The River's Badge

Friday, May 4, 2018

Mothers


I think Mother's Day is coming soon. I don't pay too much attention to the date, now that I don't have a mom. Special days are always more important for those who celebrate the honoree than they are for the one being honored. I think my mom was mostly embarrassed about the attention we heaped on her on that day. Mom was nothing if not keenly aware of anyone making a spectacle. She reminded me many times, mainly through disapproving glances, that I needed to dial it back, . That may be why I went the other way -- I loved being the center of attention, albeit outside my mother's sight line.

When people talk about the strong bond they have with their mothers, I nod, perplexed. My mom and I had more of a "handshake" relationship. And that was during the good times. It was partly her fault; partly mine. She was very reserved while I was had no blueprint for how to display emotion. So, it was a standoff. For all my growing-up years, I knew that she disapproved of me. I wasn't the daughter she would have chosen. We had nothing in common. I was artsy; she was practical. We both preferred to be left alone with our thoughts. I never once saw her display any modicum of imagination; my whole life was imagination.

Home life was tough. My older sisters might know a different mother, but when I was growing up, my dad was a crazy alcoholic and Mom had her hands full. She eventually resorted to pills, and thus she became crazy, too. At thirteen I would have called myself my own mother. And I was woefully unprepared to be one. I was barely a teenager and I was expected to be responsible for two toddlers. I didn't do a good job. It's a wonder my little brother and sister aren't insane. Turns out they're better human beings than I am. Resilience is a wondrous thing.

About the time I turned forty, my mom finally decided she approved of me. I could sense it in the way she spoke to me when I visited -- sort of in awe of what I'd become, which didn't amount to anything, really, but I had a corporate job with responsibilities, and maybe she was astounded that I'd actually assumed any. Too, I had kids who were normal. My mom loved my kids far more than she ever loved me, which was okay. That's what grandmas are supposed to do. Grandmas are more relaxed; more laisse.

The last time I saw my mom was after Dad had passed away. She was tranquil; resigned. She knew (although I didn't) that her end of life was near. We sat in her living room with the TV on -- the CMA Awards show played in the background. I think that was the year that Faron Young was honored posthumously. Mom said, "You really liked him, didn't you?" I was astonished that she knew that. It was as if she was trolling her memory to recall pieces of me. If it had been my older sister in the room, Mom would have dredged up an old favorite recipe.

Mom was telling me that she loved me, as messed up as I was. Telling me while there was still time.

Maybe I'll do that, too. My kids are special humans who think I don't care about them. The truth is, the absolute best years of my life was when I had them all to myself.

Life repeats itself, and it's messy, isn't it?











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