This I Believe

Terri - Delray Beach, Florida
Entered on May 2, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

My daughter will never understand why growing up was so hard for her, and for me.

Her father and I married young; I was already pregnant with her. I’d been raised to believe that the best job for a woman was to be a wife and mother. Might as well get started I thought. Little did I know how difficult my life would turn out. Nothing like I’d planned. Her father left us when she was five. I’d thought marriage was for life. Seems he didn’t share that view. It was hard trying to be mother and father at the same time. My daughter never really got to know either of us while she was growing up. I didn’t want handouts or charity. As long as I was able, I believed I should work. He was never around. So work I did. But I couldn’t get ahead. One day, I realized the only way for me was to get my GED and then, maybe I could go to college. So, I took the test and passed. Then, I quit my job at the printing factory. I got a job as a bartender at night and waitressed at lunchtime while I waited for my admission forms to be processed.

The first semester of college was hard, really hard. There was never enough time or money. I hadn’t gone to high school; I only finished 9th grade. So now, I had to learn how to study and go to work and be a parent. I worked nights; went to classes during the day; and studied whenever I could. My daughter? She saw me bent over my desk, too exhausted to read and too tired to go to sleep. Whenever she asked “Mommy, can we go to the park? or Mommy, can we have dinner now?” I almost always said “Later.” And whenever I was too tired, whenever I wanted to quit, I thought about the better life we would have and the days we would spend at the park,… later. Three years later I graduated. She didn’t understand. She only knew that there was some kind of ceremony and then mommy didn’t have to study all the time. But there were still the bills, and the money I earned was never enough. And she was growing up without me.

So many times I wanted to stay home with my baby girl, to see her happy and laughing. But I’d forgotten what it was to be happy and I didn’t remember how to laugh. So many times, I waved goodbye to her at the door of the babysitter’s house. I told myself that I had to go to work to support us; to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Sometimes I cried. She didn’t know how much it hurt me to go. She still doesn’t.

I believe too many of our children do not know how much we love them.

Now she’s grown and has her own family. She doesn’t want to know me. “Later” came and went many years ago. She’s moved on. She was fortunate to find a good husband and a good father. He has provided for her so she could stay home with the children. They’re almost grown now, too. It hasn’t been easy for her. She’s had her troubles, but she doesn’t realize how lucky she is. Her children know her. I can only hope that one day, my grandsons will want to know me. And maybe, one day, my daughter will understand: I didn’t leave her. I stayed to take care of her. I worked hard to make sure she had enough to eat, a place to sleep, and someone to watch over her when I could not be there. Maybe one day, she will understand that I have always loved her.