I Found My Late Mother’s Diary and It Made Me Regret My Whole Life

We were fine. And yet, my school years were marred by spending Saturday mornings at thrift stores, looking for hand-me-down clothes. My social life and birthday parties were basically non-existent, because attending these events meant buying gifts, and that was something my mother found utterly incomprehensible. Pocket money? That was a foreign concept to my mother. But then, a diary entry changed everything. Growing up, my father was my favorite. “Oh, Cara,” he said, every night when he came to switch my bedroom light off. “You’re my little light, you know that?” Throughout my childhood, my father littered my bleak existence with joy. He would sneak in little treats, secrets trips to the movies when mom was working, and sometimes, he would simply buy me cotton candy — my favorite sweet treat. On the other side of it all, was my mother. She barely interacted with me, always lost in her own daydreams. But when it came to buying groceries, or switching off the lights, she was alert and strict. “Come on, Cara,” she would hiss under her breath. “Do you think we’re made of money? Switch off the light when you leave the room.” once, when I was in high school, I got a part-time job at the local pet grooming salon. I just wanted to make some money for myself. “Good, Cara,” Dad said. “This is a good thing for you.” Mom rolled her eyes. But when my first paycheck came in — Mom helped herself to more than half of it.

“I need it, Cara,” she said. “I’m sorry but you don’t understand how to run a household.” This became a trend. And then, when I was almost done with school, my father got into an accident during a storm. “I’m sorry, honey,” Mom said, coming into my room with her socks and slippers. “Dad didn’t make it. ”The shock hit me from all directions, but more than that — I was shocked that Mom looked more stressed about the funeral preparations rather than the loss of my father. Mom and I slipped through life in silence after that. I didn’t know how to navigate life with her. All I knew was that my father had put money away for me — my college fund. And I was so close to getting out. Just before my high school graduation, when I had begun applying to colleges, I found out that my mother had taken my entire college fund. You just don’t understand, Cara,” she said, sipping on a mug of tea. “There are some things that are bigger than you.” But that was it. That was the final drop of water in the sinking ship that was our relationship. By then I had some savings, and I moved out. I rented out a room at a share-house, and took on longer hours at the salon. Years rolled by, and I continued to work and study part-time, and just when I thought that I had successfully buried that chapter of my life, a phone call uprooted everything. My mother had passed away. Despite the years of accumulated hurt and resentment, I found myself at her funeral. After the service, my mother’s sister, Veronica asked me to go to my childhood home and sort through mom’s belongings. “I wouldn’t know what to do, Cara,” Veronica said. “I wouldn’t know if anything is valuable or not.” Amidst the modest clothing and remnants of her life, my mother didn’t have much. But as I was going through everything, I stumbled upon something unexpected — her diary. I couldn’t even recall my mother having a diary. I didn’t remember her writing in one. My fingers trembled as I held it. I knew my mother resented me, but did I want to read about it? I decided that I needed to — for the sake of closure, if anything. I sat in the living room, and began to flip through the pages. Dear Diary, I hate having to live like this, scrimping and saving, denying my daughter the joys of childhood. But I’m trapped. Henry’s decisions leave me no choice… I paused, feeling a knot form in the pit of my stomach. All these years, I was convinced that my mother was the villain in my story. It had never occurred to me that there might be something deeper fueling her frugality. Dear Diary, Cara is such a happy child. She’s thriving in school, but I know it won’t last. Her joy won’t be the same anymore. Henry took out a business loan — he’s convinced that he can make a mark in the waste-paper industry. But I’m convinced that it is a mistake. I didn’t know that my father did anything other than his job as a manager. Dear Diary, Henry’s business venture failed. The debt has become a noose around our necks. I love that he was a dreamer, always taking risks. But now that there’s no money left, Henry has turned to gambling. He hoped for a big win. But he has lost more. Our debt is enormous. My heart dropped to my stomach. My father? A gambler? Dear Diary, I did what I could. I’ve been scraping together every penny to keep us afloat. But now, since his accident — all the debt has been transferred to me. I have so much to pay back. Cara barely looks at me, she thinks that I’m not grieving Henry. I am. I’m also just stressed out by what we’re going to do next. Tears blurred my vision. I had been unaware of the dire consequences of my father’s accident. I just knew that his insurance money came and went. Dear Diary, The most difficult decision I’ve ever made was to use Cara’s college fund. But I didn’t have a choice. It was either that or we were going to lose our house and car. I couldn’t lose the home that Cara grew up in. She needs to have the memories of her father. But she resents me. I see it in her eyes. She believes that I stole her future, when I used the money. I guess I did. A sob broke through my defenses. My mother hadn’t taken my money out of greed — she did it to protect us from an even worse fate. Dear Diary, I see the hatred in Cara’s eyes. She doesn’t understand, and I can’t blame her. She adores Henry, and she idolizes his memory. I couldn’t tell her the truth. I couldn’t tarnish that image. There’s only silence between us. Guilt washed over me like a tidal wave. All these years, I had blamed my mother, I had despised her, while she carried this immense burden for my sake. The final entry broke me. Dear Diary, Today, the debt was finally cleared. Cara is free from this curse. She can live her life without this dark cloud looming over her. My only hope is that one day she’ll understand that every sacrifice I made was out of love. Despite everything, I love that girl more than life itself. Closing diary, I was overwhelmed by a profound sense of remorse and understanding. Mom did it all for me. Months have passed, and Mom’s diary sits on my bookshelf. But even though I understand everything now — I am ashamed of myself. I didn’t stop to ask her more. I just thought that she was greedy.