This month, August, is my mother’s birthday. Our relationship is a shadow, hers, that follows me. I’ve said things to her I wanted to say. I’ve said things to her I needed to say. I’ve said things to her I’ve hated to say. And I’ve said things to her I’ve regretted.
Mom, a complicated force, having a brilliant smile, with hazel eyes on face always looking younger than her years —- made buying a Mother’s Day card a most difficult task.
Diagnosed as paranoid-schizophrenic, she battled her demons— she battled me, the oldest daughter, whose refuge was my father. Their relationship and our family (counting my sister) until the day Dad died (years before Mom), was in many respects, memories I was fortunate to have. Thinking back, we shared Sunday dinners and took numerous vacation road trips. Holidays were filled with music from Nat King Cole to Johnny Mathis, to family and friends coming through the door sharing food and drink. Laughter— oh God, when it was good at our house, I never wanted to leave. I didn’t lack for any material things. Whether or not we were middle class, I couldn’t say. Life in a small town, when it chose to be, was like a homemade comforter. Family, neighbors, music and dance lessons, Sunday school, and the importance on education, was what I knew to be my facts of life.
What I also knew was Mom. I felt her anger, her happiness, her tirades, and in between her meds —- her love. Mom, when the light hit her right, was so encouraging. Odd, those times were like a rollercoaster.
I’ve long since made peace with Mom, who died of lung cancer November 17, 2012. I realized Mom did the best she could and knew how . . . as she grew older, the meds were less and our bond was more.
Having no parents puts a spin on life, holding me with numbness. I was able, thank God, to have saved many of Mom’s phone messages, from the last seven years of her life, and transferred them to a tape recorder (not an easy find!).
I forgave her, as she forgave me, for cutting her out of parts of my adult life, because her unpredictable-volatile behavior drove me to a dark place. If I close my eyes —- I can see, hear, and taste those feelings. Yet, they are too distant to reach me, and if they did, I can handle them — not with anger, but with pity as my mother was mentally ill. I thank her for showing me strength and courage because she knew something wasn’t quite right – often, I’m sorry, poured from her mouth. In the end, she gave a quiet fight, taking her last breath. I remember her this month as a woman who is my eternal shadow. I miss you, Mom.