Mother: One

Menmom01a_4I have always loved my mother though admitting it wasn’t always easy for me. We have a history, my mother and I, though I suspect most mothers and first daughters do. Our history is like a long, dusty road filled with twists and turns and valleys that can never be mapped, making navigation a guessing game. Wrong turns were made; we found ourselves in an uncharted swamp of things happened that no one would have guessed or even dreamed could happen in childhood back then and we found our way as best we could. 

My mother was always the strong parent, the heavy. When it came to the tough decisions and getting things done, my father was a weenus so it fell to my mother to make the family decisions and get things done as I was growing
up. There were times during and after my troubled childhood and checkered
adolescence that she seemed as formidable and impenetrable as Alcatraz.
For years one of the main goals I had in life was to be
exactly where she wasn’t. Only under extreme duress was I halfway
amenable to living with her or nearby.

This seemed to come easy to her- this stoic, get it done attitude she had about her. As a child I didn’t understand it; I didn’t understand what was wrong with me that made her mad all the time. As a teenager, I resented it and knew she hated me. I didn’t understand, I couldn’t have understood that she was only doing what she knew how to do. It was how she was raised. It was how she learned to survive adapt and get by.

My mother became a single mother long before it was fashionable or even
"normal" and moved herself and her 3 year-old daughter to California
because that is where she wanted to live. She left her family and my
father in Utah to follow her dream because somehow she knew there was
better out there for her and her young daughter. She rented an apartment and found a job, knowing no one. No small feat for a 23
year old woman with a small child in 1966.

In a conversation I had recently with her I mentioned that I don’t ever remember being scared as a child.Open Your Eyes
I was not afraid of "getting in trouble" or getting yelled at or even spankings. In reply my mother simply said, "I was scared all the time".

For good reason. My grandfather had a mercurial, volatile temper and my grandmother was cold and emotionally unavailable. There was no soft place to fall for a child in my grandparents’ house. My mother, the eldest,  was responsible for housekeeping and childrearing before she was ten years. She cooked and cleaned and raised her 3 siblings.

There are stories in our family of my grandfather beating a waffle iron to pieces with a sledgehammer because the waffles stuck or "whipping school" with my uncles in the garage after a bad day at work. He once took all of my mother’s belongings to the dump because at 19, my mother went out for an Me?!
afternoon against his wishes. And my grandmother? She always wanted to know why the children couldn’t behave so they wouldn’t anger their father.

While my grandparents may have mellowed in their old age, my grandmother remained cold and remote, sending gifts for holidays and birthdays out of obligation and duty and not one of the dozen grandchildren are without the memory of being witness to my grandfather’s rages. My mother and I both remember feeling relief when my grandfather died and I felt very sad for my grandmother when she went to sleep one night and never awoke. Neither of them lived the lives they had meant to live.

For my birthday this year, I visited with my mother and sister and it was good,
though it is always a learning experience for me. My mother has not
been well for the last several years and is just now beginning to come
out of it, slowly but certainly for sure. It was good to see her up and
around but hard to watch how much it took out of her to do it.

Now, I see many of the things we aren’t able to see about our
parents when we are younger. I can see why my mother was was so tough, how she
felt she had to be. I can see we butted heads because we were so alike
in so many ways. I can see how scared she was and still is sometimes.  I can see  softness
in her, some vulnerability that  never seemed to be there before.

For my birthday this year, I visited with my mother and sister and it was good,
though it is always a learning experience for me. My mother has not
been well for the last several years and is just now beginning to come
out of it, slowly but certainly for sure. It was good to see her up and
around but hard to watch how much it took out of her to do it.

MomMar08 We did simple everyday things; a doctor’s appointment; getting our hair done together. We spent a good deal of time setting up her sewing studio, cleaning and organizing things, watching an old movie or two or cheesy reality TV; just spending a good deal of time together. Where there was once awkward tension there is now laughter and jokes. Hugging her is becoming easier and I am more myself around her than I have been since I was a child. I am beginning to cherish the time I spend with her without waiting for the other shoe to drop- most of the time. Though I moan and groan
and become impatient with my mother’s eccentricities, I now see her for who she is…
not for who I wanted her to be all those years ago.

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