I am SO not my mother’s daughter. I tell myself this regularly. I pray at night that my wish will come true and that I can hold on to the precious few memories of bonding with my mom and let loose of the pain and the wound tight persona she embodies.
And, today I am reminded of just how much I am not my mothers daughter. Packing one more box for the dual moves we are making over the next month, I came across two poems written to us by our daughters. the first, from our oldest, musing about her memories of car rides and long talks, full of joy and melancholy and family. The second, a sort of apology and gratitude piece from our youngest, who often feels she has to apology for her past. This is not true, she does not have to apologize. She is the most caring, involved, loving person I know. her passion has led her astray a few times when she was young , but she has nothing to apologize for. her experiences have made her the amazing woman she is today.
But, anyway. As I picked up these two poems and read them, I remembered the last notes I had found tucked away in drawers and boxes. The hate filled notes my mother had written for me to find when, she assumed, she was dead and I was organizing her life’s clutter. I found them early, but their bite was just as strong.
And I am happy that the notes I have chosen to save are filled with hope, and joy and love. With good memories and praise. Notes that will make everyone who reads them, now or in years to come, know that this family faced things together, and loved each other through every heartache. I am SO not my mother’s daughter….
Parenthood. When your kids are teens you don’t let them drink. you let them have a sip of wine on Thanksgiving, just to see what it tastes like, but you don’t let them drink. their friends cant give you their keys and drink at your house, you don’t tell them “its OK as long as you don’t drive.” You don’t give them alcohol at the pre-prom dinner.
then they go to college. You play beer pong and flip cup when they come home for holidays. you buy silly shot glasses. You call on their 21st. birthday to see if they are with someone you trust ( yeah, right). You pray they will call on Sunday morning so you will know that, at least for that weekend, they survived.
They graduate. and they drink WAY too much. You worry. You give them the stink eye and count the beers in your refrigerator. Nights when you should be asleep you sit and look at the clock waiting for the graduate — who has moved back home, to get home from whatever club they are at that night. you pray they aren’t in Philadelphia.
Then, suddenly, they are thirty something. They have a glass of wine, or a couple blue moons. and then they stop. They have kids, and spouses and jobs. They share your love of a smooth shot of anisette or a nice bloody Mary. and then they go about their day.
drinking games. One of the rights of parenthood that no one ever tells you about.
mom is in the Assisted Living home. She has a sweet little apartment, complete with refrigerator and microwave, coffee pot and toaster. And most of her beautiful stuff, her antique desk and her grandmother’s rocker were the first pieces of furniture we brought in. I had them all set up before she came into her room. It made her smile, and I like to think, gave her a sense of home.
I am left to clean up the mess that was her home. whenever you walked into moms it was dark. Since I was a child she avoided turning on lights in the house. her home always looked neat and tidy. When we began to ready her move and I had to open drawers and cupboards I found out that she has kept every piece of paper to enter that house since dad died over 5 years ago, along with a multitude of bills etc. from when he was alive. And, among these bills, checks, receipts and contracts, I found no less than 15 letters and notes where she detailed a variety of wrongs my brother and I had done to her. Hateful notes full of self pity and accusations of neglect and anger. Not one, not ONE of them spoke of her great grandchildren, or her grandchildren. Of visits to dads grave, or shopping trips or Christmas meals. None of them spoke of her sorrow at dads passing or her memories of their past together. Each was a scathing hit at one of us, or dad. She kept one from 1956 that she wrote to dad, a private note between a young wife and her husband, full of hatred and threats. And they were scattered throughout her troves of papers. You couldn’t miss them, and, for all except one dated October 2012 and the one written to my father, you couldn’t tell when they were written. And even if now she doesn’t remember they are there — if her fog is that deep— when she wrote them, when she placed them in with these papers, she knew we would find them . She wrote them to cause us pain. We were meant to find them after she died, when we couldn’t confront them or her, when we couldn’t question her or dispute. She wrote them to cause us pain. What a pitiful, angry life.
And a lesson for me to surround myself in gratitude and joy and let the anger and pain roll off. It is just cruel to cause pain to those who love you — and to do it when it is too late for them to make it right.