Mother, by Lucinda Gunnin

Dear Mom,

You forwarded me an email today that said we should treasure the people in our life who matter and let go of those who don’t. I understood the intention behind it and what you were trying to say. But I deleted it without sending it back to you.

I’m sure you think it was just because I hate email forwards. You’d be wrong. Oh, I do hate them, but generally I forward the sappy ones to the people I care about. Not this time.

I deleted it because I am certain that you have no idea who I am. I deleted it because you fail to see the things that are important to me and respond to them. I deleted it because of the way you have treated my husband for these last 15 years. No one says you have to love him or even like him, but treating him with respect seems like something you could do for me.

I know you try, sometimes. Maybe I’m a disappointment, not the daughter you hoped you’d have. Maybe you think this dream of mine is foolish and should be set aside. To be honest, I have no idea why you can’t encourage my success. I think you know, or I hope you do, that I’ve always dreamed of being a writer. Not just a reporter or even published in magazines, but a real honest to God fiction writer.

In July, I sent you the notice about the first contest I won. The prize money was insignificant, but the fact that it included publication in a real book. Yes, I’ve been published in magazines and newspapers. My work is all over the internet. That wasn’t the point, but you didn’t seem to get it.

To some, selling my first short story may seem like no big deal. Maybe you just knew I could do it and that’s why you never said congratulations. Not even a tiny email asking to read it. My friends knew. Many of them begged me to send it to them to read. Another made me promise not to send him a copy of the book as he wanted to buy it. You didn’t even respond to the email I sent telling you about it.

I buried that pain. Maybe you were busy with something else and just missed the excitement in my note. Maybe when the book is in your hands, you’ll feel differently. Maybe I’m spoiled, by a mother-in-law who faithfully reads everything I write.  Did you know she keeps a scrap book of my writing, Mom?  Do you?

But then I dared to hope again. I won another short story contest, Mom. Well, okay, technically I got third place.  Sure, there were only 500 entries, but Mom, I won $200 for my short story!

I have never doubted my ability to write nonfiction, but this was a challenge for me, letting something of myself out that I had never believed in. I thought you’d be happy for me. You never responded.

That’s why I deleted your email this morning. I was hurt and angry that you could forward this tripe about not wanting to lose people in your life, but couldn’t take the time to send me a note of congratulations. Were you out of minutes? Your cell phone broken?  Is that why you didn’t call?

There were people in my life I should have sent that forward on to, let them know how much they mean to me. But today, I was hurting because my mother didn’t care enough to say, “I’m proud of you.”

You were the one I wanted to hear from yesterday and the best I got was another forward cluttering up my inbox. My friend Laurie called me from California to congratulate me.  She called before I even finished reading the announcement that I had won. Would it be asking too much for my mother to do the same?

Emily, who I’ve known for three years, called. Joe, you remember Joe, right? My friend from college that I haven’t seen in 20 years, Joe, sent me an email card. Mark, another friend from college, sent a cute little congratulations note.  My father-in-law sent a request to read the winning entry. My boss, Chanda, noticed an error on the page announcing the winners. My friends, my in-laws and my employer all managed to take time to be happy for my success. Were you, Mom?

I wish I knew.

I thought as I began this that I was bitter, but I’ve discovered that you simply don’t understand who I am. I’m far away and haven’t lived at home in more than 20 years. My little successes may not seem so important to you these days, but your approval still matters to me, Mom.  I needed you to know that. After forty years, you’re still my mom and what you think matters to me.

There are plenty of heartaches on both sides. Regrets and things we wish we’d said or done differently over the last decades. I don’t want this to be another one to chalk up to hurt feelings and wistful thinking. I can correct this now and I am.

Please be happy for me, Mom. I’m happy with my life and pursuing my dreams. I hope you can be happy with me too.

I may never be world famous or have the perfect children and live in a house with a white picket fence. That was never my dream and is not who I am.

I am me. I love my husband, my children and my cat. I write. It gives meaning to my soul and purpose to my life. When things are going well, it also pays the bills quite handsomely.  I guess I shouldn’t admit that. I use money as an excuse often enough not to come to see you, but the truth is, Mom, that I don’t come because of the way that you treat us. Thor and I are package deal. We love each other very much. When you treat him badly, you hurt me.

Do you remember the last time we came up for a holiday? Sure, we weren’t married yet, but we had lived together for years. You made Thor sleep on the couch. You threw a fit that we had to leave instead of shopping with you on Black Friday, even though we had told you Thor had to work the next day. You said you didn’t know why I had driven 10 hours just to spend one day with you. I hope by now you’ve figured that one out. I made the drive because I love you Mom.

I’m setting this all aside right now, Mom, and I hope you can do the same. We are old enough to know that life can change in an instance. I don’t want it to change with regrets between us.

This Mothers’ Day, I’m going to try to be there. I want to see you and Grandma and my nephew. I won’t be able to stay long as the problem of being self-employed is that there is really no vacation time. But I want you to know that I still feel the way I did all those years ago, when with childlike innocence I wrote you a poem saying you were the “Best Mom Ever.” You made mistakes, but all moms and daughters do. You loved me and that meant everything.

I love you too.



Cindy Gunnin is a freelance writer and mini-storage manager in Carterville, Illinois. When she is not writing, she can be found in the office making collection calls or planning advertising campaigns. She is a staff writer for Heartland Women, a bi-weekly newspaper focused on issues about women for women and written by women. She is a member of the Southern Illinois Writers Guild and happily counts herself as one of the “founding members” of the Accentuate Writers Forum. She intends to get around to making her author’s website eventually and in the meantime, more of her work can be found here.

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7 Responses to “Mother, by Lucinda Gunnin”

  1. Beej says:

    That’s incredibly powerful. You are right, though. Everything can change in an instant between you and your mother, and all it will take is a little give from both parties.

    I have an incredibly close relationship with my parents that I would not trade for anything, so I implore you to talk to her in person or let her read this letter or, heck, even actually send it in the mail (I know, a terrible faux pas these days). Coming from a close family, I can’t imagine the pain it takes to rebuild one of these relationships, but I do want to tell you that from the inside, it would be worth any amount of effort it takes to build, even if feelings are hurt along the way.

    Again, this letter was powerful, and I think should be moved from Unsent to Sent.

  2. Angel says:

    I think you should send this letter to your mom, Cindy. It might open her eyes, and let y’all start building a stronger relationship. I hope things get better between you.

  3. Lorraine says:

    Cindy..What an awesome expression of self! It’s honest and emotional while realistic. I enjoyed reading it very much.

  4. Linda St.Cyr says:

    Very expressive letter. I enjoyed reading it although I felt the power and heartbreak and even hope behind the words. I hope that you show this to your Mom and can build a better relationship taking things day by day.

  5. Linda Johnson says:

    Well first, congratulations on your short story! Where can we read it? And then congratulations on an honest letter expressing hurt and pain, but really without pettiness, or manipulation or vindictiveness. I do think you should send it — what damage can it do? It might help. And I also wish you would get an equally honest letter back. Note to your Mom: She IS a great writer, Mom, you should be proud!


  6. Gillian says:

    I really hope that your relationship with your mum improves Cindy. As you say, no mum is perfect and we all make mistakes but we’re still the only mum we’ll ever be or have and it hurts like hell not to have that person as a positive part of your life. Excellent letter and I agree with Angel that you should send it although I can understand the reasons not to as well.

  7. I’m at a loss for words. This letter is pouring with hurt and sadness and it makes me so sad that a mother could make her daughter feel that way. (((Hugs))) to you, Cindy. We are all so proud of you.


  1. two states » Blog Archive » Newborn Screening in the US: a mother’s story about how to improve a whole - [...] Unsent Letters Blog » Mother, by Lucinda Gunnin [...]

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