How Do You Pretend That Mother's Day Means Something When it Really Doesn't?
She lived her life by these words.....
It always felt like the most unnatural day of the year...and for me, it was
Mothers day was always hard.
Hallmark didn't make cards for mothers and daughters like my mom and me. And so I hated every year when this holiday rolled around, going to the store to try to pick out a card that said something..but really, nothing. I hated pretending that what the cards said, is what I felt. Because nothing could be further from reality.
She died 8 years ago.
We had a contentious relationship all of my life. Harsh words, hostility, recriminations, anger, even at times, hatred were all I ever knew from my mother.
My Mother was an alcoholic long before I was born. An abusive alcoholic who would fight with anyone who got in her way. I feared her temper and dreaded her outbursts, especially when they were aimed in my direction. And as I grew older and especially after my Dad died, I was mostly always, her target.
Years passed. I grew up. I had hoped I could grow away..emotionally more than physically. But there was always this nagging feeling that I should try harder and I wanted to have what everyone else seemed to have...a normal mother and a normal grandmother for my kids. And so I beat my head against the proverbial wall and always found that the wall won.
While there were good times, there were many more bad times. And so life continued and we all dreaded those times when Nana was coming to visit.
She stopped drinking 25 years before she died, but the damage was already done and could not be reversed.
I had her admitted to the hospital on a Monday morning and by the next Sunday, she had died from end stage liver disease. A horrible death which begins killing its victims years before a last breath is drawn.
There was no internet back when she stopped drinking and I was completely ignorant to how liver disease can manifest itself. So I continued to believe that despite my mother's sobriety, she was still as crazy as ever, as mean as ever and that she lived to make my life miserable.
It took her dying for me to become aware of the ravages of the disease. The day after she died, I began researching liver disease and what I read, case after case, website after website, brought me to my knees. For I saw my mother, time and again, described on those pages. She was a classic, textbook case, of end stage liver disease.
And I began to hurt inside.
I hurt for a woman who basically had no chance at happiness. Her life was a lost cause by the time she was 10. In those days, there was no therapy, no discussions, no real understanding of what a child might be going through. It was enough to work like a dog just to put food on the table for 8 kids. So someone like my Mom, fell easily through the cracks and while she was noticed, her illness was not.
And except for the brief respite of being married to my Dad, her life remained a swirl of alcohol and even drugs and misery.
On that Monday night when I had her admitted to the hospital, I went to see her. She was in and out of reality....talking about my Dad as though he were still alive one minute and then the next, back to reality, remembering his fight with cancer and ultimately, his death.
She talked a lot. Almost in a cathartic way. She talked about her childhood and her siblings and her love for her mother and her intense hatred for her father. She was as lucid as I am right now, as she talked about her past and I sat quietly and listened and let her purge her soul for she seemed to need to do that. And I saw the tears as they rolled down her cheeks as she told me how, for the first time in her life, she was happy...the day my Dad asked her to marry him.
I pulled my chair up close to her bed and I took her hand in mine. In a moment of total lucidity..as she was stroking my hand, she said to me “you have such soft hands”.
Not a big deal you might think. But my mother wasn't given to saying things like that. Or handing out compliments of any sort to me. That single comment was packed with the tenderness and love that a mother feels for her child....something I wasn't used to but craved all of my life. And it took death to remove whatever walls she felt she needed when it came to showing love to her only child.
And now, when I think of my Mom...I still remember the angry words and the abuse, but they are crowded out by the memory of her holding my hand and stroking it and saying what she said to me.
It was as though, those 5 simple words made up for a lifetime of pain and hurt.
I write about my mother for many reasons. It helps me, all these years later, to put my feelings into words. But I also write about her so that those who knew her, and knew what can only be described as her mental illness, can maybe better understand the woman and her life and find a way, even now, to forgive her for any hurts she caused.
And so today, I bought Mothers Day cards for my daughter and my daughter in law. And try as I might to avoid reading the ones just for Mom's...I found myself picking one after another up and reading thru them and more than once feeling the sting of tears.
I would give anything to have been able to buy one of those for my Mom, today.
- My Mother's Eulogy
She died in 2007. I wrote her eulogy but could not read it myself. I asked my son to read it at her funeral Mass and he did. He spoke eloquently, but with some tears. It was still beautifully read.