Its that time of year again. Yesterday at work, my colleagues were discussing their mother’s day preparations (or lack there of in a panic).
I didn’t add to the conversation. Its not a secret that my mom is dead, or that I’m estranged from my dad and most of my family, and while I do take a sadistic joy in watching people squirm when they ask me about my family, I didn’t see the need to bring it up now and no one asked me, probably out of politeness.
I did however get something for my sister, who is also technically my god mother, I gave to the Heifer fund to provide bee hives for struggling families. I cited in the card my thanks to her for instilling in me the spirit of giving and aiding those who need help, and she was very verklempt.
This morning though, I remembered something. When I was a kid, my Aunt Ellen (my mom’s youngest sister, she was the oldest of three) got everyone these gifts, and my mom received a card saying that a donation of a sheep was given in her name. She was thrilled, I remember her showing off the card. She was less thrilled when the rest of the family (her parents and other sister) put on a snit about it.
I give a lot of credit to my sister for making me who I am, but I must also remember that mom, despite her many flaws, also believed in charity, love and understanding. She believed that that was the message of Christ, and also her duty as a human being. As such, she became a mother to many of our friends. As self involved as she was, and she was, I knew so many others with mothers who cared even less about their children. When our oldest friend heard the news that she had died, she picked up a baby blanket mom had made for her daughter and cried that her mother was gone.
She was a complex woman, with whom I had, and still have, a complex relationship with. She was abusive and angry because she couldn’t control her life and couldn’t, or wouldn’t take control of it. It was like she was waiting for someone else to come and fix it all for her. But tempering this was a compassionate spirit. And maybe she found it easier to show that to people she didn’t know, or maybe she found it harder to hide her bitterness and anger from us, in some complex way blaming us for the way her life had gone. At the same time, I think she felt guilt and self loathing for this.
Once, while she was having a particularly hard time, she looked at me and said “Lizzie, don’t end up like me”
My therapist once commented that mothers with suicidal tendencies tend to resist for the sake of their children. That my mother allowed herself to waste away may be a testament to her self involvement.
But in another respect, it set us free and showed us that life is far too short to live with regret and anger, something that took me ten years to fully understand.
There are times when I can hate her, where I can cry in anguish that she abandoned us, that she scarred us all, especially my brother, that she forced us to become adults long before we were ready.
But I have to temper that with a woman who believed in helping those in need, in accepting everyone for who they are and showing compassion.
So that’s my story. If you also have lost your mother, whether through death or distance, come in, have a drink and share with others, because you are never alone.
And if you’re interested in giving to the Heifer fund, here’s their website!
I’m tempted to get something for my grandmother, because I know it will help someone but also annoy her. She’d be too polite to say anything though.