This I Believe

Elizabeth - Irvine, California
Entered on November 20, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

Today is Monday and my mom and I are fighting. Today is Tuesday and we have plans for lunch. Thursday comes and we are surprisingly still getting along. It is Friday morning and I’ve been kicked out of the house. On Sunday she shows up at my aunt’s house to pick me up. This is normal. Mothers and daughters everywhere are probably arguing right now. Surely, I am just another teenage daughter complaining about her insensitive mother and crying out to the world, “I hate my life!” However, while this is true, we probably would have gotten along much better if my mother wasn’t bipolar.

My mom was first diagnosed when I was in fifth grade. I don’t know how it happened, because a little girl isn’t often included in such important discussions, but eventually “bipolar” was a word I heard all the time. I didn’t understand it and I never made an effort to—I only knew that it was the reason for why her yelling, cursing, and punishments were often rushed with kisses, apologies, and movie nights in the blink of an eye.

Mom’s mood changes were nothing short of amazing. She and my stepfather would fight relentlessly over trivial matters every week and my mom’s short temper would lead her to a phone call to the police. Always, I thought, for no reason at all. An all too familiar sight was the glow of red and blue lights glowing from the sirens which rested on police cars outside my apartment. I knew the routine perfectly. Shouts, curse words, door slams. The door bell rings—I walk down the stairs and greet the officers; they follow my walk of shame as I lead them to the yelling. An old Cuban woman would always come out of her house next door to us and judge me with her wandering eyes. “We got a call from that house on Forty Eighth Street again.” “Ma’am, you can’t just call us every time you get in a dispute.” I have mental audio recordings of officers, operators, and the sound of walkie-talkies that play on repeat in my mind. It was always the same thing and at nine years old, if I understood what was going on, I wondered why my mom couldn’t.

Though I don’t look back on these memories fondly, even now, I am calm and untroubled. The amount of times this happened, however, is honestly innumerable. I gained complete immunity and grew indifferent to the yelling and police officers. This was so even to the point that one evening, I saw the familiar glow from outside my window, and upon hearing my mother sobbing, walked down the stairs irritated, expecting the same old song and dance. Instead, I learned that my parents were in a car accident on the icy New Jersey turnpike and my stepfather was dead. I look back on moments like that wishing I hadn’t been immune to the arrival of police offers—that I had been more sensitive to the situation.

After my stepfather died, it was just my mom and I again. The two of us inhabited the large apartment and were together so often, it seemed as though I took the role that my stepfather once had. We fought endlessly, always yelling at each other, tearing one another down. My father would call, reminding me every time to leave the house and ignore her shouting. Eventually, we moved to California in an effort to be closer to family so my mom could have help raising me.

There were police officers in California, too, though and I learned that no matter where we were 911 was the same number everywhere. My mom fought with my aunts and my dad, and it was inevitable that she would one day call the police on me. The cold-shouldered officer reminded me that regardless of what I thought, I was still a lowly teenager under my mom’s roof. When he left to speak to my mom, his partner approached me and whispered, “Two more years and you’ll be eighteen. You’ll go to college and you’ll only have to see her at Christmas.” He winked at me and gave me his card and the blue left my house.

Finally, the moment I have literally dreamed of and held onto since I entered high school—I will almost be eighteen and will leave California to go to a school on the east coast—and the unthinkable has happened. My wish isn’t to escape my mom at all. I refuse to allow my future to be a getaway, but I want it to be a growth. Though it’s unfortunate that it cost me so many arguments to realize this; I am genuinely happy to know that at the end of the day I really love my mom. I believe that this is what keeps me going. I am aware and reminded of how much she loves me everyday. My mother’s weakness and flaws, which were no fault of her own, have only provided me with strengths and a goal. I know to be patient and calm with others and to control my temper. I embrace her caring qualities and only hope that I can assure my friends and family my love for them, the way she has always done for me.