By Byron McCauley and Jennifer Mooney
We are deep friends. We wrote a book together. It started as a COVID activity about our mutual lives, about aging, about parenting, about racism, about political unrest, about America and about our parents.
We both struggled. We had absentee fathers, stepfathers and lived with a fear of abandonment. As parents, we strive to ensure that our own children no longer share our fear.
We also are/were blessed with good mothers.
While one hopes to have two solid parents, having one delivers.
Byron wrote, “This is Father’s Day weekend. It is awkward for me. I did not grow up with my bio dad. Mom became pregnant with me during her third year at Grambling College in September 1964.
When she wrote my bio dad a letter informing him, she was with child, she said he wrote her back with what was essentially a “Dear John” letter that she would not finish reading. She burned it. She was too proud. She would raise me on her own with a lot of help from her mom and her siblings.”
Byron was raised on a farm. His mom taught school. She instilled the value of learning and education. Her son (Bryon) grew to earn a master’s degree, have a meaningful life as a journalist and in the private sector. Most importantly, he is the Dad to three girls and married to an engaged wife and mother.
Jennifer’s story is the same theme, different players. Her family fractured when she was a young teen, during a time when families “stuck” together. She wrote,
“Over time, I distanced myself from him. I knew that spending time with him hurt my mother. I went to counseling. I married (twice) and had the kids. And then I heard from him. He had bad cancer and wanted to visit. He came to Cincinnati and spent the weekend drinking every drop of alcohol in the house. I felt that seeing him would again destroy me and that my priority must be my own children. I never spoke to him again. He died some years later at age 62.”
As I age, I see simply a broken man with undiagnosed issues. I still remember the “good” days and a seemingly idyllic childhood.”
Jennifer’s mom earned her Ph.D. while Jennifer was in middle school. Her friends remember watching her study – while they played. In Wyoming, Ohio, this represented a different kind of woman. Jennifer, too, earned advanced degrees, had a meaningful career and raised daughters with an involved and loving father.
We are not unique. We are 50-somethings who had more than most, less than some. We share the parenting of a total of seven daughters, picked good spouses and determined that our offspring would experience security, opportunity and options. One of us is Black. One is White. We grew up seven-plus states from one another, one in a “city” and one in the country.
Yet, as adults we cut our teeth on similar childhoods.
We are in the annual time of Mother’s Day. One of us has a living mom. One does not. As we wrote Hope, Interrupted, we often reflected upon our own beginnings, our commonality, our hopes, our dreams, our regrets. We both (at times) blamed our mothers and thanked them.
One of us is a mother. It is true that “parenthood” is the opportunity to spend the rest of one’s life worrying, hoping and dreaming. But this time for our own families. With older children, we wonder about our own mistakes and know that we could have done better.
We also know that the world is a rough and tumble place.
As we experience America’s Mother’s Day, give yourself (if you are a parent) a few moments to experience the grace of parenting. And give your own mom (living or gone) a thanks for all that she did right and wrong. It shaped you and whether you know it or not, she gave the best that she could.
Byron McCauley and Jennifer Mooney co-authored Hope, Interrupted (www.hopeinterrupted.com.) Byron lives and works in Cincinnati. Jennifer, who was raised and worked for years in Cincinnati, is a resident of Taos, New Mexico.