Sunday, May 9, 2010

Momma Final Installment

“Whatever you do don’t fall asleep. I know your body wants to but trust me, stay up. Get out and walk around, take a shower, call home or whatever but just stay awake if you have any hope to fall asleep tonight” I was standing in the lobby of a hotel on the other side of the world. A room that was saturated with more history than I could even imagine and Michael Sullivan of Beaune Imports was instructing us on what to do with our time before we were to meet back in that same history soaked lobby before heading out to dinner. I looked down at my large bags then to the very narrow and slightly winding staircase and thought, “Well shit it’s going to take me an hour to lug those things up to my room”. My body felt heavier than it ever had, the excess booze the night before leaving, the more booze on the flight over and flying for eleven or so hours with about two hours sleep total…heavy. “Hey, while it’s still light why don’t we go see a bit of the city? It’s your first time here…let’s go take a little walk and maybe share a bottle of Champagne. Meet me back here in an hour” I heard the words and was thankful for the direction in my fuzzy headed, fuzzy hearted condition.

I met Sonya my sales rep for Beaune Imports in the lobby as instructed one hour later, my eyes even puffier from crying once I dropped my bags in my ultra tiny room. Jeans, sneakers and a black hooded sweatshirt to protect my skin from the cold March air, I headed out behind my tiny little leader. The sweatshirt was so not needed…I couldn’t feel anything. We weaved our way through the crowded streets, streets teaming with pink cheeked, scarf clad people walking so quickly I feared getting swallowed up or lost amongst them. We found a corner bistro and weaved our bodies around tables full of folks talking, drinking, smoking and intently spearing little bits of food on their forks and then using their knives to distribute sauce on the selected bite. We settled into our little corner table asked for wine list and as I leaned back in my too-small-for-me chair…I felt. Felt the cold iron back of my chair pressed against my sweatshirt covered back. Felt the noise and energy of the room. Felt that my little companion was talking although my head was swimming, trying to doggy paddle through the wave that was coming over me. Her words muffled in a way that reminded me of my summers spent with my legs locked on the side of the pool, my whole body underwater listening to the voices of the other kids at camp…the kids I didn’t quite fit in with. As I floated there in that Paris bistro, muffled voices, once again feeling just a bit out of place I wondered if she had been here before. If forty years ago she had stopped into this restaurant for a bite, a cup of coffee…a rum and coke, sitting there is that space in the city that always seemed to hold an almost mystical “What if” for my mother I felt an old familiar feeling. Would she be angry, hurt or disappointed that I was here? Was I once again taking something that was hers? I’m not sure when the glass of Champagne appeared but as I felt my heart sinking, my spirit plummeting, my chest feeling like it was about to burst open I saw it. I grabbed the glass at first in an attempt to wash or stuff down the swell of emotions that threatened to take over me but….it ended up being yet another life line in the shape of a glass.

As I felt the tiny bubbles tickle my lips and the broad yeasty flavor spread across my palate it occurred to me, my mother wasn’t there making me feel guilty, saying hurtful things or demanding that I be more concerned with her feeling than mine…I was. As that first glass of Champagne slipped into my body I felt myself coming up for air. Everything became so clear to me; the bustle of a busy Pairs bistro, the cold iron chair against my back, the conversation happing at my table…I was a million miles away from that life, that hurt and if I wanted to move on I needed to stop plunging myself under water. “Oh Sam are you cold?” Sonya asked as she grabbed my hand….shaking, I was shaking.

My mother was never going to be a woman that would throw one of her children out of the house. We were the only real happiness she had and all the love she had ever felt came from us but my brother’s addiction was becoming a cancer that was slowly eating away at us all. For so much of my life my mother was the only person I had, we were unbelievably close and for some reason I was always so afraid that I was going to lose her. Not for some reason, she created that fear through her dramatic outbursts and fits of rage. I was convinced that if I left her side that she would either run away….or worse. I began sleeping with her when I was little not because I was afraid of the dark but because I was afraid of her dark.

As things hit the boiling point at the “thousand square feet” I was gone as much as I could be, doing anything I could to just be away from the sickness that felt like it was choking the life out of each and every one of us. My newfound sensuality had me taking the easiest way out, the cheapest way out and a way out that almost destroyed my just beginning family, another man. I sought comfort, peace and sanctuary in the arms of another man. I hated myself for it, hated my then boyfriend for ignoring it but no one hated it more than my mother. In this house of sadness, loneliness, rage and addiction I became the villain…the most loathsome character in a cast of pretty dark figures. One night while explaining to Jeremy that the hole knocked in his piggybank, the reason all his collected coins and given dollars were gone was because his uncle was very very sick I saw something in my mother’s face…a light and strength that I could not remember seeing in years.

“I’m moving to Boulder. Tessa and I are going to go live with my sister until I can find a job and get my own place” she was moving. She could never throw us out but her disappointment in me and feeling powerless as to what to do with my brother gave her reason enough to do what she had to in order to salvage a life for she and my sister. As terrified as I was to be without her it was the day when I was the most proud that she was my mother. My family moved out first, into the apartment we still live in…my home, this is my real home. I raised my son here, restored and rebuilt my relationship with my boyfriend now husband here. I figured out who I am as woman here. No longer giving in to the pull of my mother’s fears or sadness I was able to build a life that I am very proud of. She saved my life by cutting herself free.

My mother and my sister moved back two years later but rather than move back to Long Beach they moved to the high desert, the hope being that someday mom would be able to attain her one and only dream, to buy a house. When she returned things were different, our relationship strained a bit by the sting of me enjoying my life without her and my healing scars from what I saw as abandonment.

“Happy Mother’s Day & Happy Birthday!” we all said with glasses high. My mother sitting in her favorite restaurant in Long Beach, the place where she had her first legal drink and had taken us for every special occasion. We had all gathered there, my family, my brother’s wife and her two sons, my sister and my mother, to celebrate her. The waitress, the same damn waitress I had seen my whole life remembered our orders and rattled them off before we had a chance to say a thing. My mother was so happy that night, so proud and her power as a woman, as a mother was there sitting around the table, her years of loneliness and sacrifice now before her, happy healthy and raising our glasses to her. Her light was back, the light I used to see when I was four years old and she was holding my tiny hands while teaching me to dance…Stevie Wonder blaring in the background, that light was back.

Three days later as I was getting ready to climb into bed my phone rang, “Sam you need to get up here, now. “

Dear Momma,
I am sorry that I didn’t make it. I’m sorry that I was not there to say goodbye. I am sorry that I didn’t go into that cold room to see your body one last time. We drove as fast as we could. I still refuse to say goodbye and I was unwilling to let go of my last memory of you…lit up and being adored by your children and grandchildren….as you still very much are.

I’m not sorry we fought. I’m not sorry that I took it upon myself to feel your pain, be your safe place and at times your victim, without all of that I would not be the me that I am now. The woman that ten years later finds herself still so powerfully connected to your life that I find myself here on Mother’s Day, glass of Rose as my side…writing you. You were a stronger woman than you ever believed you were and to this day, in front of all the people that read this stoopid blog of mine I proudly say, “Nancy Dugan was my mother. She spent her life struggling with a sadness that could at times make her difficult, but she did the best that she could. Loved with an intensity that gave her children and grandson the strength to overcome some amazing obstacles. She was a mother before she was anything else and it was the one thing she was most proud of. Her fight was one brought on by many unwise choices on her part but she never gave up, never quit and even waited until my baby sister had turned 18, (19 days before she died) to let go. Her struggling heart stopped by a blood clot. She called 911 complaining that she was having trouble breathing, she was gone by the time the paramedics arrived."

Mom, I think of you often. Not every day as I am sure you would prefer but often. When the towers came down on September 11th I ached for you. When I was in that Paris bistro I wished I could call you. When Jeremy graduated high school you should have been there. When Tessa graduated from college we felt as if you were there. Just wanted you to know that we are doing fine. Tessa and I are both married to wonderfully sweet men, (you met Carl…you loved him and he you…he is now my husband) she is now in Grad school and continues to astonish me with how smart and funny she has become. Jeremy, your beloved Jeremy is doing great and just completed his junior year at the University of Louisville…his distance while painful at times makes me so proud of the mother that I have been to him. He is handsome, smart; funny as hell…a smart ass I am sure you are surprised, and just as sweet and gentle as he was when we first brought him home from the hospital. Oh and Mom…Mike is clean, has been for a few years now. He still struggles with holding a job but has found a home where he is adored and feels needed. Seems to be working for now and I will keep my fingers crossed for you.

As for me, well I’m the same I guess. I’m still at The Wine Country, still loving it and between the store, my family and this amazing group of people I find myself surrounded by I feel as safe and as loved as I ever have before. I’ve discovered that I have a love for writing that does at times consume me but in a very good way and as it turns out….this wine thing and this writing thing, pretty good combination for me. I still love music, still dance just like you taught me and still think of you every time I pass a bottle of Vouvray at the store. Vouvray night…the first night I felt that we were two women, not mother and daughter…just two women drinking too much and getting lost in a fit of giggles.

Just know it was not all for nothing Mom. We are all very proud to be your children. You done good lady.
I miss you
We all miss you and….
I guess more than anything I just wanted to say
Thank you.


Nancy Dugan May 17th 1945 – May 20th 2000

The End


The Woo said...

More comments from far away places Sam... I'm now here in the lounge at Narita/Tokyo airport waiting for my next flight. Let's see how many continents/countries I can post comments from!

I have been waiting to comment on this series of posts until you were done with the series, but now that you have posted them all, I find myself without words. Suffice it to say that what you have written is an extremely moving and powerful tribute to you mother and all mothers. Just imagine how your heart would feel if Jeremy wrote words like this, that were this heartfelt and filled with affection and compassion. Wouldn't your heart just explode in pride and love?

You have delivered this to you mother. Be proud. She would be.

Samantha Dugan said...

I just awoke on my couch to find this comment waiting for me and I am feeling a little "Rock Star" right now...not sure how many bloggers get to say that their readers check in with them while sitting in a Tokyo airport. Check me out.

I will tell you that as read your last line I began crying, Woo my dear....I hope you are right. My mother was raised in a very private family and sharing as much as I have here would have been devastating to her in a way. She would have(and I am sure of this) stopped talking to me for a bit, wounded that I spilled and maybe a little peeved if it was well written. Mom had a love for reading and I am sure that part of that was because it took her away from a life she was less than pleased about, but she never instilled that in her kids. I think it was much like driving, (which she also never taught us to do) in that it would take us away from her. She never read anything I wrote, I never really wrote before she died...our cycle, our holding back for fear that she would be hurt. To this day I am unsure if whatever writing abilities I have would make her proud. I hope so, I really do.

For now I write for me, the store and the handful of readers I have. I'm not that far removed from that little girl holding her mother's hands....seeking, I am still seeking but have been able to find the adoration I always longed for within the walls of The Wine Country and here. People always sneer at blogs, make fun of them and the people that write them....hell one of my biggest supporters writes a blog doing just that but, this blog has given me far more than I could have ever imagined, could have ever dreamed of. None of this could have ever happened without my mother. I owed her this tribute and as exhausted as it made me...I'm glad I did.

Thank you my dear friend. Thank you for reading...from all your far off places, and thank you for being one of the people that make me feel adored for just being me.

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

It must have been brutally painful to write these posts, to shine a Light in so many dark places, but you've done it admirably and brilliantly and movingly. I think so many of us see our mothers as the broken dreams they were unable to live. How can we not feel a little responsible for their pain?

You're lucky to be able to see and write about your emotional past in ways your mother may not have been able to. Your Mom taught you to dance. That's what mothers do. Teach us to dance.

I love you!

Your HoseMaster

John M. Kelly said...

Sam the "Momma" series has been your most evocative writing yet. There is nothing I can say about it that has not already been said better by Charlie and Ron, so I'm going to take the easy way out and simply second that emotion.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,

I have to confess that these posts were very difficult for me to write. They came out so easily, I wrote the first three before work in like an hour from start to publish but I found that I was so tired when I was done...just beat. The last one, the one I wrote on Mother's Day kind of wrecked me, started crying when I typed Dear Momma and cried each time I went back to read please forgive the many typos I know there must be, just can't really get through it myself. My mother did teach me to dance, she loved dancing and although there are only about 6 pictures of me as a little girl I remembered that I had the one of the two of us dancing, think that picture sums up these posts far better than anything I could write. Oh and Sweet Man, I so loved the piece you wrote about your very loving. I adore you!

Awe c'mon, you are an amazingly articulate man, you must feed my ego and say something wonderful about me!!! I am kidding of course baby and I am just grateful that the posts touched you and I was so very honored that you shared your story as well. I cherish you and am thankful that you come visit.

Charlie Olken said...

I stand with Ron and John and Woo and everyone else when I say "Thank you".

Thank you for sharing yourself with us.

Thank you for getting us in touch with our moms (and dads).

Thank you for allowing your voice, your muse, your gift to grow in such a wonderful way.

Thank you for the community of wonderful folks (yes, wine folks, of course) whom you have attracted here and, in whose company. we have become community.

Thank you, Sam.

Samantha Dugan said...

Sir Charles,

Thanking me. You're thanking me?! You guys all share your time with me, come visit, read my silly crap and take the time to add your voice....and YOU are thanking ME? That's just crazy to me. It is I my dear friend, that should be thanking you for the gift of your time. I am always so thrilled when I read that someone is pleased with something I wrote and you Sir are always so giving of your praise here so, thank you Charlie...from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Sip with Me! said...

Girl, you are THE master wordsmith. Aside from delivering the most poignant and moving piece I've read in a long time (how exactly do you do it?), you've done an amazing job portraying your mother (faults and all) in a very beautiful light. You've also made me question my own abilities; while I always thought I was a writer, I know you are. Fantastic series!

Sara Louise said...

Beautiful, moving, heartfelt, and utterly amazing. No words I could write here would possibly do justice to what I read so I'll just say wow.

Samantha Dugan said...

Sip & Sara,

You are both so very kind. I just returned and email from a dear friend and reader that asked where I go from here, damn fine question that. I didn't mean for this to turn into a series but when I ran out of time on my first post, (had to get to work) "To be continued" bought me more time which let me kind of develop the story a bit. In the end I must admit that I was kind of proud with how it turned out...AND no one hollered at me for making them cry this time, Woo Hoo!

I'm honored that everyone enjoyed it and touched by all the very sweet words people have been sharing with me about it. When I can make people feel something then I really feel like I have done a good job. So thank you so much....all of you for letting me know that I was able to touch you...makes me very proud.

Now back to silly wine crap....

Sip with Me! said...

Yeah, well I left out the fact that I had to take several hours to compose myself before coming back to comment and the people at my son's school probably thought I was stoned when I came to pick him up with my red and swollen eyes. So there, damn you for making me cry again!!

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh dammit!

The Woo said...

Dude! You are the rock star! This time, I'm coming at you from the Vegas of Asia, also known as the city of Macao. We have an office here and I'm here for a couple of days before heading back to Hong Kong then home again.

You're awesome. Word. Yes, I did just say "word".

Nancy Deprez said...

Okay, I lost it there. I know you don't love it when we cry reading your blog so I tried to stop that but the final installment - that did it!!!!!!

Michael Hughes said...


You're three part series was beautiful. I wish I could better express how wonderfully bittersweet it was to me.

Samantha Dugan said...

You are making me look all bad ass!

(Sighing) I am sorry girlie but if it makes you feel any better it made me cry too.

Thanks darlin' I am glad it was able to touch you. It was bittersweet but in the end, it's just about love...and everything that comes with that. I'm glad you liked it, really.

Nancy Deprez said...

No need to apologize - just wanted you to know how your words moved me. :)

Jeremy said...

Dear Momma, these articles rule, even though I only got to spend 11 years knowing Grandma, they were an awesome 11 years. The memories we have of her we live for ever and I know if she was still around she'd be very proud of all of us. Love you ma.

Griffin Song said...

funny pictures and video