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I’m writing this because I found out you’re still alive, or at least you were a couple weeks ago. Our neighbor said you look 90-years-old and that you didn’t think to ask about me or my sister. But, to be fair, I haven’t thought about you much lately either.

You were Momma for the first 6 or 7 years of my life, and I probably should know exactly how long, but when you’re 6 or 7, or 3 or 4 like my sister was, you don’t really keep track of things for when you don’t have a mom anymore, so I have no idea.

I guess I could ask my dad, but after all these years I still don’t like to bring it up.

I’m not dumb enough to believe that you’ll read this, or even see it. You always said I was smart, even though I was dumb enough to believe you when you came out of the building I now know to be Wagon Wheel Package Store and told me that the brown paper bag was just “magic peanuts.” I’ve still never been in there, but I know what kind of packages they sell.

You probably don’t know, but I write things now, so that’s also why I’m writing this. I’ve written enough things where even though we haven’t talked in who knows how many years, you could probably find some if you tried to look me up. (I just Googled and you literally just have to put the name of our hometown after my name and I’m in the first three things.)

I know it blindsided me, too. I hated to write back when you were around, but so do most first graders. Of course you made sure I got a little practice with the two letters you wrote me from prison. No offense, but I used to hate when you called from there, not sure if it’s knowing that a prison guard is listening to your “private conversation” with your mom or just that I didn’t know what to say. I mean, what do you say to someone who you haven’t seen in years? Especially when they’re supposed to be the person who loves you the most. Also I don’t think the prison phones were very good because it was hard to hear you sometimes.

You missed out on sitting in the stands with all the other parents who watched me stand on the football field sidelines for four years. So you didn’t miss that much there, but you missed out on sitting next to dad, who changed jobs to be able to sit there all 40 of those Friday nights, and the stuff he yelled at the coaches was pretty hilarious sometimes.

I almost hope you don’t read this though, because I don’t want you to think I’m mad or sad about it. I’m fine, really. Most people even think I’m happy.

Sadly, I think about you about as much as you think about me, which is not very often. See, it all worked out for me. In the seventh grade I got a mom.

You even met her once, talk about an awkward lunch, but it was her idea for us to see you. She didn’t want to replace you or anything. She’s talked to us about you more times than I remember you talking to me at all. She’s tried to help us think of the happy times we had with you even though sometimes it’s hard to tell if we had any.

But luckily she did replace you.

She gave up a lot to become our mom, where you gave up even more to get out of it. She taught us about what would happen if we did drugs, but always let you be the example. She’s had sleepless nights worrying and praying for our future, not because of withdrawals and some shadow on the wall with a gun that you imagined.

She drove me to school after my first car wreck, sent me off to the prom, and watched me graduate high school when even I didn’t want to be there. She grounded me for making C’s, taught me how to write checks, and sat with my dad on those Friday nights and any other time he would’ve been lonely. She sends encouraging texts and provides nearly all the food I eat that isn’t fast food, because that’s what moms do.

I don’t call her mom, but she knows who she is. Only my closest friends even know that she’s not my biological mother, because I introduce her as my mom. It’s these things that make someone a mom, not just giving birth.

But since you’re here, Happy Mother’s Day. Too bad you’re not actually here or you’d get a cool gift like whatever I decide to give mom. It’s the least I can do, because she’s earned it.

Jake Cantrell

11 in a 21-year old body with an 81-year old soul. Just trying to follow God, wear neat socks and be 1 percent less worse than yesterday."

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