I used to dread Mother’s Day. Like way too many people, I had a difficult childhood growing up and as an adult, I had an inconsistent relationship with my mother. At times it was really wonderful but more often, it was tumultuous. My mother was an absolutely beautiful woman – she looked like a fashion model – she was bright, vivacious, had a great sense of humor, adored animals, volunteered as a Brownie and Girl Scout Counselor, volunteered at the local Veterans Hospital, wrote poetry, loved going to the movies, art museums, live theater, and reading trashy novels. Yet I don’t think that she ever was genuinely happy or comfortable inside her skin. There was always an undercurrent of fear and anger and estrangement. She was extremely critical of her children – on purpose. She believed parents are supposed to point out every single error their child may make or non-perfect trait their child may have. I never once doubted that her intent was good – she truly wanted to help us to be the best we could be – but her way of going about it could really hurt. Mom never learned how to simply observe and listen to her children (or her husbands for that matter) and so was incapable of providing guidance in a subtle, respectful way. Essentially, she never figured out how to differentiate between herself and her family. What I mean by that is, there is a huge difference between recognizing your child may have inherited this or that physical and non-physical traits from you and keeping in mind that you are responsible for keeping them healthy and safe and teaching them the skills and values needed to stand on their own as a kind, wise, loving adult and contributing member to society – versus – thinking your children are an actual extension of yourself. My Mom was unable to grasp this concept and I think she was aware that there was some great important “secret” she was missing and was deeply troubled as a result.
Even as a very young child, a part of me always understood, instinctively, that my mother was hurting and “broken” in some way and I knew that it wasn’t totally her fault. Although I loved her very much and felt great compassion for her, at the same time, I was always terrified around my mother, even as an adult, as I never knew when she would suddenly change from my gorgeous, fun “Momma” to the screaming, violent stranger that lived deep inside her. It got so bad that when I was 14, I was placed in a Foster Home for a year (with a very loving family whom I remain close to even to this day, forty years later.) At 17, I moved out on my own, 1500 miles away, as I feared for my life. Yet I never stopped loving my Mom. I kept in touch with her through occasional letters and phone calls every couple of weeks and we actually were able to grow closer that way from a safe distance. But even then, Mother’s Day was always the worst day of the year, regardless of where I lived. Perhaps it was because of her insecurities as a person and especially as a mother, that made Momma pin such intense importance to the day. Whatever, I knew that for the last few weeks of April, she would begin the harping, begging, then screaming and finally the “silent treatment” when she realized that I would not be coming down to Florida to see her. It was both heartbreaking and aggravating and got worse every year but I knew that it was for the best in the long run that I stay far away.
It’s been a dozen years now since my Mom tragically passed away at a relatively early age. Now, rather than dreading Mother’s Day and trembling inside with terror, I find myself with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, and praying that she can see me and hear me and feel what’s inside my heart. Not a day has gone by in my entire life that I have not spent a significant amount of time thinking about my Mom. Time, distance, and having to face my own mortality has been kind when it comes to my memories and relationship with my Mother. I haven’t forgotten there were bad times, but 90% of the time, I’m thinking about the good times. Although my Mom thought she was a complete failure as a mother, the fact she indeed didn’t always have the best of parenting skills, and found it impossible to live by what she preached, I marvel at how much my mother really taught me and how much I’ve relied on her words of wisdom in my adult life and in raising my son. I talk to her all the time these days – inside my head and inside my heart – and I feel like she is with me – not as she was, but as she wanted to be: relaxed, happy, wise, content, and supportive.
Is there such a thing as Heaven after we die? Logistically, I have a very hard time trying to figure out how that would work and where it may be and even why it would even exist. But spiritually, I like to think that Heaven is all around and within us and that Momma is finally at peace and enjoying Mother’s Day – with me right beside her – every single day.
Happy Mother’s Day, my friends.
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