pjthompson: (lilith)
[personal profile] pjthompson

This morning on National Public Radio I was listening to Sherman Alexie discuss his troubled relationship with his mother and his new memoir, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me. Memoirs, it seems to me, and Alexie affirmed, are for those who don’t get the chance to reconcile their complicated feelings towards parents and other loved ones. Oh yes, there are celebratory memoirs, to be sure, but when you come from a twisted root, it’s hard to write the sweet without delving into the sour.

The discussion triggered a lot of things for me. While I listened, I thanked God, thanked God, that for the last five years of my mother’s life, I was her caregiver. Those were difficult years, but… I got that sacred chance to reconcile my complicated feelings—and I think my mother did as well.

I used to call my mother the Dragon Lady with my friends who knew her well. She was hard-charging, always right, full of anger and unreconciled childhood crap of her own—but charming as hell, funny, creative, with an amazing life force, and a remarkable personality that drew people in and made them love her. Both sides were genuine, but she generally saved the Dragon Lady side for those she loved. People always told me I had the coolest mom. And I did. Except for when she was Dragon Lady.

I harbored so much anger and so much resentment for so many years. Therapy helped, but it didn’t leach the poison in me, just gave me mechanisms for coping with it.

In those last five years of Mom’s life, though, the roles were reversed. She was the child, I was the parent. At first, Dragon Lady was still there, fighting to retain her power, fighting to get the most out of life that she could in diminished circumstances. But even when she was most frustrating, she was so damned courageous. Always. For me, being a full-time caregiver, working full-time, and trying to find a way to get Mom to and from dialysis three times a week, I didn’t have the physical or emotional resources to carry my bad feelings forward. Gradually, I released them—or they released me.

And a wonderful thing happened. My mother began changing, too. The Dragon Lady never apologized for anything, ever; she said thank you rarely and never said “I love you” unless someone said it first. In her last years she became gentle, grateful, considerate in a way I’d never seen. She frequently told me “I love you, baby girl” without any prompting at all. And it became very easy to reply, “I love you, baby mom.” It wasn’t just that I didn’t have time for anger and resentment anymore—they really, truly went away. All that remained was love. For her, for me.

I won’t kid you. Those years were not easy. By the time my mom died I was stretched so thin I don’t know how much longer I could have gone on and not torn to shreds. But I really think my mother died in a state of grace, and that grace extended to me.

It nearly crushed me when she passed. But at least I had gotten that incomparable gift of reconciliation.

About a year after she died, I got the notion of writing a memoir, and worked in a fever for about a week. But it was impossible to write the sweet without the sour. I had purged myself of those hard feelings, and I didn’t miss them. They had poisoned my life for a long time and I really did not want them back. I let go of the memoir and held on to my state of grace and my reconciliation. I am so grateful for them. They are a rare and precious gift, mysterious as grace always is.

I love you, baby mom.

Mirrored from Better Than Dead.

Date: 2017-06-21 02:13 am (UTC)
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
From: [personal profile] asakiyume
Thank you for this. It's beautiful and fills me with hope, and gratitude that the world can work this way.

Date: 2017-06-21 02:45 am (UTC)
lizziebelle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lizziebelle
I understand what you mean. I have a complicated relationship with my mom, compounded by some bad stuff with my sister. We've butted heads all our lives (both Leos), and she drives me crazy sometimes. I'm sure I drive her crazy as well. But we love each other, and I am determined not to let myself hold onto the anger. She can hold a grudge forever (she still has grudges from school, and she's 83), but I can't. It's not good for me.

I'm glad you had the chance to work things out with your mom. I hope I can do the same.

Date: 2017-06-21 03:13 am (UTC)
sartorias: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sartorias
I am so glad you had that chance to work things out--both of your generous natures healing things. What a blessing!

Date: 2017-06-21 05:45 pm (UTC)
fayance: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fayance
That was beautiful and such a great, honest tribute to your mom. In a way I can relate; my mom passed away almost 4 years ago at the age of 78 from multiple myeloma cancer. My older brother and sister, my younger half-brother and myself always had a complicated relationship with our mother, each of us for separate yet interrelated reasons; a lot of it had to do with her refusal to own up to some major parenting failures when we were young and to her always putting her 'man' at any given time over her children (she was married 4x); she went through a few periods of heavy drinking as well during my childhood, leaving us kids to pretty much fend for ourselves during the worst times, and one of the husbands molested my sis, me, and my little half-brother ( who was his own son), with Mom refusing to believe he was doing it. So yeah, we had 'issues' with her as we all grew into adulthood and started our own families. It took my mom many years, well into her 70's and the worsening of her cancer, to finally admit she knew we weren't lying all those decades ago about our being molested but she just didn't want to have to deal with it or lose her husband and have 4 kids to support on her own. She thought we would 'get over' it all with time, but finally she realized how deeply our abuse had impacted all areas of our lives on into adulthood and how she had wronged and failed us severely in not doing something to stop him. We all sort of had it out with her over that in our own ways, and by this time I had long long ago forgiven her and had absolutely no anger or resentment against her any longer. My mom was a beautiful woman physically in her youth and well beyond, but for whatever reasons she had low self-esteem concerning her own worth and intelligence and always sought men for some sort of twisted exterior validation based on her sexuality and looks. I just ended up feeling sorry for her and for all she herself had suffered in her life, burying my biological dad (her first husband) from a car wreck when I was only 4 and her third husband from cancer only 3 years after they married, etc. My mom was a very good mom in so many other ways and did show us ways she loved and cared for us over the years, and it's all those good memories and the way she doted on her grandkids and made beautiful baby quilts for all her grandkids and even 2 great-grandkids that fills my heart now when I think of her. I miss her a lot, in the months before she died we talked on the phone so much more than we had ever talked in I'd say the previous 20 years, and that was wonderful. I miss hearing her voice over the phone, and when my own son died suddenly almost 2 years ago, I hoped my mom was there somehow to greet him and lessen the shock of his passing for him.


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