Six Years, Brighter Still

Death brings up so many emotions: sadness, grief, anger, disbelief, yearning, or despair. It's interesting to feel our emotions change over time as our lives change and our perspective shifts. When Sean contacted me about writing this post for the Life is Sweet project, I was intrigued to hear about what had changed for him since his mother's death six years ago and thankful he would share his perspective on his loss. 

My mother Stacia Foster passed away in March 2007. I was in my final weeks of a three-year film and television program at Humber College, just putting the final touches on year end projects. I felt pretty lost and confused at the time, and felt the need to express myself to my friends and classmates so they’d know, so I wrote and posted the note below on Facebook (remember Facebook notes?) What follows is my thoughts on all of this several years later; an addendum if you will:

A week ago I was complaining about my iPod being screwed up, my external harddrive I use for projects at school having gone dead on me and my computer being in it's final days of usefulness, shower wasn't draining properly so I'd have a puddle of gross water leftover after each shower and the carpet in my room was soggy from all the snow melting and seeping into my room.

Man, that stuff is so trivial now. I was so mad about it last week, but I'd give anything for that stuff to be all that as bugging me now.

Late on Saturday night, my Uncle, my mom's brother, in Winnipeg emailed me referring to some important family issue. I put it off... I have a long and sordid history with that side of my family. Anyway, Sunday morning I'm woken up by my dad in tears. He'd just been told that my mother, his ex-wife, had died of a stroke brought on to heavy complications due to alcoholism.

My dad was torn up, this is a woman he'd been married to for over 20 years. A woman that he carries around a great deal of baggage because of. But me, at first I took it in stride. Y'see, I hadn't spoken to my mom in five years. I'd gone so far as to tell many people, some of you, she was dead. Why? Cause it was easier for me. Cause I didn't want everyone to know that I was the type of asshole who had a dying mother and didn't lift a finger to do anything about it. But I am.

Why didn't I do anything? Should I have done anything? The last time I had seen her was Mother's Day 2002. I was with my girlfriend of the time, Joanne (The eventual inspiration for the character of 'Anne' in Without). We went to the hospital together. And my mom had no idea who I was. It was a difficult experience for me, the woman who'd raised me didn't even recognize me anymore.

My mother started drinking heavily when I was about 12 or 13. The next several years were unquestionably the most difficult of my life. My mother was such a raging alcoholic, I was ashamed to have friends over. I didn't wanna be known as the kid at school who had the drunk mom... You know how kids in school can be. Over the next few years I think I grew to hate her. Eventually, I just wanted her out of my life, so when the time came that I could just leave with my dad, I pounced on it. I started talking to my mom less and less, because I was so bitter with her for letting booze destroy who she was.

You have to understand, as a young boy, my mother Stacia was about the best mom a kid could have. I have plenty of great memories of her. Going to baseball games (she loooooved Cal Ripkin Jr.), watching movies together, Christmas' together, making me breakfast before school in the morning, helping me with my homework... All the usual stuff.

Which is why her eventual fall from grace makes it so much more difficult for me. While I barely batted an eye after my dad first told me (I'd lied about my mother's death for so long, I maybe started to believe it myself...), but as time has gone on , it's just gotten more and more difficult to deal with the more that I contemplate it and different memories come to mind. How it happened, why it happened, the fallout of it, and where I go from here. Can I honor her memory in someway... Do I even want to honor her memory?

The mom that took care of me when I was a young child died years and years ago. I'm so conflicted about it all. A part of me hates myself and is ashamed that I just didn't care... That I was too immature to at least check on her and see if she was even still alive. Whether I did the right or wrong thing, I will have to live with the knowledge that my mom died believing her only child hated her. That's a part of what bugs me the most. I wish that I could've given her one last good memory, a way to show her there truly is a piece of me that appreciated those early years together.

It'll always be dark piece of who I am. The Skeletor of all the assorted skeletons in my closet. I've never, ever been able to bring myself to try even a sip of alcohol, which has greatly limited me in my social interactions, though fortunately I don't think I'm anti-social or anything. I just can't allow myself to have as much fun as most other people sometimes.

The most difficult part has been trying to pretend everything was okay the last few days... Because I spent so long lying, I felt like I couldn't fess up about what had happened. But I'm done lying. I'll try and atone, by first being a little honest. I just need to be sad for a time though. Ultimately, I can cope with this, I know I can move on in time. I just have to forgive myself for everything that's transpired. I don't need therapy or any kind of prescription drugs. I have the self control to even myself out and regain some of the stability I had.

I just need time.

For good or bad, all this pain and angst has made me into who I am.

Rest in peace, mom. For all our ups and downs, nothing will ever happen to make me forget what a truly great woman you were, in helping a young Sean P. Foster grow up.

"In memory still bright"

It’s now 6 years later. Looking back on this piece, I think it’s a bit immature and overly dramatic and find 30-year-old Sean cringing at the words and sentiments being expressed by 24-year-old Sean. I feel like I have more perspective now. I’m not as angry at my mother and the world as I was back then, and look back on the whole situation with nothing but great sadness.

However, expressing myself this way via Facebook to as many people in my social life as possible was a part of my healing process. I still feel pretty guilty about everything. To this day I still wish I’d done more for her, tried harder to keep her from drinking. There are specific times of the year where it weighs heavily on my mind. For instance, if you were to approach me on the anniversary of her death on March 25, you might find me in a particularly introspective mood and even though it’s a very commercial “Hallmark Holiday”, Mother’s Day can leave me in quite the somber mood.

I spent a lot of time as a teenager and young adult being really upset and angry at her, something I regret now. I was embarrassed by her as a teenager to the point that I stopped having friends over because I didn’t know how she was going to behave. I was so angry as my Facebook note pretty clearly indicates. In the years after her death, I struggled with depression, becoming quite the burden to a couple of my closest friends. But as time has marched forward, I’ve found a lot more peace, particularly in the last year. As the years go by, the unpleasant memories of her have faded away to be outshined by the good times. More often than not, when I’m reminded of my mother these days, it’s in a positive manner.

It’s hard for me to be in The Skydome, where she and I saw many games of the World Series champion era Toronto Blue Jays, and not think fondly of my mom. If the Oakland Athletics or Baltimore Orioles were in town, you can be sure my mom and I would be there. The best game we ever saw together was in the very early 1990s and Oakland’s Jose Canseco got into a playful home run contest with Toronto’s Joe Carter, each of them sending 3 or 4 homers in the upper decks. Baseball provided many of our favorite shared experiences together.

I remember Unsolved Mysteries! My dad worked for a bank when I was young, often away in Montreal and Chicago during the week and returning to us on weekends. This is when we lived out in the middle of the country, just outside of a small town named Tottenham. Unsolved Mysteries was on seemingly every night at the time. My mom and I would watch it every time and when it was time for bed we’d have scared ourselves so much from hearing about grisly murders and ghastly tales that we’d leave all the lights on in the house because obviously that would protect us from the bad guys!

In those days in the small house outside Tottenham, I remember coming home from school and finding her either watching Die Hard, The Fugitive or Beetlejuice for the 20th time. She was infatuated with the actors Alan Rickman and Tommy Lee Jones, and the director Tim Burton. To this day I still try to see any work by any of those men, out of...I’m not sure, a sense of obligation? To satisfy her curiosity? Maybe it’s just in my DNA! I’m genetically obligated to see the movies of Tim Burton.

I remember having a particularly painful visit to the dentist and to cheer me up, my mom took me to the pet store because what puts a bigger smile on an upset kid’s face faster than puppies and kittens? And we saw this kitten, this kitten that was in even more pain than I was and she was bellowing (meowing doesn’t do the sound that was coming from her justice) and trying to force her face through the bars of the little cage she was in, her nose was bruised from her efforts. She had a price tag that had been knocked down several times to the bargain price of $100. Which was exactly how much money I had in my pocket stashed away after a bountiful Christmas. This little kitten went on to become Jordy (a feminized version of the name of one of my favorite Star Trek characters). When things got bad in my household a few years later, Jordy was always there to brighten my day.

Those are the things that come to mind when I think of her now, the memories that make me smile. It’s a good feeling that as I get older the anger and regret melts away. I’ve carried around some emotional scars from my teen years for too long. I’m ready to let them go now.

I remember you with more fondness each day. I love and miss you, Mom.

Sean Foster is one of the coolest geeks you'll ever meet and the IT Coordinator at Cineflix Productions. He's a big fan of Twitter and can be found here.

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