If My Mom Died, is She Still My Mom?
I have difficulty reconciling that my mother is gone. During her lifetime, she seemed invincible. She was a very tough woman who was also always a lady, a Class Act. Because of her innate toughness, I find it difficult to accept that she could succumb to death. About six weeks before she died, she went in for a pacemaker. Some scans were done, and it was found that she had lung cancer which had spread through her chest wall. She smoked in the 60s, but was a professional singer and actress and was never a heavy smoker. She didn't smoke for close to 40 years.
The most difficult aspect was that my mother left the state when I was just 22 years of age. She and my father had separated a couple of years earlier, and she'd met another man. He wanted to move out of state 1,000 miles away, and that was it - she left to be with him. She didn't discuss her plans with me. All of a sudden, she simply announced that she was going, and a couple of months later, she left. I had been living with her, although my comings and goings were very restricted by her because of her new relationship, in which she wanted privacy. For the rest of her life, I remained angry about this and though I tried to discuss this with her in order to try to resolve it, she was unwilling.
When she left, I was suddenly on my own. She didn't ask me if I'd be okay or provide a plan either for my staying on my own, or going with her and setting up my life there, where she would be, at least near to her where she ended up living. She lived there with her husband for 27 years.
What I miss most now are all the things I wish I could have enjoyed with her over the years which I couldn't because she lived so far away. She came to my wedding, of course; but, I planned it on my own and with my mother-in-law to be, not my mother. She tried to have input and be involved via mail, sending me clippings from magazines and ideas, and she really did try to make an effort - but it was never the same as actually having her here.
I know she tried to be involved in my life after she left. I know that she was a past middle-age woman trying to have a life after my father and she separated, but I still can't understand how she could have left me at such a young age, when my life was just beginning, really.
Although we were close, especially in the last decade when I realized she was becoming older and more restricted, there was the anger I was, sadly, never able to let go of for her having left me when I needed her presence and guidance just as I was entering into the adult part of my life.
In addition, she left her son whose wife had just had a baby. I don't know many moms who would leave their first grandchild to live 1,000 miles away. My brother and his wife divorced a few years later. I don't think my mother's leaving played any role in their divorce.
After she died, I learned that her husband had been having a relationship with another woman in their building for at least a year before my mother died. This was very difficult for me to learn. She was always telling me how wonderful this man was, and frankly I never saw it. After she died, I never heard from him again, although I called him a few times. I went up to visit him a year after her death, still living with all my mother's things, and all he did was talk about his new relationship with the woman in the building and bring out photos of her for us, my husband and I, to see. As for his kids and daughers-in-law, all of whom I knew for 27 years, I heard from none of them after my mother died. I didn't expect to, but my mother always tried to convince me that these people were my family and that they'd "be there" for me if anything bad ever happened in my life. I never believed her, and as it turns out, I find myself questioning her judgment in people and wondering why she would try to convince me to chase after people to whom I don't matter in the least and convince me that they would consider me Family. They do not, nor do I consider them Family, nor did I ever. But...for my mother's sake, I put on The Face for 27 years and let her, and they, believe that I believed what she was saying.
In all the years she lived with this man, she never once invited me to stay over in their apartment. Whenever I or we visited, we had to stay in a hotel, and traveling to see her was very costly.
This evening I went to a show and sat next to a lady who reminded me of my mother. She was wearing the same perfume my mother wore, was a little younger than my mother would be now, and looked quite a bit like her. During the performance, I started to cry sitting there in the dark, wishing that I had sat next to my my mother more over the years at shows and dinners, enjoying these things as mother and daughter. I only got to enjoy these things with her once in a while over the 27 years that she lived so far from me.
Although I loved her, and love her still, I spent a lot of years being angry at her for leaving me all those years ago. I don't think I ever stopped punishing her for it in many ways. I regret now that I carried that anger around for so many years. Only in recent years did she start to regain my trust, but it was too late as she had become mostly deaf and blind, and was unable to enjoy much over the past couple of years.
I miss her terribly. It's been over a year since her death, and I still find it hard to accept that she's gone. Instead of becoming easier, in many ways the loss of her has become more difficult. It's hard to believe that I have to live the rest of my life missing her so much. I miss not only what we had, but what we didn't get to have after I was 22 years old.
She died the day before my birthday. Oddly enough, as she was in the process of dying, she never said a word about my birthday coming up, nor my 20th anniversary with my husband which was also coming up. She told me she loved me, but I was expecting more than that...I'm not sure what. That she would miss me, perhaps (although missing me seems illogical, I know)? That she didn't want to leave, but had no choice? That she was concerned about the rest of my life? That she wished she could be there with us for longer? She expressed that she wanted me to be there, and I was, every day for two weeks before she died. I fed her, gave her water, brushed her hair, did her nails. I took care of her. I could see in her expression that she appreciated all I was doing. But...she had no epiphanies for me, my mother just quietly took it all in. The biggest compliment she paid me was one day when I was feeding her sorbet, which was about the only thing I found out she would eat up until a day before she died. She said, "You feed me well," which was a HUGE compliment coming from my mother. It's just about the biggest compliment she ever gave me! Sure, she said that I was pretty over the years and things like that - but this, for some reason, really meant a lot to me. It meant I could take care of her and be the mother to her that she was unable to be to me.
I'm still working out the attachment issues I know I have because she left me during such an important time in my life, without providing for me a place to come to if I needed or wanted to do so. I have a lot to work out psychologically. I think attachment issues and attachment trauma can occur not just during infancy and childhood, but also during important developmental times as a young adult. I strongly disagree with any psychological literature which states the contrary. I am living proof that even young adults can suffer attachment trauma in their 20s, depending on their needs at the time and how the trauma occurs. I was left completely alone when my mother left, no father to depend on, no sibling to depend on, and a fragmented and dysfunctional family. I honestly don't know how I survived. Meeting my husband seven years later strongly figures in to my survival. I am fortunate I held on for those seven years until we met.
Interestingly, my mother didn't like him at first. However, by the time we were married a year after we met, she was growing to love him, and I know she grew to love him very much over the years, in large part because she knew how good he was (is) to me.
A few years ago, when I was married about 17 years, I asked her if she thought my marriage would last as long as it had. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, LOL, she admitted that she didn't think it would last when we first got married. She told me she thought that we'd be separated within three to five years.
This hurt me - not only because my mother seemed to have such low expectations of my ability to stay in a stable relationship; but, also because I felt she really didn't know me all that well if that's what she thought. More than anything, I was disappointed that, at least at the time I got married, she didn't seem to know my strengths well at all. I think this is a terribly sad thing.
I've been missing her for 27 years, but now I miss her terribly, even more, so much.
I find myself wondering if I can still have mother if my mother is dead. I mean, I had a mother - do I not have a mother now? Does the relationship end just because she died? I find myself wondering about this question all the time. I can't seem to find a reasonable answer for it yet. I really just want my mom back, to sit next to her at an opera, hug her, hold her hand, go with her to a show, or a ballet, or go shopping with her, or share a burger at a diner. I know those things will never happen again.