13 January 2011

Motherless mom

Since I have had Kara I have learned just how valuable having a mom is.  No one can replace the ability to talk about parenting with the woman who raised you.  You can surround yourself with other moms, you can have a great mother-in-law, but it doesn't replace or make up for not having the woman who parented you there.   Sometimes she left your life early, sometimes later.  You may have known her really well or not at all, but you still feel her absence. 

I often have mini conversations with my mom.  I will ask her "how did you do this?  how did you get through everything?"  In my head I will hear a reply of "I just did."  But I know that her real reply would have been much longer, much more thought out and caring.  I'm sure it would have included at least one "oh, babe" or a gentle knowing smile.  Sure I can ask my dad how things went, but the answer is not the same as it would be from her. 

Not everything with mom was sunshine and rainbows.  I don't want readers to think that she was always a great mom.  Hell is putting it mildly some of the things she put us through.  Mom drank, a lot, frequently.  Starting in about 5th grade or so she was absent from my life more than not.  She had some amazing clear moments and times. And then life was so wonderful!  Not because she wasn't drunk but because she, genuinely, was a fantastic woman.  I even remember my entire senior year of high school with great fondness in part because she was sober for almost the entire year!  But past that and she was drunk.  Drinking is what killed her.  She was drunk, she fell and got a concussion.  I am glad I no longer have to deal with the drunk.  But I miss the woman, and especially the mom, she really was.

So back to being a motherless mother.  When you don't have that one person to turn to how do you cope?  Why is it that getting advice from people who aren't Mom just isn't as true, real or important?  Is it the title or the fact that this woman grew you, raised you, and then left?  Does it make it any more painful if she left early in your life?  or later?  I don't think the duration of her presence is that important, you still feel the loss.  You still notice the gaping hole that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot fill, patch over or ignore.

I sometimes wonder if my children are anything like I was.  Did my mom often watch me and see her behaviors reflected back? How did she try to adjust her own behavior to help me erase the bad ones and keep the good ones?  Did she ever struggle to figure out my own sleep behavior and get it to match what she needed from me?  I know my dad can fill in some of the gaps, but somehow it isn't the same as hearing it from her. 

I have a large collection of my mom's writing.  Some of it was creative, some was journals.  In the 11 and a half years she's been gone I have read through some of it maybe 7 times.  I keep hoping that when I do get a chance to look through it I'll find some piece that mentions me, her struggles, her choices. A guide almost to how she parented.  But I also fear what I may find in all those pages.  I don't know if it's content or lack thereof that I fear the most.

I look at my girls and I feel a strong resolve to make sure I'm healthy and around as long as possible.  I want to be here for them when/if they go through their own mothering crisis.  I don't want them to have to imagine me saying "I just did" or "oh, babe".  I want them to be able to use whatever new technologies exist then to contact me and hear me say "I struggled through it.  I had some really rough times.  But then you'd turn to me and smile or hug me and I knew then that all the rough times must surely be worth it".

As a resource for others going through this.  Please check out Hope Edelman's books "Motherless Daughters" and "Motherless Mothers".  While I have not had the funds or chance to read the latter the former was of great benefit to me. You can find out more about her on her site  http://www.hopeedelman.com/

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