Those of you who’ve read Blessings in the Mire: A True Story of Miracles & Recollections are aware of the strain between my mother and her children. That sort of alienation is not so rare. As it turns out, many of us didn’t have that nurturing relationship with our mothers. I’ve spoken with many friends and acquaintances and read a few kindred blogs that mention parents and upbringings.
It appears that the norm is dysfunction, while perhaps the functional is the exception.
My mother’s birthday is May 12, which this year happens to also fall on Mother’s Day. This is also the first Mother’s Day and birthday since she died last August. That makes it special in a rather abstract way.
Death is the powerful force that silences the discord. Once I saw my mother in the arms of Death, with the stress washed from her face, and the decades of self-abuse laid to rest, all I saw was her beauty and strength. She endured much. Her husband, my father, had died on Mother’s Day and was buried on her twenty-third birthday. She was pregnant with my soon-to-be younger brother. He died in his sleep when he was just 22, but by then, a lot of in-between stuff had transpired to alienate her first brood of children. And she was working on alienating the other half. She had nine children who lived, and still has eight remaining. But as siblings, we’re only as close as the fragments after the bomb goes off. I’m thinking that in between the time of her husband’s death and her next birthday, my mother must have given up. I imagine her like a mama bird trying to bring enough worms to keep us from chirping, but never quite succeeding.
And I see her youth, at the time of her immersion into single parenting. It was circa Ozzie and Harriet, and a time when it was decidedly uncool to be a single parent, yet she had so much life left in her. And so she took the heat.
I owe my mother a lot. Without the upbringing I most certainly would not have gone on to change the world, would not likely have written a single book, or entered into employment with The Department of Human Services. There would be many clients, thousands, who would be on a varied path had I not intervened, and I say that with pride because my history made me a better social worker. And those ripples are generational. One can never know the full effect of counseling and of role modeling for the children who live because their parents got help.
That feels good. And it feels like something that I owe to my mother. I have appreciations for all my experiences, despite the villainous coats they wore. The truth is, my mother did the best she could, or at least, she did what she did. And with the exception of playing dress-ups with her fabulous garbs and high-heels, I don’t suppose I have walked in her shoes long enough to judge and prosecute.
Her intellect and curiosity was trademark worthy, and as I looked at her there on her literal death-bed, cleaned and scrubbed and waiting for burial, all that remained was the love and admiration. My child-grown-up finally recognized myself in her. And so, I send my son and daughter love on this Mother’s Day with something beyond hope, that they will forgive any of the motherly transgressions I may have made.
And I send that love to you, with the hope that whatever your current relationship is with your mother, if she is still here, love her hard. (And often, it IS hard!) If she has passed, give her a few moments of silent meditation and gratitude today. Sit with her and send her love and forgiveness. And if you are a mother, I send wishes of a happy Mother’s Day, and prayers that your children will see their personal empowerment in your flaws.
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~As always, with love.