I just finished having dinner with my mother as I do just about every evening. I do most of the cooking. She tends to leave the oven on or burners burning. For those of you who haven't caught this on my blog, she's 86 (a widow since 1984); I retired at 60, moved her up near me and then moved into an apartment across the hall from her. She's still doing OK, pretty much, except for bad arthritis and the other aches and pains and deteriorations of aging.
I left home at 17 to get away from her cyncism, negativism, and paranoia. I never really went back to her home, except for a few days during various college vacations. So, here I am, sitting across from the mother who has only gotten worse in those qualities I have worked so hard to keep from damaging my own psyche. Why? Because it's the right thing for me to do right now. I just hope that I survive intact.
On the other side of the sandwich, I wasn't the greatest of mothers all of the time. I spent the late 1970s through the 80s (after my divorce) experimenting with who I wanted to be, professionally, socially, politically, sexually. My kids, I think, suffered in the short run from my self-indulgences. My now-pregnant-for-the-first-time 39-year-old married daughter and I have been having conversations about mothering -- mine and hers. In the long run, it seems that I managed to empower my own kids in ways my mother never empowered hers. I made my own mistakes as a mother (and those did affect my kids) but I didn't make any of hers, and for that I'm grateful -- mostly to my therapist. Somewhere along the line I forgave my mother for not being what I needed her to be. She'll never understand that, and that's OK. I know that I've been -- and continue to be -- a better mother than she was. I have tried to respect who my kids are apart from me, and I still do my best to give them whatever support they need to become who they want to be. Long ago, I wrote a poem about Roots and Wings. If I can find it, I'd like to post it here. It's relevant.
Occasionally I hear my mother words coming out of my mouth. But I catch myself and shift myself into reverse. That's the difference between us.
My story is different from Jeneane's because my mother was never my lifeline, and I had to embrace that role for my own self early on. But our ties to our mothers, I guess, will always be there. I thought I severed mine, yet here I am; Jeneane struggles to somehow keep hers, and there she is. Our places, paved with hurts, misunderstandings, failures, and disillusionment, are not that different.