It’s hard for Adam Smith, 37, to say whether Barbara had been a good mother. Growing up, he and his sister Susan always had food on the table, a roof over their heads.

Still, he says, she’d always had a mean streak and regularly belittled him for no cause. When he was old enough, he didn’t hesitate to get a job and move out.

“But I always got sucked back in,” Adam says. “That was my mom.”

According to Adam, Yaw couldn’t deal with Barbara’s deteriorating health. Yaw says he left because he discovered Barbara had spent $40,000 of his money supporting her children.

Whatever the case, Adam, though not necessarily eager to, moved in to the second-floor, two-bedroom apartment in Clifton Heights to provide his mom full-time care. Living in close quarters with Barbara subjected him to even more of her neediness and mistreatment.

When Adam arranged for his sister Susan to come over so he could have a night out, Barbara would start to scream.

“Oh here goes whiny butt,” she’d say. “Here he goes whining. Fuck, just leave. Go to your girlfriend’s.”

As Adam describes it, “For a woman dying, you wouldn’t think someone had that much strength to sit there and like bang on an ottoman saying, ‘Die, motherfucker, die.’ Yeah, she would tell me that.”

This past January, about a year after Adam moved in with her, Barbara was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer.

Reporters had a lot of questions. Adam had a lot of questions, too, chief among them: Exactly what kind of person was his mother? What else about her didn’t he know?

In multiple conversations, Adam stressed he isn’t judgmental of his mom for being with so many partners. That’s not what bothers him. What keeps him up at night is the fact that she left him in the dark about so much — and that she died leaving an infant frozen in a box she knew her son would open.

“I was held back for so many years by my mom’s sickness,” he says. “I could never go and venture out and do my own thing. Now, I get to do what I need to do, what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Read more in the Riverfront Times.