My Letter to the One That Got Away

There is a monthly show at Joe’s Pub called Women of Letters. It’s a literary salon where, according to their website, “women come together on stage to celebrate the lost art of letter-writing.” This past month, I had the opportunity to perform on that stage alongside some of the most incredible women I’ve ever encountered, including Joan Juliet Buck, former editor of French Vogue, and Suzanne “duh-duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh-duh” Vega. It was insane.

I’m the giant on the far right.

One of the magical parts of Women of Letters is that they don’t allow recording of any kind during the show. That way they create a safe space where performers can say whatever they like, knowing a video isn’t going to show up on YouTube the next day.

However. If you wanna publish what you wrote, you totally can.

The story I shared wouldn’t have happened without this blog, so even though I wavered a little (I think you’ll see why), I’m posting my letter here to complete the circle.

Women of Letters NYC, April 2017: To the One That Got Away

Hey, Mom,

I know it’s been a while since we talked, but I just can’t stop thinking about that last thing you said to me…


Do you remember that? Just one word. “Heartbroken,” then you left without giving me a chance to find out exactly what you meant.

Of course, I get you were saying you were heartbroken and that I was the one responsible, but which specific heartbreak are we talking about here?

I’m guessing maybe the blog, but can that really be it? I’d apologized so many times. I’d even cried on your belly and begged for forgiveness just the week before. “Please Mommy, we don’t have much time.”

I hadn’t called you Mommy since I was 12.

And all you said back was, “You’ll never know how much you hurt me.” Which still blows me away. I mean, let’s be real. What kind of mother does that? Do you know how hard it is to accept that you literally decided you’d rather die before forgiving me for a few blog posts?

You probably do. And based on the 40 years we had together, my guess is that somewhere you’re high fiving yourself for making the perfect exit.

Okay. I get that it was really fucked up of me to write about your pill addiction online, especially those “From the Cot” posts where I talked about staying in the hospital while you detoxed. But like I told you the night you broke our 2-year silence after your doctor suggested you get your affairs in order … I was scared and I was angry and I was acting out.

I really am sorry I hurt you so much.

At least I took the posts down, right? Granted, it was after you (and the rest of the family) found them, but still. Beyond going back in time, what could I have done?

You remember that Precious Moments doll you got me after I gave the baby up for adoption? It was the angel one I’d been wanting for so long and your note read, “Nothing you could ever do could change the love I have for you.”

You wrote that to me two days after I’d woken you up in the middle of the night to tell you that not only was I pregnant, but that I was also in labor and needed a ride to the hospital RIGHT. NOW.

For the record … I still don’t get how you lived with me that entire time without ever noticing your 19-year-old was with child, but I guess that’s not the point.

The point is, you found out I was having a baby, you watched me have the baby, and then you helped me sign away my rights to that baby all in the span of two days. And still your instinct was to reassure me of your unconditional love.

Nothing I could ever do.

Of course, that was also 1990. At the time, the worst thing you could imagine me doing was killing somebody and even that, you promised, could never overshadow your love for me. It would be a full decade before you could fathom I’d ever have the ability to out your drug problems to our entire family, and the world at large, via a thing called the Internet.

Still, I don’t believe that’s the heartbreak you were talking about when you stared straight at me with that infamous evil eye of yours and forced out the only word you’d said in days. I suppose you didn’t want there to be any question about whether you died at peace because you most certainly did not.

You were heartbroken and I swear to god I believe you purposely chose that as your last word to make sure I never forgot it.

As much as I’d like to think it was the blog that broke your heart, I know it was what happened the day before you died that dropped the final ash in your cremation urn. So, I wanna explain my side.  

That day, I’d been home for three weeks, clearing out your belongings as if you were already dead, poring through the piles of garbage you’d hoarded over the years, and cleaning up after your uncared-for menagerie of cats and dogs. At least I had mama cat handling the litter of kittens in the linen closet. It’s terrible to admit but, I was kinda happy when I found the head of the one she ate. And part of me hoped she’d eat more to thin the herd.

On top of all that, the septic tank at the house had gotten so full, we couldn’t wash laundry and flush the toilet at the same time. Otherwise, the tub would start to overflow with 30 years of our family’s shit.

I’ve never related more to an inanimate object in my entire life.

That day—the one before you died—you and I were home alone. You, morphine-d out on a hospital bed in the living room where the sofa used to be, and me in the back of the house sorting through mementos of a life with a mom who’d begun a descent into depression and drug addiction during my teens.

Each plastic bag of clothes to donate, or trash to throw out that I carried past your catatonic body was a symbol of how I’d never have the nurturing mother I’d seen on TV and at my friends’ houses.

I remember the only noises in the room being your respirator and your gurgling from the fluid on your lungs. Then my voice. I haven’t been able to pinpoint what finally made me snap. Maybe I found another junk drawer filled with cheese wrappers, or a fresh pile of dog shit in the hallway. Maybe that was the day I found your unsigned will where you’d made a point to note that you had left me out on purpose.

Whatever it was, all I know is that before I realized the gravity of what was happening, I was standing over your not-quite-dead body unleashing decades of anger and resentment, taking full advantage of the hospice nurse’s comment that even though you couldn’t respond, you could definitely hear what I was saying. She meant it as a warning. I took it as an opportunity.

And I know I took it too far.

In addition to airing every grievance I’d ever had with you, I told you your body was shot this go round, you were never going to recover, and that you should just cross on over and give it another try in your next lifetime. I quoted fucking Poltergeist.

“Go to the light, Carol Ann. Go to the light.”

What must it have felt like to hear your daughter tell you to just die already, knowing she 100% meant it, while not being able to respond because you were incapacitated from narcotics and the general business of dying? Of course your last word was heartbroken. What else would it have been?

You know, the crazy thing is, even after weeks of watching your body decay and planning the logistical parts of your death, I still had hope we’d find a way to work things out emotionally, which I didn’t fully understand until you finally died and I knew for sure we were out of chances.

I miss you, Mom. And I so regret that we ran out of time to make things right between us. But. At the same time, I’m so grateful you left when—and how—you did. The truth is, as hard as losing you has been, it’s also given me a chance find myself. I’m a storyteller and performer now and so many of my pieces center around our relationship, how I wish we’d understood each other better while you were here, and how I’d never be the writer or the woman I’ve become if you still were.

Thank you for all of it.

Love, Susan


*Seriously. Women of Letters is hands down my all-time favorite storytelling(ish) show. Do yourself a favor … and plan ahead cause this shiz sells out every month – frequently 4 weeks+ in advance.

Pretend I’m in Mexico.

Hi people. I fell down again. Honest to Smoking Baby, I fell down. Again.

This is my knee:I was walking home from my Al-Anon meeting and I stepped on one of those plastic folder things you put in a Trapper Keeper. It was just like the skating incident but slalom. A nice boy poked his head out of the bodega door to ask, “Lady. Are you okay?” (Fucker. It was like when I went back to Italy and the waiter called me Signora instead of Signorina.) The three kids behind me giggled for about three blocks. Not the point of the story. Just thought you’d like to know.

So. I get home tonight (with my broken head, ass and knee, in order of altitude) and I’m in a pensive mood. A and V left today after a four day visit. We spent almost the entire time not speaking about Mom, except for E’s occasional slip up about something crazy Mom did or how we had a wacko family or something. Something about V makes you forget that she’s a kid. She’s acts as if she’s much more mature emotionally than she is and you start to talk around her as if she’s an adult. Then there are times when you’re talking to her about how crazy things have been lately and she’ll break your heart with, “Oh, I’m so used to it by now. I’ve seen it all.”

Sorry. Is that too sullen a thought? I had a friend tell me recently that my blog was too heavy for him. (But without the hip verbiage.) I can’t help it. And I don’t think of my stories as sullen or morose. It’s just what’s going on.

Anyway, I came home tonight after my meeting and I asked E for a night alone. I assured her that it was only because I just needed to process some stuff on my own and I took off. (It’s my first time ever asking for some space in the five years we’ve been together. I am learning so much!)

“Pretend I’m in Mexico. I’ll see you later.”
“Okay! I’ll watch the L Word.”

I do have to admit, I was disappointed in her lack of disapointment.

Anyway. I grabbed a bottle of wine, my laptop and I headed for the loft. I’m at the end of this seven-engine train of family shit and I’m tired. I have gotten through the intervention and the sister visit. I just left an eye opening Al-Anon meeting and I wanna just be alone. With all of you.

You know. I’m writing down all of this stuff you’re reading, and I recognize that when I post here, I’m not making a journal entry. I truly know that I’m writing for an audience (of millions), but there’s still this sense of anonymity that comes from the fact that instead of speaking, I am typing. And it is more anonymous than physically writing because you hit save or send and it’s over. There’s nothing tangible left over to prove it ever happened. And there’s something about that that allows me to write freely about things I would usually never broadcast. Especially considering the fact that there are already members of my family reading on a regular basis, and as soon as that Oprah deal comes through (Oprah, can you hear me? Oprah, can you feel me in the night?), Mom will find out (if not earlier) and there’s a part of me that is terrified of that. But there’s also a part of me that feels that, as Dr. Drew said on Celebrity Rehab, “You are only as sick as your secrets.” And, my people, I am tired of being sick. When I was in Georgia for the latest drama, I opened to my Mom up about things I’ve never confronted her on … and in front of her brother.
It rocked.

Mom later told me, “I remember what you said in the hospital. I can’t believe you would talk to me like that. And in front of B. I am so embarassed.” I, enlightened Princess that I am, replied, “I am sorry that I hurt your feelings, but that doesn’t mean what I said wasn’t true.”

Right on, Princess.

People, I am taking care of myself these days. And, to be honest, it’s a fucking chore. Not only do I have a lot of family baggage to deal with, I am unpracticed at self-love … however. Watch out! I’m on a crash-course and it’s only a matter of time before I’m writing (and performing) cheers for myself.

So, thanks for reading. And, to those friends of mine who are only finding out what’s happening to me through the blog although you’ve called and written, I’m sorry. I’m a little overwhelmed right now but am working it out. I’ll holla at ya when I’ll be more fun to talk to. (Or when I get the cheers ready … Guh-oooohhh PRINCESS!)

Man. Is She on a Roll …

The following blog post was originally posted on
Written by The Princess

So. I’m on the phone with Mom and we’re talking about her dying.

I’ve been talking with my mother about her death for my entire life. She and my grandmother were both completely obsessed with death. Especially death by cancer. Basically, they both threatened me and my sister with my mother’s imminent demise from cancer (probably lung since she was a smoker, but definitely exacerbated by the undue stress A and I put on Mom and Grandma.)

This conversation, (Mom on the cell driving somewhere, me on cell at home) was based on a talk she apparently had with V, my niece. Somehow my mother and my 11 year old niece had a talk about who V would want to live with should Mom die. (By the way — this is a conversation I, as an 11 year old Princess, had with the very same mother. I chose my Aunt G — but only because I knew that was the right answer to please Mom. I actually hated the thought of living with Aunt G and her husband H who was a minister. I couldn’t bear the thought of going to church every week.)

V chooses to live with me in Brooklyn. So Mom adds a twist … What about A? (A, my sister, V’s biological mother)
V: She can come too.
M: No she can’t. We tried that once before and it was awful.
[My sister came to live with me in New York years and years ago. It didn’t work out. Everyone has moved past this … except my mother.]

At this point I’m thinking, here she goes again. I can’t believe she said these things to V. Maybe she’s exaggerating and she didn’t actually say this to her 11 year old granddaughter. Then, I hear someone in the background.

Not only was my mother re-counting her awful comments she made to V. She was doing it with V in the car next to her.

Shout out to Mary

The following blog post was transferred from

Written by The Princess

Holy shit people. Your Princess is shot.

This time it’s so bad that I had to have an emergency phone therapy session with HRH on my walk to the train this morning.

Here’s what happened:

Yesterday I left work and went to the gym where I unceremoniously recovered my blue gym bag from the then vacated locker. (That poor alleged pot head. What must she have thought?) So cardio then home. On the walk to the bus, HRH and I stop to buy wine. (This plays a big part in the rest of my story.)

At home I reunite with my current obsession … Wii. Just as I finish up with my daily “Strength, Stamina & Balance” test, I get a text from my sister A.

Mama is going to call u on my phone after 9, so b ready! I asked her
2 please call u and fill u in. I will call u later.


Now I spend 30 minutes playing Wii, drinking the aforementioned wine, and anxiously watching the clock tick closer and closer to 9:00.

Item 1 — I’ve been terrified of my mother my whole life. Irrationally so as will be evidenced by a future HRH posting.

Item 2 — I’ve been in therapy for almost two years and virtually every conversation Mary and I have had has been about my mother.

Item 3 — My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago and went through extensive chemotherapy and radiation. Mary and I have identified this fact as being, among many other things, an inconvenient hindrance to my emotional healing process.

Lately I’ve been having these intense dreams about confronting my mother. We have a lot of issues, Mommy and I, and the confrontation conversation has been a long time coming. Well, dear people, it finally happened last night.

I drilled her on which drugs she’s currently taking, what is going on with her doctors and her health, I told her I thought she was clinically depressed and needed professional help. I brought up her issues with my sister and how she blames her for all of her troubles. Mom says her life can’t get better until she deals with A who is 32 and living at home with Mom and her daughter V (11) who is legally her sister because Mom adopted her years ago in a huge dramatic story that will surely be posted sometime in the future.

I tell my mother that she is in control of her life and that her current situation is the result of decisions she made for her life. I discuss my life openly regarding my domestic partner, Erica, the new home we’re buying, the fact that my family is so separate from my life because Mom doesn’t want me to be out to them.

I mean, this goes on and on for over an hour. I used the word “fuck.”

By the time we lose the connection due to a dead cell battery on her end, I am exhausted and drunk. So, when she calls back, I just don’t answer.

Flash forward to this morning. I am panic-stricken. I listen to her message — “Thanks for the conversation. I love you. Don’t worry abut calling me back.” Phew. Then I start remembering the things I said to her. The way I said them. The fact that I called her out about her smoking, which she vehemently denied. The fact that A is going to be furious with me because I am sure I started several fights between her and Mom. And, you know what people?

I don’t fucking care. The longer the day goes on and the more I think about everything, I realize that this is huge for me. I can’t wait to get to Mary on Tuesday and tell her the good news. I have never been more open or honest or genuine with my mother in my life. Therapy works. I am growing. I had my first adult conversation with my mother … at 36.

So yes, therapy works. Know what else works? Wine.