Today marks two weeks since my mother passed away.
I’m still in the shock phase, to be honest.
How could I see her one day, and she be laughing, joking, and wishing everyone well, and the next, within twelve hours after being admitted to the hospital, be dead?
Right now that’s too much to think about, so I’m putting it someplace else. I will get back to it…someday. But not today.
Today I am remembering all the times she made me crazy in the ways only a mother can.
For instance, my mother was like that proverbial dog with a bone when a thought came into her head. The example I think about was when she’d call me in college and tell me to make sure I locked my dorm room door before heading out to class. She was always worried about people sneaking into my room to harm me. I could never understand why she thought this because I lived in a protected dorm. You had to sign in and sign out and approve all visitors. But she’d say it to me two or three times with every call and it made me nuts.
When I was in my forties I learned why.
My mother had been left alone one day when she was about eight or nine. My grandmother was out with my younger aunt and my older aunt wasn’t home. Someone knocked on the door – a neighbor man they all knew. Since he was well known to her, she let him in. I don’t really have to go into detail about what happened, do I? Suffice it to say, while she wasn’t raped, she was molested…something that gave her the greatest of shame in her young life and that she carried with her the rest of her life.
Knowing this explained her behavior, and I feel deep shame that I let her persistent worry bother me so much. She had a good reason to be worried – in her mind, at least.
Another thing she always did that drove me insane was ask a question of me and then immediately answer it. For instance, “How are you doing today? I bet you’re good.” Like that. Then she’d immediately go off on a ten-minute diatribe about the weather or any other topic she’d called me about. Drove me to distraction because you could never get a word in. One day a few months ago my daughter pointed out that I was getting like grandma. I asked how? And she said you just asked me a question and then answered it. We laughed about it, but in reality I was a little flustered.
Again, knowing why she did this explained so much to me. My stepfather is not and has never been what you’d call a talkative man. He is deeply quiet to the point you think he is mute if you don’t know him. Underlying depression had always been my diagnosis, but what do I know? I’m not a shrink. My mother was the alpha in the relationship. She would ask him questions or try to engage him in conversation, but most of the time he gave non-verbal answers. When I lived at home I didn’t notice this as much because she had me to talk to – or talk at, as the case is. But once they were empty nesters, his silence became obvious so it was up to my mother to keep the conversation going.
One of the nurses in the nursing home said she was a chatty Cathy. Well, here’s the reason why.
Today, I’m thinking of all the times I was short with my mother, lost my temper, or said things I really should have thought about before speaking. Guilt doesn’t come close to what I’m feeling right now.
I could have been such a better daughter. I could have listened more; not judged; been more tolerant.
I could have been…nicer.
I could have been…more loving.
Even saying all this I know my mother loved me above all else. She told me every single time she spoke with me.
Every. Single. Time.
One last thing that used to drive me cray-cray was that she never said Goodbye. At the end of every phone call or personal visit, she would say, “My love to you all.” I don’t know why it bothered me, but it did, so one day, about a year ago, I asked her why she always ended a conversation with me like that.
Her answer was, again, very enlightening.
My grandfather died, suddenly, of a heart attack when my mother was 9. He went off to work after kissing his girls goodbye and saying “goodbye” and then never came back home. Doesn’t take a genius or a psychiatrist to understand why the word was one she couldn’t bear to use.
There’s still so much about my mother and her life and her thoughts I don’t know. I’ll never get the answers now… I’m putting that one away someplace, too. It truly is too much to bear right now…