“There is an emptiness inside of me — a void that will never be filled. No one in your life will ever love you as your mother does. There is no love as pure, unconditional and strong as a mother’s love. And I will never be loved that way again.” – Hope Edelman, Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss
That’s what I grieve…that kind of mother’s love. That’s what I’ve always grieved but not just since Mother’s death. Always.
Mother’s Day! For as far back as I can remember it has always been one of the hardest days of the year for me. It has always been a constant reminder of what was stolen from me. I felt cheated. Cheated and then guilty…for feeling cheated. But I was always thankful for those who loved me, looked after me and cared for me. Those surrogate moms never really took the place of my mother. They were a sweet bonus. I still grieved my own mother. My mother. I grieved for the mom I needed and wanted and I grieved for her and the love she was missing.
When others posted pictures of their mom and told how wonderful she was or how she was their best friend and all of the wonderful things she had done for them…guided them, taken care of them, loved them unconditionally, had always been there for them, was an awesome grandmother and every other wonderful thing – I couldn’t relate. I was hurting. I longed for those things. What happened to my mom?
When I would hear or read things like…I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mom I’d think, I wonder where I would have been if only… In the back of my mind, I’ve always had such a longing for what could have been. It’s hard to describe. My mother was alive but she wasn’t there for me. She hadn’t really ever been. Not the way other people’s moms were there for them. She taught me a lot but not in the traditional way. It was mainly hard lessons of why I had to live a different life and not travel down her path. Mother’s Day was always the official day of reminding me every year of my disappointment. My mother wasn’t like other mothers. Oh sure, I focused on the positives and the blessings but underneath I was hurting and disappointed. But I was always thankful for those who took me in and loved me.
Ours was a much different relationship. She always needed me to do something for her or needed something from me. She always wanted to tell me about people she knew. If she was sober, it was the kind people. The ones who helped her and were there for her. If she was drunk, it was the mean ugly people. The ones I was scared of and who gave me the creeps. They did really mean and dark things I won’t go into but I believed some of these people were evil. The truth was I didn’t want to hear about those people. Any of them. I was thankful for those who were kind to her but I longed for her to ask me about my boys or ask about me. I wanted her to want to know them and want to know me but she didn’t. Not often anyway. It bothered me. Our relationship was mainly about her needs and what she needed from me. Mother’s Day is the official day I am supposed to celebrate my mother who had never really been a mother. So I struggle with Mother’s Day. I know that sounds terrible and rude but that’s honestly how I felt.
But as much as I felt bad for myself, I felt worse for Mother. She missed out on so much and my heart ached for her too.
As I’m typing my mind travels back to a recent phone call one just a couple of weeks or months before Mother died. I could always tell when Mother had been drinking. So my normal routine was to call her and do a quick assessment to see if she was sober or not. If she was sober, we’d talk for a bit but if she had been drinking, I’d get off the phone as quickly as I could. So, not long ago I called Mother. She answered the phone. Immediately I could tell she was drunk. Her speech was rapid and tone was aggressive. “Hello!” she yelled. I asked “What are you doing?” “Hello?” she yelled louder. “Mother?” She yelled over me… “Go to Hell, F——!” and slammed down the phone! I kind of laughed as I tried to figure out what had just occurred and why she had not answered me. I looked at my phone and realized I had it on mute. I couldn’t help but laugh at the craziness. Who answers the phone and says things like that? I was honestly a little thankful my phone was on mute. I waited a couple of days and called her back. She was sober. I told her I had called a few days earlier and asked if she had remembered getting such a phone call. She said a little. She was back to her mild, sweet and meek mannered self. She was embarrassed when I told her about it. Then we laughed at the craziness.
This is the first Mother’s Day since Mother’s death. She has been gone 40 days. It’s different this year. I know my mother is finally at peace. Her body and mind were tired. She had been controlled by substances for far too long. She had lost so much. I’m not sure she even knew what sweetness she was missing at least that’s my hope. My guess is she probably did know and that along with her guilt gave the substances that much more power.
It was always so hard to pick out a Mother’s Day Card. The premade cards were never right. They never fit our relationship. I always ended up buying a very generic or blank one and wrote in it. I always dreaded calling her. I would put it off until later during the day. I felt guilty for dreading it. Funny, as I think back, I don’t ever remember her being drunk on those days. She was always sober as if sitting and waiting for my call. She was always so excited when she would hear my voice and when I’d tell her “Happy Mother’s Day” and “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your card in the mail. I’ll put it in this week.” She’d say “Oh thank you.” She was honestly very sweet when she was sober.
I wonder if she ever knew how hard Mother’s Day was for me. I hope not. I hope she never knew my struggles with Mother’s Day.
My mother had her own struggles with her mother and the truth is…we all have disappointments. I can’t imagine any greater tragedy than not having a real and loving relationship with your child or children. The greatest joy in my life has been being a mom. My boys are my greatest gifts! They make me laugh, worry and even cuss sometimes. But mainly they make me proud and bring me great joy! I love them more than life itself. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them or nothing they could do to make me love them any less. I would give my last dime or last breath to help them. I would trade my life for theirs. My mother never got to enjoy motherhood like I do. Not the real and close relationships. Not the deep conversations about thoughts, goals, disappointments and joys. She never knew the joy of going swimming at 10:30 at night or making a quick trip for ice cream after you were already in your pajamas and ready to crawl in bed just because your son asked you to. She never got to know the craziness of taking them to a movie, realizing it wasn’t the best choice and insisting they call you “aunt Kandy” because no mom in her right mind would take them to this kind of movie. That’s something I got from my mother. She had a great sense of humor. She could almost always laugh. I’m thankful she passed that gift on to me. I only wish she could have known the greatest joys of being a mom.
The truth is we all have hurts, disappointments, tragedies and blessings. We are all the same that way. The specifics may be different but not the feelings. We have to feel our pain, allow ourselves to grieve and push through so we can also feel the joys of our many blessings. Being a mother makes my Mother’s Day special. I love my boys! I’m thankful for my husband who has always worked hard to make it a loving day for me.
I am so thankful for the surrogate moms I’ve had. I’m thankful they have loved and do love me. I am thankful for all they have taught me. I am thankful they make me feel loved. I am so thankful for the joys of being a mom. I LOVE being a mom! I am truly blessed. I hope my mother is enjoying a joyful reunion with her own mother and I hope it is her best mother’s day ever!
I will savor my time with my boys!
Finding the sweet side of crazy!