You know that book by PD Eastman, Are You My Mother? I think I’ve read it, or it was read to me…or somehow because of its popularity, I can somehow recall it- ya. That one. But, I don’t actually have a memory of absorbing that book. Of sitting with anyone, including my mother, and upon its last page asking, “Can we read it again so and so?” That never happened for me. Recently in a book that I listened to via Audible, Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, she references the book in a letter and of course, any reference to mother makes me think…which this morning, made me think. This morning’s lump in my throat was “mom”. You know what’s significant/symbolic about that? It’s Father’s day, that’s what.
I’ve had this thought lately that maybe…perhaps…probably, I consume myself with same thoughts all the fricking time. I’m in a rut. A thought rut. A mother loving thought rut- pun intended. Except I rarely think of my mother with love anymore and that’s strange because I used to. When she first died. And to be honest, I felt better then. I feel like shit now. I think we discussed that, and thinking about my mother lately, also makes me feel like shit. I think I had a hand in that. I think the pendulum theory is at play. I think I was swinging in love for her and then the years went by and the pain grew on and I somehow took a swing at her and lost myself there. Right here I want to use words to describe things. I want to write something that looks like this:
Real Life; (Insert relationship with mom as it were when she died.
Hospital hell; (Last moments with mom in hospital)
After death; (Let the memories and love begin)
In mourning; (The grief process)
Acceptance phase; (Wait, WHAT phase?!)
The problem is this; The pain of losing her was soul crushing…and I have guilt over not answering the phone soon enough to get to the hospital fast enough to share words with her that would have allowed us to heal ourselves, before they had to sedate her, destroying our only chances…but maybe that’s just because now at this moment in my life, I can heal. Maybe then we wouldn’t have healed anything, but in my heart, I don’t believe that. I just felt compelled to say it. In real life, I was tired of hearing about my mother’s life and that makes me want to vomit right this instant. I filed this under the ‘repress’ catagory…not the remember one. During the hospital hell, a story I used to tell in enough detail to establish the hellish part, my paper-thin soul and my non existent relationship with faith was crushed further. I was a wisp of a person who survived by going into a permanent control mode. Control would take on many forms; controlling others, rage, cheating, debt, my second failed marriage and removing the cupboard doors from my cabinets to make sure that my dishes were not rearranging themselves when I wasn’t looking.
After death I did in fact, let the memories begin. I even made up a few, or colored the ones I had a brighter shade of rosy. I put her on a pedestal. Everyone said good things about her…except my father and my step mother…they were like that nagging feeling you get when you think, “hmmm…something’s just not quite right here…” Not quite right applied to the overly rosy memories which blotted out the ones that were not so right, though later on in my own warped version of the Grieving Process, I would come to realize that the blotted out ones weren’t what I thought they were either. It’s true you know…
Things are not always what they seem. Including mourning. In mourning…what does that even mean?
“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
— Anne Lamott
I think that mourning is learning to dance with the limp. I don’t know if it stops- the mourning or the limping…or the dancing. When I was a little girl, I was a dancer. I hope I was better than than I feel I often am now. I don’t know if there is an acceptance phase either…I think it’s called the ‘this isn’t going to change anything but how you do you’, phase. Maybe it should be called the surrender. No phase. Just surrender.
I may or may not, have misrepresented my mother. Or, I may have represented my pain better, or not represented her at all. I don’t really know. I have this stinking suspicion that I am about to find myself back at square one, March 30, 2004, holding the hands, and laying on the chest of my mother in that brief time allowed me before we shut off the machine and she took her last breath. That moment when I said, “It’s okay to go now momma…” and lied. I have a feeling that my grief and pain, my in ability to feel something so raw and shitty- that lump in my throat that I can’t swallow, has somehow kept me from knowing what really happened, not just in her death, but in her life. In our lives combined. In my life. I may have been misrepresented. I may have…no, I’m almost certain, I may have misrepresented myself in my own life- in the lives of my children. Gulp.
The three princesses are up now. The sun is shining. The lawn needs mowed. Real life. Real grief. Real living. Real death. Real lawns and laundry piles, real bills, real reality and real fairy tales…a couch full of real girls with a real mom- a real woman afraid of losing her real girl self and a real girl afraid of becoming a real woman…Am I your mother? Absolutely. But, the question remains, was she mine?