At first, Cole feels like he cannot depend on his mother at all. He assumes she's going to be the same way forever: an alcoholic who avoids conflict and is willing to stand by and watch her only son get beaten up by his own father. But after his near-death experience, Mrs. Matthews comes around and steps into her role as a mother, much to Cole's shock:
During Cole's hospital stay, many people from the Circle had visited him, including his mother. Her visits had been the hardest. She spoke little except to wring her hands and ask, "How are you doing?" Each visit, she repeated. "I love you. You know that, don't you?"
Cole didn't know what to say at those times. Why now, all of a sudden, should he believe she cared? (14.3-4)
She finally apologizes for the tough childhood he's had and vows to do better as a mother. To prove herself, she even stops drinking and presses child abuse charges against her ex-husband, even though it scares her. She'll do anything to protect Cole now that she's come so close to losing him. Finally.