Monday, November 05, 2007
Lately, I have been thinking about my relationship with my mother.
My mother. So many different emotions, memories, experiences, that accompany those two words...My Mother.
My Mother...a woman who has made choices in life, that have often had me questioning how I could love and respect her. A woman who herself, has fallen short of her own dreams. A woman, who with just a few words of criticism, could at one time make my heart fall, maybe she still can.
Yet, she is a woman who loves, who loves fully, consciously, completely, forgivingly, unconditionally. Throughout my life, her love has been wholly, warmly given. Even at long distances, her love came through as a soul, heart, body encompassing hug, exactly when needed.
There have been years of turbulence, and melodrama in her life, dramas she often created herself. Dramas which became a part of my life, whether I wanted them to or not. She is a woman, of whom I have described as creating her own reality. In essence, if the truth does not fit her 'ideal' then she recreates it. She is a woman who I used to think of as the Queen of Manipulation, I even wondered if instead of marrying a man like my father as they say many of us do, I married a man like my mother. But, a part of me thinks, I married a man who at a young age, seemed to be her dream of what a husband was supposed to be like, he is after all a man whose beliefs about marriage, and family seem to be from another age. In fact in many ways, I lived her 1950's dream of love and marriage, since for many years I lived that "white picket fence" life. There were times, when for brief moments, she would wonder why I wasn't happy, then she would remember, that I am not her.
One area of difficulty, especially in my teen years, was that I resemble my mother. Appearances mattered very much to my mother, (a symptom often exhibited when living with an alcoholic), since I look so much like her, my appearance seemed to be as important to her, as her own. The resemblance has been quite, well...freaky at times.... I remember many years ago, when I was in my late 20's, an uncle, my father's older brother, came to my parent's home for a visit. I was there also, with my then very young son. When my uncle arrived, I was the one to answer the door. He had not seen any of us, myself, my siblings, or my parents for at least 15 years. My uncle just stood there on the front porch, dumbstruck, staring at me, for what seemed like an eon of time. Finally, the following words were uttered by him, "My God! You haven't aged at all! You look exactly like you did the last time I saw you!" He thought I was my mother.
I laughed, but remembered the feelings engendered in my younger days, when I thought of it as a curse. At one time in my life, my mother traveled in her career, and was often not home for weeks at a time, during this same time period, those few times my father arrived home drunk, I would end up on the receiving end of vile diatribes, that I eventually realized were meant to be directed at my mother. I blamed her for my pained heart.
As I mentioned, there are many aspects of her personality which have me questioning my love for her. But, in one sense, perhaps we are always those small children that love their parents no matter what. Because, like all children, whether our parents fill or leave unfilled our needs, we love them. We just do.
One conundrum of my life has always been, that this woman, a woman I have spent a lifetime proving to myself how different from her I am, a woman who at times leaves me completely confused. This woman, whose intrigues and manipulations to create her own reality, have often left me feeling as if she would drive me to the brink of insanity, can also soothe, and aid healing. No matter her many faults, she is a woman who loves. She loves her husband, she loves her children, she loves her grandchildren, she loves her great-children, she loves her extended family, with a fierce and unconditional love. There is so much of the dysfunctional in my family, that I have even asked myself if her type of love is an unhealthy love, but even my therapist seemed to think, her ability to love so fully and openly was the redeeming factor in her life.
When I review what I know of my mother's life, she survived, and often blossomed against the odds. She has loved, lived with, left, and came back to her recovered alcoholic husband many times over. In the years she spent as young mother, she fought to keep food on the table, and a roof over our heads, as many weekends our father drank up his paycheck, and often depleted what little there was in the savings account. During that time she also fought a debilitating illness, that has finally settled into remission, although she, nor we, can predict when or if it will rear its ugly head again. But in spite of all that, or maybe because of it, she also returned to school, and had a very successful career for many years. In the intervening years, she lost herself for awhile, but as I look at her entering her 72nd year, I see a woman, who maybe, just maybe can get back to who she once knew herself to be...maybe.
So, I tell myself, she did the best she could at the time. When she lets down her guard, and needs some mothering herself, then I see how regretful she is for some of the choices she has made in her life. I will never know her whole story, but that's OK, sometimes, I think, we never really know anyone's full story, not even our own.
When I became a mother myself, one of the things I swore I would never do, was parent like my mother. And in many ways, I am the anti-thesis of what my mother was. But, she also gave me a very important gift, a gift that outweighs all the negatives, she gave love.
Sometimes I think I have not succeeded in showing my love enough, but the other night, Miss Daughter and I attended a presentation by a 56 year old palliative physician, his lecture was about love and forgiveness.
At one point, in the midst of telling an anecdote about one of his dying patients, he repeated the words he had said to his patient. He and the dying 83 year old patient were speaking of her daughter, the emotional problems her daughter had been dealing with since childhood, and the money the daughter has spent on therapy over the years. The good doctor said to his patient, "Maybe, you need to tell her you are proud of her, maybe, you need to tell her you love her."
For a long time the woman said nothing, then, she started laughing.
When he asked her why she was laughing, she replied, "Just think of all the money I could have saved her if only I had told her that."
One of his messages from repeating this story,"So many of us assume those we love know we love them, so we don't tell them often enough, if at all."
After the lecture was over, Miss Daughter and I discussed the many messages we had each heard. In regard to the story of the mother and her daughter, our thoughts were somewhat different. My thought had been, "I hope I have already given that to my children. I hope they know I am proud of who they are, I hope they know I love them. I hope I have given them that message many times over."
Miss Daughter's thought had been, "Mom has that covered. We know. Dad needs to work on it, but Mom has it covered."
I have my mother to thank for that. She taught love.