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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's day. Seeing it in a new way.

The minister was talking about Mother's Day. If you have a mother, he invoked, or someone, a surrogate, who took care of you like a mother, think about them and how they were there for you.

My mother was not there for me, or for us. She had social problems as well as mental health issues making it difficult for her to be a mother.

I have no memory of my childhood. I remember from when I was a little older, maybe 10 or 12. I recall her baking cakes and making dinners of fish sticks and peas. I remember going to dog shows with her. Both parents came to school open house nights and chorus shows. As I got older she became more 'unable', staying in bed, sitting in dark corners, yelling, sometimes throwing things. Her depression-like behavior made it impossible for her to mother.

She died in 1996. When I think about her I think of what she could have done had she not been in the marriage she was in, had she not been depressed, and other 'had she nots'. She was creative, intelligent with a good sense of humor, but she could not or would not let us and the world see that part of her.

She said mean things to me after the pain started. When I was at her house when the pain would get very bad I would say "My face really hurts." She would respond "Well, it's killing me."

She could barely look at me after the paralysis. Both parents were at the hospital, but a day after the surgery my father had to leave. My mother was to stay with me for a few more days. I ultimately asked her to leave. All she did was sit in a chair in the corner of my room with her sunglasses on in almost complete silence.

One day she asked me to help her with her make-up. I told her to pull in her cheeks so I could find her cheekbones. As I told her I demonstrated, sucking in my cheeks. She copied me and in doing so also imitated the paralysis. I was very hurt and upset. It took a long time to accept that this behavior was a part of her sickness.

Today though, the minister's words struck a chord in me. It caused me to think about her in a different way. I am not sure why today rather than other days or other years, but something was triggered.

My mother's mother and father died when she was very little. The aunt and uncle who took her in were supposedly very mean to her. I do not know for sure if that was true. (Until this second it never occurred to me if they were even alive or dead when I was here in the world.) How can someone mother who was never mothered themselves? I know people can. My sisters and brother, whatever the problems we have, have children who love them completely. They had to have done something right. They were able to find a way to be a good and caring mom. And I am very proud of them for that.

Today, for me, a breakthrough, a new understanding.

Nothing can take the hurt out of my heart for having never been mothered (there was neither a surrogate nor sister who could or would fill the vacuum) but at least now I can look at it in a very different and more caring way. For that I am greatful.

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