sometimes…

…I can feel my mother. No, I don’t mean in that ‘oh, she stopped by to check on me from the great beyond’ kind of way. I have never once felt my mother’s presence since she died. And it doesn’t surprise me one bit.

When I say I can feel my mother, I mean I can often times feel the weight of her in my arms the day she died. In the same way that anyone who’s ever held a newborn in their arms and felt that beanbag baby weight can recall what that feels like just by closing their eyes, I can feel my mother.

She was so small before she died. She weighed 160 pounds before her cancer diagnosis. When she died, she was wearing little girls size 12 sweats. If she weighed 100 pounds, I would be stunned. As she lay in the hospital bed where she expelled her last breath, I climbed right into that bed with her and held her while I sobbed.

I don’t know how long I lay in bed with my mother before my aunt forced me out of bed to take whatever calming drug she shoved down my throat. I only know that I will never forget the feeling of holding my mother. In the same way that I will never forget the feeling of holding my newborn daughters for the first time, I will never forget the feeling of holding my mother for the last time.

I want to forget. I want to be done with this grief. I want to stop grieving the death of my mother. I want to forget that our relationship was never what I needed it to be. I want to forget that my mother was never satisified with our relationship either. I want to forget that I wasn’t ‘enough’ for her and that I was a disappointment to her. I want to stop feeling her. 

I don’t want to know that my mom found fault with me in so many ways. I didn’t ‘need’ her enough. She wanted to be needed. She wanted me to need her in the same way that she needed her mother. She wanted me to want her advice, her direction, her everything. My mom once told me that I needed her to tell me how to parent my children. It was my responsibility to learn from her and to do what she said. She told me she’d been a parent longer than I had and she knew how to do it better than I did. Those were her exact words. I can still ‘see’ where she was sitting in my house and what I was doing while she was talking and where my daughters were when she stormed out of my house in anger. I can ‘hear’ the gravel flying as she pealed out of my driveway that day.

There are many more memories just like that one. I need to get to a place where it doesn’t hurt anymore. My oldest daughter will be 21 in 3 weeks. My youngest daughter will be 15 on Tuesday. I’ve been a parent for a long time. I’ve been a daughter for much longer. I don’t feel like my daughterhood was very successful at all. I do, however, feel like my parenthood is more successful than my mother’s.

My 21 year old girl is a junior at her university. She is a music ed major and will complete her degree in the next year and a half. She plans to stay there and complete her master’s before getting a job teaching high school band. I laugh and tell her it’s her way of never needing to leave school! She would be a perpetual student if she could. The structure is her optimum way of coping with the challenges of being on the very high end of the autism spectrum. She is a musical genius and although she doesn’t quite ‘get’ other people’s feelings, I am becoming more confident with every passing year that she is going to be ok.

Daughter #2 is a high school senior and she will be 18 in January. She is a gifted writer and a complete genius when it comes to physical theater. She wants to do so many things it’s hard to settle on any one in particular. She is the quiet, super sensitive one in the family. I refuse to call her my middle child because I hate the stereo type that goes along with that moniker. She carries a notebook with her at all times. She has done this since before she started kindergarten. She writes all the time. It astounds me. She talks to me about things that stun me. Her insight, her sensitivity, her concern about the world we live in, her love for her younger sister and so many other things about her completely warm my soul every single day. If I never do anything else right in my life, it will be enough that I was her mother.

The baby of the family (as she will remind you she is) is an amazing combination of both of the aforementioned young women. Whenever anyone uses the expression “third time’s a charm”, I think of this girlie. She combines the best parts of her sisters into one body and the result is everything I wanted to be as a young girl. She is the extrovert I could never be. She has a group of girlfriends who she does everything with and they are all so special. Some of them call me mommy. I love it. This daughter of mine looks like me. She sings. She acts. She makes people laugh. She is strong. Opinionated. Kind. Impatient. Difficult. Fabulous. Determined. Loving. My husband tells me he imagines that she’s like I would have been if I’d grown up in different circumstances. I watch her in awe.

She loves animals. She wanted to be a veterinarian until recently when she told me “Mom, I don’t think I could put animals to sleep.” So who knows where she will end up in her life. The night she was born I looked down at her as she was making her entrance and before she was even all the way out, she looked right into my eyes. Through my mind went the thought “Oh, there you are” like I’d been waiting for her all my life. Turns out, I had. She is the child who gave me back my life when I was so sure it was all over. I am blessed to be her mother.

As I write these words about my daughters, I find myself wondering what my mother would have written about me. I wonder if she would have said anything positive at all. I will never know. I only know what I experienced then and what I feel now. My experiences with my mother were not positive ones very often. I know there were some. I remember them. I wonder if the ones I remember are all there were. I hope not.

My mom’s best friend, Mary, calls me sometimes. It is hard for both of us, I think. She lives just across the street from the cemetery where my mother is buried. I like to think that helps her somehow. She says my mom told her things she told no one else. I find that hard to imagine but I hope it’s true. I know my mom spent alot of time with Mary. They talked on the phone alot. When my dad was alive, they went out with Mary and her husband George quite frequently for dinner, breakfast, whatever. After my dad died, Mom got more reclusive. Mary brought her all kinds of food and presents and tried to cheer her in any way possible. My mom was not the easiest friend. Mary told me my mom loved me. She told me my mom worried about me. Of course, she also told me what I already knew. My mom loved my daughters to distraction. She talked about them more than she ever talked about me. She worried about them more than she ever worried about me. Mary told me that she had to remind my mom she had a daughter sometimes. I am not surprised by any of this. I felt it. I knew.

I know I have to work through these issues and get to a place where I am settled somewhat with them. It is hard. I am settled with them sometimes. But not always. This time of year is a bit harder for me because my children’s birthdays are all within the next 10 weeks. It is emotional to remember their births and to see how they are growing and to know that my time as a mother is changing every day. My job is becoming a different one now. And it will continue to evolve as my daughters finish growing and move on with their adult lives. I know this. I am ok with this. That doesn’t mean I always feel good about it. It is hard to think of a time when I will not be the center of their lives.

I have parented my daughters in the way I wish I had been parented. Whatever my mom did with me, I did the opposite with my girls. Not because I knew the opposite was the best way but because I didn’t want to be like my mother. Where my mom acted like she had all the answers, I made sure my children knew I didn’t have an answer for lots of things and we talked about what felt right to them. I felt like a failure for not having answers. Turns out, it wasn’t failure. It was giving my children the challenge of thinking for themselves. Who knew?

I don’t know that I will ever stop ‘feeling’ my mother however today, this minute, I must move on from it. I’ve got to dry my tears, pull up my big girl panties and be the Mom, not the little girl I sometimes feel like. My daughters deserve a Mom, just like I did. It’s an honor to do the job.

Today we begin the major house cleaning that occurs before a big event. My youngest girl will be hosting her 15th  birthday party on Friday. There will be many young people here. There will be fun, laughter, movies, food, a journey to the haunted maze, no sleep, giggles and more. It will be the stuff good memories are made of. It will be one more time when I do the exact opposite of what my mother did. And it will be a good thing, the best thing I could do for my daughter…

…and maybe for me too.

Peace.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Traci, I am very much struck by a certainty that your mother’s dissatisfaction and disappointment was not, at its core, about you. It was the way you were the mirror that reflected back to her, her own dissatisfaction and disappointment in herself as a mother. Seeing you and your struggles, there was no place for her to hide from that. Her “obsession” with your daughters, I suspect, was another way of her trying to atone and escape from her shortcomings in raising you. Many of us observe our parents being better grandparents than they ever were parents. Or at least sincerely trying to be, even if they’d never verbalize that.
    Your joy and pride in your daughters has to do with who they are, of course; but isn’t it also about the satisfaction and pleasure of the mirror they provide for you, as a mother? It works both ways.
    I can think of no better way to honor a mother than to love and care for her grandchildren.

    Reply

  2. What a touching post. It’s sad that these things stay with us for so long (I still grieve my mother even though she passed away 14 years ago), but you do have the memory of being with her at the end. I hear time heals. I hope so.

    Reply

  3. {{{{{{{{Traci}}}}}}}}

    Reply

  4. I love what Susie had to say on this, and I love what you said first. This post brought tears to my eyes: for how difficult it is to be the daughter in a terribly religious upbringing, and how difficult it is to raise children when you don’t have a roadmap of good experience to draw from, and how difficult it must be to lose your mommy the way you did. You are truly a hero to me, Traci.

    Reply

  5. I also agree with Susie’s comment. It wasn’t about you but your mom’s own insecurities that made her limit you. You’ve done well with your girls, and perhaps that is what, in her skewed way, your mom was here to do. I don’t believe that parents are ever bad parents on purpose.

    Honey, one day I think, I hope, you will be able to remember your mother without the painful part of it. But don’t forget that grief never disappears. Loss is forever with us, reminding us of what we are here to do. Let your mother’s memory be what keeps you moving in the direction that you want to be going. That could be her gift to you, as strange as it may seem.

    Reply

  6. Posted by celebratingwomen on Thursday, October 25, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    I love what Susie said….and agree.

    Reply

  7. […] Buttrrflyyz – sometimes… […]

    Reply

  8. Traci, what a wonderful moving heartfelt post.
    I have not been to your blog in a very long time.
    It was great to be here again.
    Jan

    Reply

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