I witnessed it firsthand growing up, though I was too young to realize it. My father was…well, he had a lot of issues. He was violent, beating up on my mom, little brother and I for any little instance of what we deemed as insubordination. And my father was a big man, a Chicago police officer, in fact, who had boxed in the Army. None of us stood a chance against him.
He also had a severe drug addiction. Again, I was too young to understand which drug he was hooked on; I can only remember him locking himself in the bathroom for long stretches of time and him coming out weird afterward.
But one day, my mom made her escape.
At the time, my brother and I begged her to stay with him. Despite the hellishness, we loved the man beyond reason. He was so exciting to be around when he wasn’t angry or strung out. He was social, funny and playful; he seemed capable of being the best dad and husband.
And my mom was madly in love with him. They had met when she was still in high school – her, a Catholic schoolgirl from Tegucigalpa, and him, a Puerto Rican Army vet. The attraction was instant; my mom was pregnant with me at her senior prom.
So it must’ve been hard on my mom to see her two sons begging her to stay with the man she was in love with but knew she shouldn’t be with. She was doing it for our own good, but we couldn’t see that. We just hated her, and we told her that we hated her, that we would never forgive her.
Of course, we have forgiven her, because what she did was one of the strongest and bravest things anyone can do. And it’s incredible knowing that my own mother is capable of such a selfless and determined act.
Now, I’m 27 and know too many friends and family members who feel trapped in a relationship whose issues are, dare I say, less serious than the ones my mom experienced. And still these young women find it hard to leave, not because they’re weak people, but because leaving the person you love is an extremely difficult thing to do – difficult but not impossible.
What bothers me most is that these young women feel the need to waste one more day on hopeless relationships. I can’t imagine how my own life might’ve turned out had my mother spent one more day, one more week, one more year with my hopeless father. But she didn’t. She valued her days too highly, and I thank her for that.
Normally, in these pieces for Being Latino, we’re supposed to supply a moral that the reader can take with them, maybe some advice. I really don’t have any.
I don’t know how my mom did what she did. I’m still in the process of understanding the magnitude of her decision, and I may never understand how she mustered the fortitude to do it.
So if there’s any advice for me to give, it’s this: be more like my mom.