Mother's Day is a very special day not only for my mother, but for myself as it brings about countless memories of the woman who gave birth to me, became my role model, and gave me the strength to be who I am.
Let's start at the beginning of the story...
On May 31st in 1982, my mother Jeri gave birth to a "baby Buddha . This Butterball turkey (aka me), was born pushing the scale towards 11 pounds and 22 inches long. While she was carrying me, several nurses and doctors told her that I took up as much space as possible and that there was never a worry about me being undernourished in the womb. Even thought my mother had a c-section, I was still able to wipe out all energy and strength she had, leaving her recuperating for days in the hospital. During this time, the nurses would bring my plump self to her to train my mom in waking me up and feeding me. Why you ask? Well, as it would appear, I loved sleep more than food. This behavior carries with me to this day where I am perfectly sleeping 12 hours at a time without much concern about getting a meal. So, my weak mother would try to lift me onto her bed and feed me, which was only possible with the help of two other nurses.
Once she got me home, this behavior of mine became a saving grace for her. Having already four other kids, she was able to leave me for hours to sleep while she dealt with my siblings returning from playing outside with bloody cuts, bruises and moaning in pain. Compared to most other babies, I was more concerned with sleeping rather than crying my eyes out or screaming for attention.
Jumping ahead...the most cherished memories I have from my childhood are those of my mother and I going to the local Niles library three to four times a week. During these "library dates", I would gather as many books as I could carry and have my mother read them to me. We would go on jungle adventures, look for treasure in dungeons, and travel to marvelous lands full of wonder and awe. As time went on, we switched places, and so it was my turn to read all the books to her while she read her romance novels. If I stuttered, didn't know a word, or found a part challenging she was always there to help me through it. At the same time, the library had summer reading contests where you obtained prizes based on the amount of books you read while school was out. Simply said, I made that contest my bitch. I easily surpassed the other children, and with the staff seeing my mother and I there every week, no one questioned me reading over 75 books in three months. From this, I grew to love reading, finding a means to escape from reality, and way to see the world through countless eyes and perspectives.
Time passed and I began to question my sexual identity and struggled trying to find the real Joey. I floated between the geeks, the goths, the hippies, and any other social clique that accepted me. Even thought I always knew I was gay since grammar school, I always found it challenging to be honest to myself. This was caused by living in a household with a strict Roman Catholic father, having two brothers that would beat me if I ever wanted to play Wonder Woman while we played a game called "Heroes", and always hearing from my siblings friends make fun of people like me.
The day finally came when I came out to my mother. We were driving to Olive Garden in Lincolnwood, our usual date spot, and I started to cry in the car. Quietly wiping away my tears before she could notice, I started to say very softly, "Mom, I need to talk to you about something...". "Of course honey, what's the matter?" My hands started to shake, I didn't know what she was going to respond with once I told her. "I'm gay....", I started to say with silence in the car, "...and my friend Mat is my boyfriend." Without saying much, she grabbed my hand and simply said, "I know...a mother always knows."
The tears took over and I didn't know how to react. She held tight to my hand and said, "I am so happy and proud of you. I watched for years your grandfather deal with people not understanding him and watching him try to find his own personal happiness. I want only the best for you and I love you." Through my tears, I could see she was crying too. Then, she said something that I will never forget, "I'm lucky to have a gay son, you make me so happy." And that was it...now you might be asking, "What about the rest of the family?" Well, that's a different story for a different time.
My mother's love and acceptance of me became my shield and protected me from the verbal and physical attacks I suffered at the hands of others during high school at Maine South. It was hard being one of the few openly gay kids in school, especially Park Ridge that likes to maintain a certain "face". During these four years, I was slammed into lockers, beaten and left with bruises all over my torso, and spit at during passing period between classes. I always made sure that if someone hit me, they did so in an area that I could cover up and hide from my mother. I loved her so much, that I never wanted to see her cry. So, I kept my head held high, and always reminded myself of the fact that at least my mother accepted me with open arms and was proud to have a gay child.
Mom...you are my hero, my role model, and I have learned more from you than any book, class, or life experience. You will never know how your love protected me in the hardest of moments or stopped me from thinking that it would be better of if I was simply dead.
I love you mom...and thank you for bringing me to the world and sharing it with me. However, I'm sorry that I destroyed your womb by the time I came out.