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I often wonder about the labels we place on others, such as father or dad. I was raised without a dad, but I do have a father. At least I still did last year when I emailed him about Wade's death; only because I don't have his phone number. He and my mother divorced with I was barely walking and he was absent until I sought him out at the age of 16, and his presence has been less than sporadic. It's very difficult to gain back those years lost during the crucial part of a child's development. And I'm certain that is very true for children who have lost a parent to death at a very young age.

Ah, parent. There's that word again. What is a parent really? Are they a teacher, or possibly a role model? Maybe a mentor or nurturer? Caregiver, confidant, consoler? To be honest, I really don't know, or should I say I didn't know. Well, that's not entirely true.....I have learned what a parent's role is in the life of their children. But it was done with a sort of backwards approach. You know the one......"don't do as I have done"....basically learning from observation and a great deal of common sense and innate ability.

However, I have also learned that being human means we will fail at times. How we overcome the failure is what is most important, especially in the lives of our children and loved ones.

Late last night, I was reading the blog of someone I have come to view as a good friend in the making. :) We met through our respective blogs and have talked a few times through email and on the phone. Over the weekend, she was weighing heavily on my mind, which experience has shown me is a sign. One that should not be ignored. She posted about the death of a neighbor and how sad it was and how she felt about this neighbor and friend. Knowing that she was grieving herself, I just knew this event was probably compounding her grief even more, so I called her today. What has blown me away about S is that our lives are somewhat intertwined in the most eerie of ways. No need to go into the details, but her blog mentioned the name and age of her neighbor and I got chills.

As a child, I remember clearly calling my mother "momma". I'm not quite sure if that was what she wanted us to call her or if it was naturally assigned. As a teenager, it became uncomfortable for me to use that term mostly because it sounded too juvenile. So I began to call her "mother". Never was she referred to as "mom". And I think subconsciously it was intentional. My mother was never a "mom" but was a custodial parent. That sounds so clinical, doesn't it? Well, for all practical purposes, that is an accurate description. Mother was never nurturing, was never loving, was not a role model in any positive fashion whatsoever, although she was physical, and I don't mean in a good way. And never remorseful. Verbal assaults were commonplace as well.

She was married 8 or 9 times (I lost count), had inappropriate sexual encounters throughout my life, used sex as a means to an end (new washer/dryer, new car, new jewelry, etc.) But she was all about appearances. If I had to define her in a word, I would say she was the epitome of narcissism, a term I did not know existed or the meaning until after her death.

What I learned by the time I entered young adulthood was that close relationships were not possible, marriage was nothing more than a legal contract typically contested through the courts based on infidelity, sex was a means to gaining approval, the giving of material items equated to love, and the best way to get your point across was through verbal and physical aggression. OK, so not all of these I took with me as I made my own journey through life, but they were most definitely the basis upon which I thrashed out my beliefs of what is right or wrong and how I would choose to live my life and raise my family. And I made a promise to myself that my children would know parental love and support, that they would be encouraged in all they do, that they would have a good example of a real loving relationship between adults, and most of all, that family is there for you no matter what. I so remember during those trying teenage years with my kids of always saying to them after doling out punishment, "I don't approve of what you did, but it does not change the fact that I love you." Then we would hug and sometimes cry as well. But there was never any doubt in their minds that above all else, they were loved. They hated me at times, I know because they said it, but also because I was stickler for them owning the consequences of their actions. As teenagers, that "talk" seemed to physically chafe them, but now as they are grown, they have acknowledged (and thanked me!) for towing the line with them.

Did I do it right? I think so. Did I make mistakes? You betcha. Would I do things differently? Honestly, about as many incidences as I can count on one hand I would like a do-over. But I do know that I have wonderful relationships with my children and for that I am so very grateful. And they call me mom.

Six years ago last month, my mother died. She lived alone in a downstairs apartment and was in poor health. Her name was Carolyn. And she was 63 years old.

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