THE FIRST DRAFT: "Unanswered Questions"
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By Jobi Jones

It is the same thing every year. Out of guilt I am attending yet another mother/daughter banquet held at my family's church. Upon entering the door I am immediately scouted out by my grandmother who grabs me and starts dragging me across the room. She proceeds to parade me around to every table as if I am some door prize she has just won and wants to show off. When introducing me to her friends it always starts the same, "Y'all, I would like you to meet my granddaughter, Julie." Under my breath I politely and monotonously respond, "My name isn't Julie" while still keeping the fake smile on my face. She promptly corrects herself, "I'm sorry, this is Jobi, Julie's daughter, my youngest, Julie is deceased now." As soon as these words leave her mouth it seems as if all conversation and background noises drown out and all I hear are the words spoken through body language and facial expressions, "Oh you poor pathetic dear. Your life must be so tragic."

It is at this point that I feel as if I don't belong. For the rest of the evening I sit at my table with my grandmother, aunts, and their daughters, but feel like am in the corner observing everyone. I cannot even pretend to know the bond and relationship these women are celebrating and feel I need to excuse myself for intruding on their special moment. I just continue to smile and wave while still receiving those sympathy faces that act as though my mother died right before I came here instead of fourteen years ago.

Not that I am cold-hearted or anything, but it just isn't how everyone thinks it is. When my mother died I was four years old, which is hardly old enough to remember anything. So loosing her was not a big traumatic event in my childhood, which I know sounds really bad, but I simply can't miss someone I never knew. Yes, I admit being raised by two men (my dad and my brother) who were deeply affected by this tragedy made me feel like an outsider. It is as if they were a whole other family that I wasn't a part of, they reminisce and talk about her sometimes and I have absolutely nothing to contribute to the conversation, which is odd. I have utterly nothing to say about my own mother, all I have are questions, questions that can't be answered.

The majority of these questions come from the way she died. My mother was going through an extremely rough time in her life and thought the only solution to her problems were not to continue living. She took her own life while I was at preschool, my brother at kindergarten and my father at work. Seeing as how I was too young to understand my father lied to me for years about her death saying she was sick, I guess he felt this was a more honorable way to die. Personally, I would just like to know her reasons.

In some ways it just never occurred to me that I actually did have a mother at one time in my life. Of course my family tells me about her, but I know she can't be the saint everyone makes her out to be. It is the little things that I want to know like what she smelled like, how she laughed, or the way she walked. But these are things I just can't remember. However, I can remember the first time it occurred to me that I did have a mother. I was watching some old home movies for a family tree project I was doing, the video was of my brother's sixth birthday party at my grandmother's pool. Suddenly the camera was focused on me tugging on the bathing suit of someone that wasn't in the camera's view. I could hear my self "Mama…" (still tugging) "hey Mama…" (tugging some more) "Mama…" Finally a response "What honey?" It was then that the camera zoomed back and I saw my younger self actually talking to my mother. I wanted her to watch me swim. I sat there for a minute while the tape continued to play in shock from the reality check I had just had. I cannot put into words how weird it was to watch me interact with the person that gave me life but didn't stay around long enough for me to get to know. I never knew I could be so phased by this, I kept asking myself "why are you getting emotional, you didn't know her?" But I have come to realize that it is more the idea of a mother that I miss rather than the actual person. I have a sort of hole inside that just can't be filled although some have tried. But the hole doesn't really bother me a lot since I have lived with it for so long.

Although her death did not affect me immediately, I have some indirect effects that show up every now and then. I tend to draw my validity from her decisions and question whether we were worth her staying around, but I usually just annoy myself by thinking that way because I view that as feeling sorry for myself, which I absolutely do not. I love my life and think I have been very fortunate. Also, when growing up with two guys you don't get a lot of hugs, kisses, and "I love you's", so I am not what you would consider an affectionate person. Some people take this as being cold or rude, but it just isn't natural for me and makes me kind of uncomfortable because I am not used to it.
Even though there are some obvious negative points from this event, there are some positive ones as well, believe it or not. The things that have happened in my short life have made me a very independent person. I admit this meant growing up very fast and missing out on some childhood moments, but I think it was worth it. In fact I probably would not be here right now if things hadn't happened the way they did. It has also made me want to help others and make sure everyone feels included one way or another. I know what it is like to feel like the odd man out, and no one should have to go through that. There is always an up side to every situation, no matter what the circumstances.

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