I remember my Mom as a sophisticated and elegant woman. She was an artist and an exceptional seamstress. She was also very private about her emotions, not easily given to sentiment, perhaps as a defense against the hurt and disappointment she endured over many years of her life. I knew her much better in the latter years of her life than when I was growing up. I owe that to a friend, who lost her Mom to cancer when my friend was barely eighteen. My friend encouraged and prodded me to pursue more of a relationship with my Mom as an adult. And I did. I am glad I listened to my friend.
My Mom and I weren't close as I was growing up. I think I knew too much about the broken promises of alcoholism and too little about the unrelenting addiction of it. In childlike naivete, I thought she should have protected us (my siblings and me) better from the toll it took on us. I knew it took a toll on her, but didn't have the maturity to really understand what that meant or how hard it was for her to do what she did to keep the family together and help provide for us. I didn't understand about the sleep deprivation and energy requirements of motherhood. At the core of it, for far too many years, I thought I was a disappointment to her because I was so unlike her. My passion was sports. Hers was the arts. She was a beautiful woman and I was a very plain girl. I was cute as a young girl, but as pimples replaced freckles, I lost any sense of being beautiful, at least on the outside. I was good at sports before it was acceptable, let alone encouraged, for girls to be athletes. (I am so glad that has changed!) I knew she loved me, but as a kid it is easy to feel like somehow your parents have to love you.
As an adult, following my friend's urging, I got to know my Mom better and we talked about numerous things, even my feelings of being a disappointment to her. She did her best to quickly reassure me, that I was not a disappointment to her. She admired my strength and my athletic ability. She made choices and helped me learn to make choices so I could stand on my own and stand up for my beliefs and values. She did her best to help me overcome the effects of alcoholism on our family. I believe now she did her very best to help us grow into loving, responsible adults.
Nine years ago today we lost my Mom to cancer. We were blessed she didn't suffer long. She was a smoker most of her adult life and we knew her death could have been long, drawn out, and painful. It wasn't. I do believe I will see her again, but most days my feet are very tied to earth and often I miss her. She never even met my husband or had a clue that I would find such an amazing person with whom to share my life. She only knew about the broken engagement and broken relationships. She had no idea I would give birth to a beautiful daughter of my own. She only knew of the two failed adoptions when I was single. I believe her heart broke with mine as I walked through those seasons. But that was not the end of the story. My wonderful daughter, Emma, has shown me in a way no one else could, the joy of motherhood, which I also brought to my Mom. I am my Mom's first born also. Because of Emma, I know in the deepest part of my heart that I was not a disappointment to my Mom, though I was so different from her. I know first hand that the love of a mother for her child is deep and enduring and independent of our similarities and differences. I love Emma with all my heart, period, nothing added, no qualifiers, no conditions. And I always will. What a gift my girl has given to me, the certainty of my own Mother's love for me.