It was bound to happen at some point. Our parents die. Sometimes suddenly or others go slowly, but it is what elders do, they leave us eventually. My Mother left us.
The little blood vessel in her brain that could no longer hold on simply burst. She fell over, the ambulance came and all the medical talent they threw at her couldn’t get her back on her feet. She wasn’t coming home, so we had to say goodbye while she could still smile. We held her hand in the cacophony of beeping machines as she lay swaddled in flimsy sheets. Kind-eyed nurses delivered drugs to make her comfortable. Comfortable is code for “we are ok to let her go now.”
Two months before Mother’s Day I lost mine.
I am still processing how I feel about my complicated and often difficult relationship with the woman who produced me when she was very young. There might be a novel in the fraught story line of our relationship, but then again maybe I will choose just to remember the warm moments and not the hot angry ones.
Maybe I won’t try to process my feelings about any of it. She left with still unfinished business with me. The simmering passive-aggressive arguments left hanging in the air. Do I want to catch them and look at the emotions of any of them? No, I think not.
Do I forgive her for her faults? Some of them for sure. She tried her best to raise me in the middle of relentless family chaos and never gave up on me. Did she also flagrantly prefer my brother? Yes she did, but I preferred him too.
The two giant and opposing items I am at battle with are what make me vacillate between love and darkness. On the one side, she was a fantastic Grandmother to my children. She loved them so completely and was in their lives fully every day. She cared for them and kept them safe and they loved her. When I too needed caring for, she made food for me. I couldn’t be kept safe from my illness, but at least I could be fed.
The other aspect of my mother was when she was not being a sweet Grandmother, she was jealous and bitter. Jealous of the time I gave my friends that she perceived as belonging to her. There was a canon of rules and requirements for me and our family, and if we didn’t comply there were consequences. They were often delivered with a blistering and enraged freak out that lasted for days.
So I lived in a duality that just didn’t end. There was really only one path to peace, and it was to set aside all else and put her first in all aspects of our lives. There was no other option, so we fought about every holiday and negotiated our time with the elders like a divorced couple fighting about who gets more time with whom.
In a settled moment, I remember that she is no longer there to answer the phone when I have a story to tell. She was a great listener and avid fan. When I first moved away from home we spoke on the phone for hours. She loved to hear about what the kids were up to or who lost a tooth. The minutia that only a Grandmother is interested in, that was our common ground.
When she was happy, we could all be happy, which despite the occasional blow-ups, was most of the time. That is what I miss, when she was happy. Maybe the friction was because she loved us so fiercely. I will never know now though.
I am exhausted with the effort of trying to figure out how to mourn my mother. Some days I am sad, and others I realize with some relief that I don’t have to fight anymore, which feels inappropriate.
I can’t say that this Mother’s day will be without significant emotions of some sort, I just don’t know what will come bubbling up through the ether, but I do know that I will try to remember her happy.