Mother Mine

Cinse Bonino
3 min readMay 19, 2023

My mother was not a very good mother.

Though she was way better than her own mother had been.

Unfortunately she looked the other way when her mother, who lived with us for quite some time, emotionally abused me. Telling me I had to wash my laundry separately.

Because I was too dirty.

My mother had good moments. Moments I still remember. But she was more Joan Crawford than she was any of the sweeter actresses.

And she was acting. Trying to play a role. A role for which she never received a script.

It was all improvised. It was all for the audience. Not for her children.

I could tell you stories about things she said and did. But that’s not fruitful.

What matters is that I learned how to be a good mother.

From her bad example.

I also learned to be a strong woman because of her outrageous behavior.

She pushed boundaries.

She didn’t let others push her around.

She ignored us most of the time unless she was trying to make us reflect the limelight back onto her.

It took me decades to understand how insecure she was even while she was being braver than any woman I knew.

It took me even longer to have compassion for her.

But still. She inflicted an enormous amount of pain.

Everyone in my family, all the women and all the men, died in their 70s.

Except my mom.

She just turned 93.

You’d think she had won the lottery but she has dementia.

Ironically I’m the one she remembers.

I am her anchor.


She’s kind now. Loving. Mostly appreciative.

She lives in a memory facility many states away.

She gets excited when I call every week even though she doesn’t have the mental capacity for a long conversation.

She brags about me to the people who work there.

They love her.

She’s funny. She’s sassy.

She’s far away but closer than she’s ever been.

To me.

I make her cards. Flood her with mail.

She talks nonsense and gets confused.

She rallies the most when she talks to me.

I hate what she did.

To me.

But I finally am not angry with her.

I feel badly for her that this is her life now.

She’s on Medicaid but she’s in a facility that’s caring.

She’s safe. They take good care of her.

They get excited each month when I call to book her cut, style, and blow-dry.

There’s a lot of paperwork involved when your mother has dementia.

I’m taking better care of her than she did of me.

And yet.

There was that upholstered princess headboard she designed and had my dad build.

She taught me how to draw a tree. How to arrange flowers.

We both could see all the colors within any color. I still can. She cannot.

She was amazing.

And distant.

And biting.

And selfish.

But now.

She’s mostly lovely.

These days Bad Judy only comes out for seconds now and then.

If she lived closer I would go and see her every week.

I haven’t gone to see her. I know she would forget I had been there right after I left.

She thinks I’ve already visited her multiple times.

Will I regret not going?


Maybe not.

What if I don’t like what I see when I get there?

I know I’m only protecting myself.

But that’s what she taught me to do.

Cinse Bonino



Cinse Bonino

Cinse, a former professor with a background in the psychology of human learning, writes nonstop, and is addicted to capturing the human experience in words.