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Loss of a mother, there is more than one way

Updated on August 1, 2010

A not so normal life


I had a dream last night that my mother was attempting to drive both of us safely over the edge of a cliff.  It was not meant to be dangerous or frightening but more like a leap that had to be taken.  She had to get us from point A to point B and this was the only way, so over we went.  I woke up and thought, “Wow, she actually took a leap.”

In reality, around the time of my 13th birthday my mother took me back to school shopping, a ten minute drive from our house, came home and never drove a car again.

I remember that day of shopping not only because it was the last time I shopped with my mother, but because I purchased my first bra at a store called “Globe” and a small selection of jeans and tops that no matter what I chose were certain to bring me relentless teasing and mockery once the school year began. 

On that August night after we had all gone to bed, my mother had an “episode” with a disc in her back herniating and did not leave her bedroom again or even care for herself for nearly a year. 

It was beyond the realm of anything I have ever, even to this day, heard of with a disc injury.  She did not bath herself or use the toilet.  She never left her bed except to use a bed pan or the portable potty chair we found for her.  She cried a lot. She slept a lot. Each day my dad or I would sponge bathe her and redress her in a fresh nightgown.  I cooked for her and the family and brought her meals on a tray.  I would fetch her water or coffee.  I would clean out the bedpan or potty chair. I would read to her and hold her hand and silently pray that whatever was happening to her would not also take her life. I knew even then that the situation did not add up, that something else had to be wrong for her to be this bad, and I feared it would steal the rest of her from me. She talked of death often and I was afraid for a long time.

She left the house with my dad only to see doctors and chiropractors who never improved her condition. Specialists gave her pain meds which seemed to make her mental state much worse.  I just kept wondering, month after month, when my mother would be back.

But, she never returned.  It took until I was 16 years old before she was up and wandering around the kitchen for 20 minutes at a time before returning to her room.  At that point she would make herself a sandwich or fry up a burger, but nothing ever went back to normal in that house.

Most importantly I think, I had lost my “mother” but nobody seemed to care or even express sympathy. I went from a straight A student to barely passing.  I could not join any sports or clubs or participate in any normal school activity.  My life was simply to go to school and come straight home and take care of my mother.

I was not allowed to get my driver’s license.  When I got jobs my father made it very clear how inconvenient I was making it, so I would quit them and return to staying at home with mom.

I was isolated and I was grieving.  The reality was that she would never drive me anywhere ever again.  We would never be mother and daughter in a car going shopping or out for an ice cream ever again.  She would always require my care rather than me receiving hers.  She would not attend anything with me or for me, not even my high school graduation.

So last night’s dream, at the age of 42, is the first time in 29 years that I experienced the feeling of being in a car and looking over at my mother and thinking, “I am ready, lets go.” It did not matter that we had to start the journey by driving over a cliff.  She was there, active, and I was ready for the leap.


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