Not Your Average Mother's Day Wish
Did you have a happy, loving childhood?
I was in the drug store the other day. The section selling greeting cards was crowded and I wondered why. When I saw the large banner advertising Mother’s Day my heart cringed a little.
I joined the throng and nudged my way into the expensive card section. Here you find the bigger cards, the ones adorned with bows and maybe even a bit of shiny plastic shaped like a diamond or a heart. These cards have longer verses – almost a life story of praise and gratitude and loving endearments - and I try to find one that’s not too smarmy and doesn’t name specifics.
I congratulate myself on buying before the selection gets picked over. I’ll also be able to put this year's card in the mail with plenty of time to reach her. I have been known to spend a small fortune on stamps for overnight delivery.
I know my mom appreciates the cards I send her. I also try to send a smallish vase of flowers - something with lots of colour. I can’t go overboard as the room she has in The Home is small and she tends to collect things. Every surface has some little memento, some reminder of her past. There are also hidden stashes of neatly folded paper and plastic bags along with twist-ties, tangles of string and old gift boxes.
My mom is ninety this year and the woman she used to be is very much diminished. She is almost totally blind and her memory is very poor. Brown blotches of gravy decorate her blouses, her sweater is often inside out, and her hairbrush is seldom used. She cannot get to the dining room without her walker and often gets confused. It’s difficult to watch her age, but in some ways it amazes me. She has been threatening to die since I was ten.
There was a time when this tiny woman could reduce me to a speck of dust or promote me to a monster capable of ruining her life. She often used her impending demise as a threat. I wonder now how one person could wield so much power, and when it was that I gave up mine? Where did she learn to be so cruel?
Her own mother died when my mom was sixteen and her father died just before I was born. My mom was also a single parent at a time when divorce was taboo. Life was not easy for my mother but it felt to me as though she was going to make sure mine was no easier.
How is it that some children rebel while others bend and sometimes break?
I wasted years feeling guilty and years being vindictive. I thought if I became an unloving daughter I could somehow even the score. I changed tactics and tried to be the daughter she needed and wanted, only to find myself back in my childhood role. I moved as far away as I could but continued to hear her unrelenting voice in my head.
The physical hurts have healed, the emotional injuries are fading, and the anger I stuffed inside has found a release. I now know it wasn’t me who caused all that fury. She didn't understand that her happiness was in her own hands and I certainly couldn’t gift her the life she needed. I healed myself as much as I could and looked to professionals when I needed help. I have screamed into countless pillows and written dozens of unsent letters.
Time has worked its magic. I have stopped buying my mother impersonal, thoughtless greeting cards. She doesn't really understand what she did and, as she used to say, two wrongs don’t make a right. I understand this now.
There are many others out there who have experienced a hurtful and devastating childhood. Please know that on Mother’s Day you are not alone. To those of you who have survived and gone on to raise healthy children of your own, I send my congratulations.
May we all have a very Happy Mother’s Day.