Next month will mark the second anniversary of my mother's death. It's pretty amazing that two years has passed already. A couple of things have happened in the past week that has made me ponder her life, as well as my place in it.
We visited my cousin - our annual visit so that Bill could prepare her tax return. She is 16 years older than me. Many years ago, we were very close. She was especially close to my mother, and last weekend, we were reminiscing about her. All of my older cousins thought that my mother was the best Aunt since, oh I don't know .... Auntie Mame, maybe? I've had difficulty connecting this woman with the person I knew as my mother, but it finally dawned on me that she was not so different from me. I love my daughter and wouldn't trade her for the world, but I knew enough to stop at one child, because I knew in my heart of hearts that one child was as much as I could handle, as a mother. I do not get all mushy with maternal instinct every time I see a baby or toddler. Babies, much like dogs and cats, seem to sense this in people, and rarely have I held someone else's baby that it hasn't started crying almost immediately. Conversely, strange dogs and cats are drawn to me like bees to flowers. I do enjoy playing the role of the "fun Aunt" though. Actually, I love it. So, in this respect it seems that I am my mother's daughter.
I was in an emergency room today for the first time since my mother passed. It felt entirely different than the countless times I'd been in the emergency room with her. Why? Bill commented to my sweet friend that she should feel honored that I went into the room to be with her, since I dislike emergency rooms so much. Hmmmm.... well, this got me to thinking.
I suspect that my mother started losing her will to live when our family started fragmenting and drifting apart from one another. She retreated to the couch in front of the TV and rarely left the house except for church and grocery shopping. The falls started happening about 5 years before she passed - so many times that I lost count. It occurred to me today that with the exception of her final fall in the nursing home when she broke her hip, all she ever injured when she fell was her head. Every single time. Wouldn't you think she might have sprained or broken something else at least once? It was like she never had the instinct to break her fall or protect herself in any way. Of course, this leads inevitably to the question of could I, her only child, have done more for her in her final years? What could I have done so that she might have felt that she had more to live for? Well, I'm not sure I could have done much in a different way. As she so famously told me in a voice mail message once, I needed to "get my head out of my ass, stop living in my own little world, and worry about something besides myself for a change." Nobody would ever accuse my mother of being a modern parent, that's for sure.
No, today was different, because my best friend wants to live and be healthy and whole. Since I've known her, any time she has tripped or fallen, her instinct has been to protect herself from a truly serious injury. I don't know if this is a conscious action or not, but either way, I am grateful for it. And when I found out which emergency room she was in, that emergency room was the only place I wanted to be. It was so unlike my past experiences that it was almost a relief or a validation of some sort.
I wonder what my mother thinks of me, now that she is looking down at me from the afterworld? I no longer feel the burden of trying to gain her approval, and in an odd way, I think that has helped me become someone she would have approved of. Someone who rushes to the emergency room out of genuine concern rather than dread, fear and obligation. Perhaps I've almost succeeded in "getting my head out of my ass". Thank God for giving us free will. The will to let go of past demons. The will to learn new skills that end up enhancing our existing skills in ways we never thought possible. The will to shrivel up and die when we think we have nothing left worth living for. And, the will to live when we know for certain that we have everything to live for.