Mother Daughter relationships? Books are written about them, so intertwined, close and deep. Since I only had one Mother it’s not fair to say this, but I think the more complicated ones are the hardest to grieve, and missed the most.
My mother left me a poem given to me after her death. It said, “Don’t cry at my grave.”
Of course I did, many times. Hating graveyards in the past, I frequented hers, once falling to the ground weeping for my loss, holding out my arms like an embrace to the earth, to her… never having the chance again to say more or feel the love I had been searching for.
I still miss her, those moments of a mother’s love, the long chats over the phone, and the visits to her apartment in the city. It has been seven years this coming Tuesday since she died. Our odd relationship worked as best as it could, yet neither of us felt fully loved. I held anger I couldn’t or didn’t let go of, and in the face of unrelenting barriers to fully loving her, my repentance sustained from her was criticism.
I went to her bedside the day before her death. One moment shared as I held her hand and told her I was sorry. Sorry for never forgiving her, for never letting her ‘off the hook.’ Because you can forgive someone even if they are not able to meet you where you need them to. She showed her love in other ways, ‘the best way that she could,’ just as she always said, “I did the best I could.”
That response was never enough. Yet it is the truth. I needed more. The More must come from within me.
“Mom, I’m sorry,” holding her gnarled hand I knew so well.
“But I should apologize to you!” she exclaimed, her crystal blue eyes shining into mine.
“No,” I said, shaking my head. “You never left me. I held rage for you all my life, never letting it go, yet you stuck by me, no matter what.”
In the years prior as her health deteriorated, I felt safer to ask the hard questions; when she dragged around the oxygen hose, slugging the walker slowly from room to room, when disease and dying were staring her in the face. She seemed less formidable.
“You blamed me,” I told her, anger erupting over the phone, the only place I feel relatively safe to confront someone.
“No, I did not!” she said shocked.
She meant it. But as a little girl desperate for love and relief from continued attacks, I felt blamed. I was blamed. When you find out a second son is attacking your daughter, you don’t sit coldly in a chair across from her and say, “Tell me if anything ever happens again.”
Hot shaming tears dripped a fiery path down my cheeks onto my lap. What I needed, what any child needs, are loving arms around them and heartfelt words such as, “I am so sorry my precious, my dear. This will never, NEVER happen again.”
And to mean it. And insure it doesn’t.
I felt admonished, made responsible, as if I had the power to stop Chet. I did not. And the attacks continued. Our emotions ended much discussion of how he kept attacking me because she once again failed to protect me. We didn’t talk about what needed to be talked about. No wonder I raged. Talk holds the potential to quell fires like soothing cool spray.
But I couldn’t talk to her. Every attempt had been met with an actress’s highly emotional dramatic response. How could I counter such drama?
I could not voice what forever needed voicing until she was weakened by infirmity, age and disease. Oz was exposed as mere human after all. But she loomed so greatly above me all those years. Not as equals. Her infirmities brought her down to a human level, two women with heartache finally talking. My mom.
It haunted me, my questions to my poor Mother who could hardly breathe. What daughter does that? I carried my guilt heavy that fall after she died. The therapist I chose lifted me. She said it was good that Mom cried all day after I had finally asked her the questions I had always needed to ask.
I didn’t think it was ‘good’, I was falling into a desperate depression. But the therapist helped me let go of the guilt. Mom would not want me to suffer over it. After she died, I realized just how much she did love me and how much she helped me despite the childhood years when she didn’t.
Is one moment enough?
One moment of pure love
Over an entire lifetime?
Was it enough for her?
Still I did not waver from her gaze.
Her eyes purely lit, she knew.
She had been waiting for it,
The usual criticism did not come.