I have made peace, mostly, with the person my mother has become. I am no longer overwhelmed with the daunting process of finding her an appropriate nursing home or anxiously terrified about the transition of moving her from California to Connecticut, a decision made without her input. Over the course of the last two years, we have found our new rhythm, for as long as it lasts. As strange as it is to somehow be in the role of adult to this childish, gentle, confused version of her, we make the best of the cards we have been dealt. How tragic it is, slowly watching a parent lose herself.
But truthfully, there is another heartbreak for me alone. One I tuck away, somewhere deep. One that is hard to talk or think about. Something that makes me feel like I have failed my mother and our once incredible relationship.
I lost my mother a long time ago. And I have not yet grieved for her. It feels like I do not know how.
I was so proud to be her daughter, this brilliant dynamo, with a quick wit and a huge heart, who through so many years, was my rock and my hero.
And then, when her world fell apart? I was there for her, doing things that needed to get done. But on the inside, I shut down.
Looking back, I am sure it was a gradual process. There were so many phone calls, where my rational, amazing mother turned into some absurd caricature of herself, making crazy plans, fueled by desperation.
All of this came to a head when I was pregnant with my first child. I was full of guilt, as I know she planned to live near me when I had children, and there was no way for that to happen.
I tried to help. I took her to medical appointments. I convinced her to let me help her apply for disability. We talked constantly, hour long conversations sometimes, leaving me in tears, wondering exactly who this person was, so unlike the mother I had always loved and looked up to. All at a time when I really needed my mother.
And then, I went to see her, six months pregnant, finding her home so filthy I did not feel safe sleeping there. That was a turning point, because, after much effort, and so much pain, my siblings and I (barely) convinced my mother to “visit” family in California, kind, generous, loving family who offered my mother and her two german shepherds a place to live, stress free, 21 months before her disability award finally came through. Something I did not offer my mother.
She wanted to be here for my son’s birth and I could not handle that stress. When I said no, this altered version of my mother must have decided to teach me a lesson. Before, on and after my due date, all my calls went to voicemail.
Maybe a week or so in, I called my aunt, sobbing. I wanted to make sure my mother was okay. I was scared, overdue with this kid who did not want to come out. My mother did call me later that day, thanks to my aunt.
But somewhere around this time, I was done. I could not let myself get hurt anymore. My focus was on my newborn and all the chaos that came with learning how to be a parent. And though there were visits and plenty of phone calls, I never, truly, allowed her back into my heart.
I have never grieved for this enormous loss. Now, it feels like I would not even know how to start. Like I would be all consumed by sorrow if I really let myself go.
When I think about my mother, I do not think about the 30 plus years of love and support and the many things she did so right. There is this layer protecting my heart, which kept it together through the tougher times. While I know it served its purpose eight years ago, I recognize that now it keeps me from finding peace. But I have not yet figured out how to strip it away, to allow me to bring back all the best parts of my mother, and maybe even forgive myself and, as unfair as it is, forgive her.