It said, “SMILE Your mother chose life.”
That is so wrong on so many levels.
First of all, I was born in 1965, when abortion was still illegal. My mother didn’t get to choose anything. She became pregnant the first time she ever had sex. She didn’t finish high school but she did “the right thing” and married my dad at age 17. She did, however, choose three years later to have another child who is my sister.
For as long as I can remember, my mother seemed depressed and unhappy in a hostile kind of way. She kept my sister and I in an upstairs bedroom and interacted with us as little as possible. She brought us meals in our room unless my dad was home to eat with us. We were sent to our aunt’s or grandparents on weekends and summers. Now that I’m a mother, I can’t believe some of the things she did. Things like send us by ourselves to eat at a restaurant which required crossing a major road. My sister and I now wonder if she may have hoped that we would get hit by a car or something. For real. Finally, we were sent away to live at my aunt’s permanently when I was just starting the 7th grade and she told us then, “I just can’t live with kids”.
She suffered the ups and downs of depression for years, was a closet alcoholic and self-medicated in various ways. Now that I am a mother, I can understand to a certain extent what she was going through. She was really just a kid when she got pregnant, and at that time it was expected that the women were all housewifey. Not so much from my dad, but more like what society expected from women in general. Personally, I hate housewifey and if I were expected to comply with that role I would probably resent it and lose it, too.
When she started having a hard time breathing and lost a lot of weight, she refused to go to the doctor. It was nearly three years ago that, at age 57, she died of a lung hemorrhage in her bathroom while my dad was away on vacation. The autopsy showed that she had tuberculosis and that it had slowly eroded her lungs until it destroyed a major vessel. She died as a combination of blood loss and drowning. My sister and I watched her covered body rolled out of her house to the medical examiner’s truck before we were allowed in to clean up the blood she had spilled. As the medical examiner later reported, she’d had tuberculosis for “a long, long time.”
No, my mother did not choose life. But maybe I would SMILE a dumbass smile if I walked around with a patronizing simpleton’s view on extremely complex and personal issues.