My Mom

Cynthia Amelia McLain  (nee Vecchio)

Mommy, if you can hear me, I just want you to know, I forgave you for your imperfections the day you gave birth to me, and I miss you so much, and love you so much, but know you are in a better place, where no one can hurt you now and for that I thank God everyday. Rest in Peace my precious Mother.

They pronounced her deceased on 12.16.10 but I believe she left this world on the 15th.

I am what I am because of her.  I think of her every day and miss her so much even though the story I am about to tell isn't a happy one, there is a true bond between mother and daughter that can't be broken.   My mother grew up the daughter of an Italian builder, Pat A. Vecchio. Her mother was Dolores H. Vecchio, and she had three brothers, Brian Vecchio, Mike Vecchio, and Orland Vecchio.  Brian was younger but Mike and Orland older.  She grew up Catholic, and spent a lot of time with her cousin Becky.  They used to go to Danforth, Maine on vacation and eventually my grandfather had bought property there, turning it into a hunting lodge called "The Big Mamu."

Mom and Becky would spend summers on the lake water skiing and having the best times ever.  She even lived in Maine for awhile.  Those two would help my grandfather in his hunting lodge.  Mom would help my grandmother cook and her and Becky would clean the camps.  Some of her best memories were in Maine with friends of my grandparents, Ardis and John Hayman.  Mom told me once  Becky proposed to one of the Beatles in a letter, behind her back.  I think it was George Harrison, and soon they were at odds. How silly, but I suppose they were really into the Beatles!

Mom would return to Baltimore and graduate the class of 1969 at Overlea Senior High.  Unfortunately my grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer so, my Grandmother and Orland thought it best to sell the place in Maine. It is now called Living Waters Bible Camp. My grandmother sold it at a fair price and believed it was going to a good cause.  Losing that place would however break my mother's heart.

She and my real father, Ronald Wilson wed after high school.  I was born in January 1973, and my mother was only 21 when she had me. Sadly, by my Christening, they were already separated, and would divorce soon thereafter.  During these years, Mom would lose her brother Orland in a tragic death, her Father to Cancer, and the stress of having me and going through a divorce seemed too much on a 21 year old.

My grandmother spent a lot of time with me and we really bonded.  Mom worked at a fast food place called Gino's, but that stint didn't last long. Mom was trying to find herself, and I was trying to find a Mom. 

Here is a rare picture of us cooking something or other. We had two out of the three Texas Ware bowls, and mom kept one all these years and I kept the other. I wish I could tell you I was half as good as a cook as her, but I will never be.  Mom loved to cook, always.  Soon after this picture, her divorce had been final and we were living in the house with my grandmother and uncle Brian, at 501 Dale Avenue in Overlea, MD,  21206 next to Elmwood Elementary School.

Soon , she met Daniel E. McLain.  He was a bouncer at a bar she went to but worked in Construction by day.  I don't think they spent a day apart after she first met him.  It seemed that very soon Dan was moving into our home and divorcing his own wife.  Soon my grandmother and uncle were moving out of the house and giving it the home to my Mother.  I was still too young to know exactly what was happening, but at an early age, I was told a few days before Christmas that Dan was adopting me and I would not see my real father again.  I wasn't sure why, but this was something done in our home with a bunch of lawyers. I was only 5 or 6 years old and my real father was trying to fight this in court for a long time. 

I really wasn't sure what was going on, but it then happened that  Mom was pregnant with my brother, Daniel J. McLain, and married my stepfather on the front lawn of our home.  My brother was born in 1981.  Ironically, my mother could have had him on my birthday and I often wondered, what were the odds of that?  Instead, she waited until the day after.  She used to tell me that she wanted me to have my own special day. Mom would work another short stint as  switchboard operator in my grandmother's apartment building (my grandmother managed the building and got her the job) but being independent wasn't for my mom. She would much rather stay home and cook and clean.  Things were normal, for awhile.
My graduation 1991. Mom was already in Maine.
Her dream was always to live in Maine where she felt closer to her late Father. We would often go to Maine in the summers.  She truly began to hate Baltimore and Dan worked a lot in construction so they were able to save some money.  Unfortunately from the time I was 7 to 16, my childhood years were very unhappy and filled with chaos. My mother went from someone who never drank to a depressed alcoholic, (always hiding this from family and friends) .  I can only assume this was because she was now married to one, who had total control over her life.

My mother was one of the nicest people you ever wanted to meet, but behind closed doors, life with my mother was no picnic. I remember having to dress my brother and make him lunch and get him to school because by 7am she was already drunk. If I brought home a B and not an A  on a paper, I would get punished for six months or worse. She was very hard as a mother, but I was a straight A honor roll student who never got into trouble really, so I could never figure out why she was so hard on me.  I left home at 16 forfeiting a college schlorship, because I could not handle the verbal and physical abuse from them any longer.  I worried about my brother, but they didn't really pick on him or beat up on him like they did me.

With the help of other family, friends, and my high school teacher was able to finish high school at 18 and work two jobs having my own apartment.   Things were very strained with my mother, and it broke my heart when she moved to Maine when I was 18, taking my 11 year old brother with her.  My brother and I were very close, in fact I sometimes felt more like his mother than his sister.

I often think that's when I really lost my mom. The day she and Dan sold the house and moved to Maine.  I think of how they built their home in Maine, and their picture perfect life, which would soon be filled with years of physical abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and chaos.  Kids in the town thought they were real nice people and that Mom was the best cook ever.  Soon the McLain home was a great place to party and  I don't know what happened to my mom. She was lost, and would call me crying so many times I lost count. She battled depression, low self-esteem, drug and alcohol abuse, and physical abuse.   She would never leave her husband who was in and out of rehabs and jail.  Mom would be in and out of mental hospitals.  When my uncle or I suggested getting a divorce, she stopped talking to us--sometimes for years.  I know I had to deal with my stepfather in order to see my mother, or she would be lost forever.

Unfortunately she was already lost forever. I spent years going to Al-Anon classes (and AA classes just to hear how alcoholics acted) just to understand the situation, but I never could.   I look back and realize how much control my stepfather had over my mother and it made me sick inside. What also makes me sick is that my great grandmother, and grandfather were hard workers, working themselves to the bone. After Mom and Dan moved to Maine, they lived on inheritance money from my great grandmother, my grandmother, and the sale of homes for 20 years drinking and not working.  It wasn't until the money ran out and we all stopped sending it up would they be forced to sober up and work.

For a brief time they sobered up and came to Baltimore to pronounce this and ask the entire family for forgiveness. I was hoping and praying it was real. Mom and I patched up our differences, and I have to say I was very proud of her. She was working at the Danforth Habilitation Center, and it gave her a sense of reason and joy. She often told me it kept her sober and increased her self esteem.  I would soon buy a home in Greenland Cove, hoping to take care of her someday.  It was nice having her back, if only for a little while.

I got married in Maine in June 2008, and my mother looked great. She was happy, healthy, and had meat on her bones. She broke my heart soon thereafter, when she told me she had started drinking again.

See how she was at my wedding circa June 2008--having been sober 4 years she was radiant and healthy.  It was soon after she told me she turned to being a "casual drinker" which of course led her to falling off the wagon soon there after.

Within a year and a half, fast forward to she Oct 2009 my brother's wedding, she was very thin and looked much older.
I had a lot of problems through life accepting my mother was an alcoholic, and the fact she stayed married to a man that verbally and physically abused me and her.  But I loved her, with all my heart.  It hurt me knowing she suffered mental, and physical abuse, because she deserved better. She never felt she was good enough, or strong enough, or smart enough to deserve otherwise and she hid a lot of things from a lot of people, even my brother.   As heartbreaking as this was for me, I still loved her so much. She gave me life.
There is always a bond between a mother and daughter, good or bad, thick or thin.

She will be missed.

September 2010 she called me to tell me about the cancer. Ironically she was supposed to be getting chcked because all the women in our family had rectal cancer and went though operations. She told me not to tell my brother and didn't admit it to him until much later that there was a cancerous tumor in her ass. .She had to have three operations, over the course of six to eight months. The first she was temporarily rerouted, which was hard on her, and she was in the hospital recovering for 7 days.  The second would be an operation to remove the tumor, the third to reroute her back.

My husband and I went to Maine during her treatments. Even if she was too sick to see me, I would be there if she needed me.  My mother was doing her best mentally to fight the cancer, but physically it was stress on her.  She cried to my husband and I constantly, that she was the sole provider and had been out of work so long. My husband and I were helping her and the townspeople had fundraisers, and the hospital donated gas cards--everyone told her not to worry.  Sadly, I don't know why, but Dan continued to drink during her treatments, and instead of making my mother drink Boost or protein shakes, she was drinking kool aid and hard liquor with him.  I was there, I saw it and I could not do a damn thing about it.  I am going to stop here, because it doesn't get any better. Some of you may say, so what?  Those of you who have seen cancer, chemo and radiation wear a person down, can only imagine how my mother's frail body was too weak to fight this, and on top of it drinking like a fish?

Those two months were filled with heart to heart talks, and I learned everything my mother wanted me to know. Looking back, it was almost like she had premonitions that she wouldn't be around very long.  She cried to me on the phone, and we talked every night. She cried because Dan drove her to and from treatments, and some days they couldn't make it home and had to stay. She cried because of finances, and she cried to me worried that she had been a bad mother to me.  I told her I loved her and not to worry, and helped her with the finances. Inside I knew something was not right--although she had already had one operation, this was the second, but she was so very scared of it.  There is something to be said for intuition. My mother told me everything she wanted to tell me in the past 38 years in those two months. Good, bad, and in between.  I had to return to Baltimore for a job, and travel back to Maine to meet her in the hotel on December 14th for her big "O".

A few days before her operation she was doing some pre-op checkups, but I could not locate her for two days. She never checked into the hotels she was supposed to be at. The day before her operation she showed up to the hotel with a black eye, which she told me she had fallen on the ice two days before, but was supposed to have this checked out in her town clinic. She never did and I will never really know where she was or what really happened, though she claimed it was snowing, and they had to stay only an hour from home.  Nothing made sense to me.

She went into the operation and came out five hours later.  The surgeon declared it a successful surgery, stating the cancer was contained in the tumor and there was no cancer in her lymph nodes or blood stream. It was almost a miracle that after all this time her blood was clear and lymph nodes clean.

Surgery was over at 2-3. We saw her in her room around 6:45 to 7:30pm that night with my stepfather and brother. She acted in good spirits and smiling and laughing, but her mannerisms weren't setting right with me.  I kept asking her if she was okay. She told me she didn't want the phone or TV on because she wouldn't be talking to anyone and was just going to rest. Her male nurse came in to say he was getting ready to leave and checked her compression hose. She was on Morphine drip (if she needed it she squeezed the button), on an automatic epidoral pump into her back with pain medicine and had compression hose.  There were no electronic heart monitors or blood pressure monitors, which I would not know until later. (It apparently was the SOP of the hospital to manually check on her once per hour and wheel in electronic vital checking machines every so often....) I remember before I left, she asked me for a kiss.  Strangely, I had just given her one. She hugged me and told me she loved me. I had told her how proud I was of her.  I looked into her eyes. She was swabbing her mouth with a wet swab and smiled. I would never see her again.  

Sometime after the 11 pm check she was unresponsive.  We didn't get the call until almost 1am that she had been pronounced dead. The nurse had told me that before the 11 pm check, she had asked the nurse to swab her mouth, and said how bad she felt that my brother would be missing Christmas with his wife. The nurse told me once she was unresponsive, she opened the window as she believed that this was the way to release a soul to Heaven.

Ironically, back at the hotel, my stepfather and brother were having a party in their room celebrating my mother's successful operation, and our rooms were adjoined. I was doing articles on my laptop. I heard my stepfather say, "I better stop partying because I swear I just felt your mother crawl in bed with me."   An hour later, we received the official call that she was dead. 
After I returned to Baltimore and had placed the obituaries and sent the death certificates as my stepfather requested, he and my brother obtained my mother's ashes and haven't spoken to me since.

I had some unanswered questions with the hospital, and often wondered if she had been on monitors, could they have heard her beeps and saved her?  My mother used to say, when it's your time it's your time and so I try to believe that.

My mother is in a better place, where there is no hurt, crying, tears, or grief, pain, suffering or abuse. She doesn't have to hide her hurt and pain anymore.  No pretending.  My mother was truly a good person and didn't deserve the years of bullshit she endured.  There are only two people who really know this story, my stepfather  and myself. Someday the Lord will Judge us and I know on that day, I will see my beautiful mother again.  I am so very thankful to God for taking her away from the Hell she lived on Earth.

I am also free to live and breathe again, talk to my real father without guilt, and be able to sleep though the night without the phone ringing wondering if my mother is alive or dead.  I can begin to heal now.

Billy and Nan.