as different as night and day. Like my dad, he took the blue-collar path and my incompetence with building things or fixing cars was beyond his imagination. Marrying a girl who didn’t care for either me or my mother probably added fuel to the fire.

Even though I now live in a different age than the one my mother grew up in, much like her, I believed that we all had enough “good” in us that would surface in her final days. I didn’t expect family group hugs or flowers and a picnic basket, but I thought we could all muster-up just enough civility. Little did I realize that as soon as my mom drew her last breath, my remaining family members would all pull out their heart-cutting knives, sever the family ties and aim the pointed ends of the blades right for my back.

With it all said and done, I still have the desire to believe (as my mother did) that people are inherently good. Once my world came crashing down, there stood a few ready to prove the concept is true.

Just nobody from the group that was once my family.    

Author: James Patton

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