The Dearly Departed: A Mother’s Day Musing

Next week will be the first Mother’s Day I’ve experienced with my mother on the other side of “the veil.”

At this point–with a week to go before the big event, I don’t know which is worse: the Photo Shopped confections of familial delight (so much pink!) or the rants about how Mother’s Day is capitalist b.s. that marginalizes people who have horrible or dead (or horrible and dead) mothers.

It seems to me that everyone is missing a good opportunity here to contemplate what motherhood means, in all its complexity and nuance.

I’ve written a fair amount about my mom over the last few years, especially in the wake of her death last August. While she was alive, I worked really hard not to embarrass her or disclose so much about her or our relationship as to create trouble.

The reality is that we didn’t always get along. She’d have told you that herself, of course. She’d have said I was intense and high-energy as a kid, prone to falling hard for some boy that would never, ever reciprocate. I didn’t rebel in my teens–she wouldn’t allow it–so my rebellion came later, in my twenties, when I began to reveal more of my own identity, my own opinions.

She didn’t always approve of what I had to say then. She didn’t always approve seldom approved of my chosen relationships. She was, I see even in hindsight, totally wrong-headed in her approach to me during that time. She wanted to keep me under her thumb, her influence, right as I was struggling to fly.

Still, for all the frustrations of my early adult years, a decade later I elected to walk alongside her during her last days, to do her bidding, to honor her requests. Things like escorting her to the ER at 3 AM and representing her in Medicare/Medicaid appeals, while stressful and something of a learning curve, fit better my Type-A personality. Picking up her favorite fried okra? Not a problem. But if I never have to explain twice to another hospital nurse on the same shift that my elderly loved one’s hearing is just fine, thank you, I’ll be good.

Mother’s Day brings around lots of memes and sentimental remarks, and of them all the ones that bug me most of all are the maudlin ones wistful for “just one more hour” with a deceased mother. In a near-year of grief, I’ve never felt a longing for another hour or day. That isn’t to say that I don’t miss my mother because I do. But I also told myself when I began providing her with eldercare support–marginalizing my own personal and professional ambitions to shore up her emotional and legal needs–that those years were the final phase of our journey as a mother-daughter dyad. When I got to the other side–when she left this world, I didn’t want to have regrets or a list of “if onlys.” We’d part as tender souls, but with our own, new and separate trajectories at last.

In my heart, I believe she feels the same way.

There was a point last summer when I told a friend that it was time to put down my “Mother’s Warrior” armor and take on the robes of a priestess. I clued into the fact that my mother needed me to help her take those final steps home. Indeed, in her last days she experienced a deep spiritual crisis and, blessedly, I found the right words to soothe her. In so doing, I also reconnected with my own deepest spiritual beliefs–a story that is too precious yet to tell.

Perhaps it was that incident however that has shifted my perception of our relationship from one of mother-daughter to fellow travelers who, for over four decades, shared one of life’s most precious bonds. Speaking as someone on her own journey, I like to imagine Mom out there beyond the earth’s boundaries, twirling around stars and constellations. Could that be a fantasy born out of having a parent with a physical disability? Maybe the idea of her moving freely is at the root of that vision. Or maybe, as a mother myself, I see her liberated from the worries and frustrations–the weights–of motherhood and can now do and see all that she longs to do.

Still, every so often I do stumble upon her presence, as sharp and as clear a sensation as if she were standing before me again, in vibrant youth. This week, I’m sure she was hovering around my local nursery, checking out some hypertufa water troughs tucked beneath colorful containers of coleus and hanging ferns. When I notice her presence, I’m filled with the overwhelming sense that she doesn’t want me weepy or sad but rather to feel what I believe she feels: intense joy at the wonders of the universe.

While I honor my mother and her memory, I will mostly celebrate this week her spiritual rebirth, her freedom from the mortal coil, the constraints of all those cultural expectations about her womanhood, her motherhood, and even the confines of her relationship to me.

I like to think it is perhaps the finest Mother’s Day gift I will ever give her.

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The Dearly Departed: A Mother’s Day Musing

{Guest Post with a Ginger Cat} “Home with Henry” by Anne Kaier

Anne Kaier, author of "Home with Henry," guests posts for RedWhiteandGrew.com

Today I’m delighted to guest host author Anne Kaier who has a new book out this summer. If you’d like to purchase a copy of her new book, you are invited to use my Amazon Affiliate link.

I started writing my memoir Home with Henry while my ginger cat Henry still quivered under my bed. He’d been a feral cat. I’d rescued him from sure death on a busy suburban road. As far as I knew, he had little experience of humans. I had no experience of untamed cats. How could I get him to trust me and come out from his hiding place? I kept a journal in small spiral notebooks, noting down each small step in his progress.

Every evening and often at work, I scrawled in a notebook, finding comfort in the physical act of pushing a pen across the lined paper. When I’d finished the daily entry, I’d sprint across the hall to share it with another copywriter, my coworker, Lynn. One morning after Henry had been with me for two weeks and still hid under the bed, I burst into Lynn’s office in our ad department. “Guess what Henry did last night,” I said. “Instead of arching his back, he rested his head on his paws and looked steadily at me.”

“That’s an intimidation technique,” Lynn explained, tapping a pencil against her stylish hairdo. “I don’t think you’re getting very far with this taming business.”

Our conversations went into my notebook, too. Although I don’t, as a rule, keep a journal, this project of taming Henry fascinated me. Perhaps I wanted to encourage myself. Keeping careful, exuberant notes helped. Eventually, my journal filled four spiral notebooks which lay in a drawer for several years. Then an editor at a small Philadelphia publisher offered to publish my tale. My journals, which had to be turned into a book, had the immediacy of a story unfolding since I didn’t know how the story would end as I was keeping the notes. Would Henry stay under the bed forever? Would he find it impossible to get used to human beings and just scuttle around in the spare room for years? When I worked on the book, I had the answers to these questions, but I decided to keep the journal entry format, so the reader would have as much excitement and apprehension as I did while I lived through the events my book described. It took me two rewrites to get the book into shape, to clarify the story line and check the details. But rereading my journal entries and working on the book brought the events of those days vividly to mind. I’d brought a small frightened feral cat home. Very gradually, he stopped hissing and spitting, learned to trust a human being, and revealed his deep and genuine sweetness.

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This post is the first spot on Anne’s tour for her book. Other stops in coming weeks include:

June 30:  https://storycirclenetwork.wordpress.com/

July 1:  http://judyalter.com/

July 2:  http://www.MochasMysteriesMeows.com

July 3:  http://consciouscat.net/

July 4:  http://www.bloodredpencil.com and http://www.marianallen.com

July 5:  http://joyceboatright.blogspot.com/

July 6:  http://maryannwrites.com/

July 7:  http://womensmemoirs.com/

 

{Guest Post with a Ginger Cat} “Home with Henry” by Anne Kaier