Wednesday, February 27, 2002

Jumping in with both feet

Growing up, I thought my mother was perfect. Not just thought. I really believed it. And not just when I was growing up, but until I was 36. That's when I had my own child and the separation began, discord sharp as shrapnel, cutting at our relationship one bond at a time.

Some daughers--those without the baggage of their father dying at 36, leaving a wife to raise 3 small children, me only 5--separate from their mothers a bit sooner than their third decade. I think those are the healthy situations. In my case, I remember kneeling at my bedside every evening from the age of 6 to 16, cloaked in Catholic guilt, fear, blame, worry, begging God that if he should decide to take my mother, then to please take me too. Pleading with Him not to leave me without a parent--especially without my mother. My protector, friend, lifeline. I had lost so early and hard that the knowledge it could happen again, any second, was terrifying and remains so.

I don't think I ever really stopped wishing that--even if I did stop praying for it--until I became a mother. The analogies are many and stunning. The cutting of my daughter's umbilical cord set off a chain reaction that cut me loose from my perfect-mother fantasy. And it was violent. And it was terrifying. It has been everything I prayed for it not to be. So there.

Then there was my post-partum brush with death, and how my not dying killed something between my mother and I--at the least wounding us both in places that don't heal. Maybe ever.

So I struggle. To understand my mother, whom I love dearly, and the person she has become--the person she used to warn me about: "If I ever get to be like that you'd better tell me! And I mean it!" And the irony is stunning: I can't tell her because she's not who she was. She's that person.

With 40 just around the corner for me, and 70 just around the corner for my mother, we struggle to find our new places, not wanting to hurt but not bearing to share, care, or be as we were. I'm sickened by it, but right now there is no answer.

Except to ask each of you, if we are here blogging together 20 years from now, and I get "like that," you'd better tell me.

And I mean it.