Friday, May 24, 2013

Regrets and New Beginnings

On the eve of my Mom's funeral,  I am finding myself with a lot of time to think.  I'm not necessarily convinced that this is a good thing.   Mostly now I find myself thinking about Wednesday night.  After we met with Father Mike to finalize the funeral plans, I headed over to my brother's house.  We had my Mom's urn and and an electric engraving pen.   The plan was that each of us would engrave a message to Mom on the urn.

I was having trouble coming up with something to say.   What element of my relationship with my Mom was the most meaningful and enduring?  Then I remembered something that my very good friend had said to me, not too long ago.  So, I wrote this on the urn:   "Dear Mom,  Thank you for gifting me with your independent spirit.  Love, Tina."

Looking back over my life and my relationship with her,  I feel as though I was raised to be in the periphery of my family, and when I reached adulthood, it was very difficult for me to be honest with my mother about how I felt about that.  "I love you" were three words that were not easy for any of us to say over the years.  Looking back, we were busy raising our own families, but we always made time for Mom.   The question I have for myself now is  - is it enough to "make time" as though it were some terrible chore?  Shouldn't I have willingly wanted to spend time with her?  Was I an unappreciative, ungrateful child, or was I the product of my upbringing?  Am I the prototypical selfish American child?

During the last 10 years of her life, my mother lost all of her filters and it felt to me as though every critical thought that she had been harboring during my adult life came tumbling out of her mouth unchecked.   My weight, Mandy's weight, Bill's temper and his sloppy work habits, and increasingly, Dick and I spending way too much time on things and causes other than her.  My lack of domestic skills were one of her favorite targets.  If I am going to be totally honest, she was always outspoken, but  her final years were over the top, and it is extremely difficult to remember her being any other way.  I wonder now if that was unfair to her.    And the answer to that question is that I just don't know.  I have told my daughter repeatedly not to hesitate to tell me when I start sounding like my Mom.   The truth is that if I were to start acting like her, I would not blame my daughter for just "making time for me".

Dick's words on the urn?... "Thank you for the unconditional acceptance."   I had an idea of what their relationship had been like when my parents first married, but seeing and hearing these words felt like someone bludgeoned me with a club.  Sally echoed his sentiments (because she, too, received unconditional acceptance from my parents), but all I could do was sit there with my mouth open.  I wanted so badly to be able to echo his feelings, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  After an awkward silence, he said "of course, my circumstances were different than yours".  All I could say was that she had high standards and that I think I lived up to most of them.

The fact is that I did get my independent spirit from my Mom.  I didn't use it in the same way that she did - most of the time I completely stifled it - and that was probably at the root of her many disappointments with me.   By the time that I even knew that I had this spirit,  I think it was too late for us and our relationship.  The question becomes - where do I go from here?  What do I do with it now and for the rest of my life?  

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