When I was 17 years old I went into my mom’s room to ask for something: money, a ride somewhere, who knows, but I found her sitting on the floor, crying.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“What do you care?” she responded, sobbing.
My mom wasn’t the kind of mom that tried to hurt her kid’s feelings. I’d seen moms like that, and was always thankful my mom didn’t play psychological games with me. So it was kind of crushing that my mom thought I wouldn’t care to hear about her problems.
But it didn’t really surprise me, once I thought about it for half a second: my family is saturated with repressed emotions and feelings. I loved my mom very much, but we didn’t really talk about it–beyond “I love you,” at the end of a phone conversation or on the way out the door, there was very little talk of love in my house.
I never asked my mom about her life, I felt it was private (read: alcoholic and scary) and that I better not go asking questions about things, adult things, (read: depression) I was unprepared to understand and afraid of knowing. So I was ill-equipped to council her on whatever was troubling her, and a bit terrified to ask her about it, unsure of what kind of response I might get (read: screaming).
The problem wasn’t that I didn’t care, the problem was that I didn’t know how to show that I cared. The only thing I could think of was to show her I trusted her. In retrospect, I wanted to give her a part of me that was hurt, I wanted to share my grief in the hopes of mitigating her own. I didn’t think about it in the moment, but somewhere in my gut it seemed right to hand her the deepest, most frightened part of me, to let her fear see my own.
“I could tell you something,” I said. “Something I never told anyone.” A lump turned over and swelled in my throat, and my face got hot.
… (mom crying)(me choking)
… (mom crying)(me swallowing)
… (mom crying)(me breathing in)
“Mom, I’m gay.”
More sobbing. I watched. I was in a bit of shock–I felt relieved but nervous now about something else: what if she screamed at me? Threw me out? Hit me or told me she never wanted to see me again?
She finally looked up at me, pulled her long brown hair out of her face. I braced myself, tensed my core and looked down. She wiped the tears off her cheeks and took some longer breaths.
“Oh, thank God, ” she said. “I thought you were never gonna come out.”
Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli