By: Joey Uva
The phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the idea that complex stories can be described with just a single still image. Well this is a complex story but there is no one single image to describe it.
As you read this, beware, as this is not one of my more happy heartfelt posts about my life now. All of my previous posts have shed some light on me being a father, life with my partner, family and friends. This is a chapter from my past, family stuff that we don’t always talk about but it’s where I have come from, what I have experienced and overcome to be where I am today. Some mothers will be dismayed, some may not understand a mother like mine but that’s really not the point of me writing this. I am telling my story, who I am, who I aspire to be as a father, parent, partner, family and friend.
I hear a lot about mothers and that maternal instinct. I hear that when times get tough, in most cases it’s mothers who step up and do what is right for their children because they are the more nurturing. I applaud those mothers. I, however, am the child of the opposite: a child whose mother walked away when I was seven.
My mother moved to Los Angeles in the 1950’s from Managua, Nicaragua with her mom, dad, five sisters, and five of her six brothers. They were an extremely close family. The war in Nicaragua at that time had forced my mother and her family to escape to the United States two at a time until they all made it here. My mother then met my father a few years later on the bus in Los Angeles and got married in 1963. My mother had my oldest brother in 1963, followed by my 2nd oldest brother in 1964. I was born in 1966 and my youngest brother was born in 1969.
I have some very fond memories of my mother from when I was five and six years old, but after that, it’s a void until I am almost twenty. My father has been a heavy drinker most of his life –I would say an alcoholic. When I was six my father and mother split up and they eventually divorced. Initially, my brothers and I stayed with my mother; she was dating a new guy (now her husband of over 30 years) who stayed with us sometimes. This next part I remember as if I were seven again. My mother and her boyfriend put my brothers and me in the car and drove us over to my father’s house where he was living with his girlfriend. Nobody was home; my mother dropped my brothers and me off at the front porch with some belongings, said goodbye, and drove away. I remember my dad arriving drunk with his girlfriend and asking why we were there. I said, “mom left us.”
My dad eventually married his girlfriend who became my stepmother for about seven years until she finally couldn’t handle my father’s drinking either and left. I remember her coming to me a few days before her leaving. She said, “I’m really sorry but I have stayed as long as I could for you boys. I can’t do it anymore.” After my stepmother left, my father was never home; he’d go straight from work to the bar.
At sixteen, I couldn’t handle it. I moved out on my own, worked full time at night to support myself and get through my last two years of high school. I remember crying myself to sleep some nights just wanting to know my mother. When I was an adult and did see my mother again, it was not the beautiful happy dream I had imagined. The connection was distorted from years of absence.
Today, I do have a relationship with my mother. It’s not the close mother-son relationship that many sons have. Twenty-three years has still not mended her absence from my formative years and my mother does not talk about why she did what she did. She did say once that she could not afford to have us. I’ve heard that her now husband didn’t want more kids at that time as he had two from a previous marriage that lived with his ex-wife. I don’t think I will really ever know the truth, and at this point in my life I really don’t think there is a need to. I have a relationship with my father too, but it’s a very distant one.
When I write or speak about my daughter, my brothers, my partner, my extended family, and friends, it truly comes from a place of great love and appreciation for what I have today. I have many truly wonderful people that surround my life and Grace has so many people that truly love her. I expect nothing less for my family. I know what less is; as an adult and father I expect more. This is the life I choose, this is my journey and I will never walk away.