I didn’t know my mother.
Let me clarify. I knew her – I knew who she was, what her name was, even had a cursory relationship with her but I didn’t know her. Truth be told, it didn’t really even bother me that much until my mother’s funeral this summer. The preacher who was doing mother’s eulogy came up to me and my two siblings and asked us to tell him more about her. I felt bad for a fleeting moment that the only thing I could contribute was “she loved animals.” This was true. My mother bred dogs and horses for as long as I can remember and even worked managing a petsmart type store for many years. However besides that superficial fact? I couldn’t tell him anything. Nothing positive, anyway. It just didn’t seem like it would be a fitting place for “Brick House was her self proclaimed theme song. Can we have that at the funeral?”
I made jokes. I kept it light-hearted and it was for my own protection. I couldn’t really let myself get involved at this near-stranger’s funeral. I was there for my siblings, I was there for my grandfather. I was not there for my mother. The reality of that setting in has unsettled me in a lot of ways. I think being pregnant and so aware of the tiny life I’m about to have to mold in my own hands made it even worse to think of.
I was raised by my grandparents. Both of my parents were too young to have children – my father, the traveling touring musician and my mother, just irresponsible – so the responsibility fell upon her parents. I was loved fiercely and completely and never wanted for anything. My mother remarried not too long after she left my father and had two more children, my half brother and sister. My stepfather was a total monster and I barely had any interaction with any of them because of it. When I was nine years old, my grandmother was feeling poorly with back issues and just being too old to chase after a child my age. My mother promised to come get me by the end of Christmas break to move in with her. I didn’t see her for years and I might not ever have seen her again if she hadn’t run into my aunt at a horse sale my freshman year of high school.
So here I am, a young adult in my own right, forced to have a relationship with someone who obviously didn’t want to have one with me. It was awkward and honestly I felt like I had absolutely no choice in the matter. I enjoyed getting to know my brother and sister again. I lived with them for a semester in high school. It was both good and bad. It was great to have siblings and be around them on a daily basis, but it was tough with the parental guidance. In order to better pursue academic and musical interests, I found myself back with my grandparents.
My grandmother died when I was 19 and it was the hardest thing I had ever experienced. That was my mother, the woman who raised me and taught me things. And she was gone. And my mother couldn’t bother to be there for me. She wasn’t there for anyone. Even after that and on into adulthood I kept in touch with my mother, usually by email or quick message here and there though the years. I saw her once in my adult life (I say adult as in over 21) until she fell ill. She moved back to our hometown and my aunt became her main caretaker. Then she started to cling to her children, wanting us to come visit (I lived 13+ hours away at that time) and when I did come home just putting so much guilt on me to spend as much time there as possible that I just didn’t even want to spend any time at home at all.
My mother and I never resolved our issues. I never sat her down and asked why she felt it was ok to abandon her child at a young age. I never sat down with her and demanded explanations of how she can love my siblings so much more. I couldn’t even share happy times with her. I remember the months and days leading up to mine and Clayton’s wedding she kept telling me I still had time – I could call it all off. I would never be happy, etc. I let it blow into one ear and out the other. After all, she wasn’t coming and she had no plans to. Just earlier this year when I told her about our wishes to try to conceive, she thought I was crazy. Told me that having kids was the worst thing that could happen to a woman and why would I want to disrupt my life? (that’s a great thing to say to your oldest child, by the way). When we were pregnant I told her, overjoyed. I didn’t even remember really what she’d said until she acted so in shock. “Why would you do that? I thought you were kidding. Why would you ruin your life?” And more lamentations that my life was over and mourning something that I wasn’t going to miss. It was at that point that I had decided contact with my mother was toxic and needed to be limited. And of course, I never saw her again because she suddenly passed this summer.
I didn’t make it home before she passed. There was a day and a half of notice before it happened. My sister was there, but my brother hadn’t made it either. We were all expected to pay for my mother’s final expenses in thirds even though she was hardly a mother to me. I was expected to be a great daughter and handle everything because I was the oldest. I was expected to smile and go along with whatever when all I really wanted to do was be anywhere else. It wasn’t fair. Not to me, not to my siblings, not to anyone. My mother was not a great person. I will not pretend she was just because she passed.
A couple months have passed (and this is really the reason I’ve not felt like writing much. I’ve been in my own head, concerned with this, the baby, my husband’s new Canada assignment, our upcoming move and other things sapping my energy and my creativity) but a post I was reading on babycenter the other night really just kind of brought this issue to the forefront and I felt like I needed to talk about it. I feel better now, and I will try to write with more frequency. The next post will be a baby update, I promise.