My piece earlier this week, “Something Else,” brought more views over a 48 hour period than anything I’ve ever posted to this site. The story wasn’t a story to me at all, it was a retelling of an incredible experience. Within that experience was a conversation that is still being replayed on an endless loop in my head. The unforgettable dialogue between me and a ghost.
I’ll never fully divulge the entire conversation. In my opinion, it would be useless to repeat simply for the fact that the only explanation for my “dream” is an overactive and vivid imagination. That’s the only answer right? My subconscious played a game with my head and my heart. I’ve always wanted to sit down with my father, so my mind made it so.
For several reasons that I’ll take to my grave, I know that isn’t true. Things were said and truths were displayed in a way that there could be no denying what was taking place. If I explained further, they’d be sending the insane asylum to my door with a muzzle and a straight jacket. So I digress.
I received a bevy of comments, sentiments and stories in response to “Something Else.” The more I read, the more that I realized I wasn’t alone. I also realized that my story could be perceived as just another elaborate whining session about not having a dad in my life.
For every sad, “My Father Wasn’t There” story, there is a flip side. That flip side, when occupied by a strong single mother, is usually a tale in perseverance. My mother followed that script. She defied the odds and changed our course forever.
I love my hometown Altoona, PA. That said, love requires honesty. Honestly, there aren’t too many options within the city limits of the old Blair County railroad town. Particularly when you’re a 19-year-old single mother. My mom worked long shifts for a small wage for most of my childhood. She scraped, clawed and did everything she could to keep food on our table and a roof over our heads.
That roof changed a lot. We’d live about 6 months to a year at each location and then pack up and move all over again. My mother always did a good job of putting a positive spin on things, so I took it all in stride. When we didn’t have our own place, my Grandmother would welcome us back to her home on Maple Avenue.
A lot of my best memories of growing up were in that house. 2427 Maple Avenue has since been torn down. Every time I visit Altoona, I pull in front of the void, now a driveway for our old neighbors. Fitting, because old man Voltz who lived next door always told us the place should be torn down.
My mother grew tired of moving from place to place. She grew tired of working long shifts for a small wage. The bigger I got, the more sports I wanted to play and the more I wanted to eat. I was becoming expensive. She decided to go to nursing school.
The nursing school years would redefine us. I went from spending a lot of time with my mom to barely seeing her at all. If she wasn’t at school, she was studying for school. If she wasn’t studying for school, she was at work. Needless to say, she was burning the candle at both ends.
All the while, she still made me feel loved. She would talk to me every chance she could. She would remind me of the bigger picture. She would tell me that all of the hard work and stress would one day lead us to something better.
She’d make miracles happen on Birthday’s and Christmas’s. With no man at her side and seemingly pennies in her bank account, I’d still have presents. She taught me so much during those years. The most valuable lesson was to simply never give up.
At times she was so overwhelmed with everything, she’d lock herself in her bedroom. I’d sit outside the door and listen to her cry. I remember feeling sad and determined while I listened. Sad because my mother was hurting and determined because I wanted to do everything I could to help her. Those times strengthened us both immensely.
Through it all, she never quit. She stretched herself thin and worked her mind to exhaustion to graduate nursing school. When all was said and done she graduated near the top of her class. She was a diamond in a rough, rough town.
She played the role of both parents, she worked long hours, she went to nursing school, she studied tirelessly and she never quit. My mom was, is and always will be, my hero. She’s the reason why you’re reading my blog rather than reading some police report about me.
She kept it all in perspective. She showed me that no matter what, there is always something more.
So, while I try to mull over exactly why I had that “dream” about my father, I’m reminded of why everything didn’t fall apart. I’m reminded of a single parent who outplayed the light hand that she was dealt. I’m reminded of why I still fight, scratch and claw for my children today. I’m reminded of who laid the blueprint for me, at all costs. I’m reminded of just how much I really love my mother.