When you’re young, you think you know everything.
As the daughter of my Mom, there was a distinct point in time when I couldn’t fathom why she made the decisions she did. Based on my life experience up until that point — which was maybe, junior high or high school — I couldn’t wrap my brain around her. Her decisions, even the words that came out of her mouth. None of it made sense. I knew better. I thought I always knew better.
We were a study in incompatibility. She held a high bar… as did I. It seemed that both of us couldn’t quite measure up.
The whole raising me to be a free-thinking, independent person may not have worked in her favor during my early teen years.
Ah, teenage angst. It was tough. Enter early adulthood awakenings and the formation of what I thought adults should be and it was a cauldron of searing judgements and frustration…mainly coming from me. (I wasn’t easy.)
And then time went on. And I grew up. I got married and had a baby. And I also remember that exact moment when I was rocking my newborn baby girl…
…sitting in that rocking chair…
…as the daughter of my Mom…
…and I remember that distinct point in which I no longer held any judgement on why she made the decisions she did…
…in fact, it occurred to me that before me, and even after, my Mom was a woman with feelings and life experiences and thoughts and dreams and goals and passions and interests and beliefs…
…I realized that my sweet Mama, oh, my Mom… she knew all along that one day I’d know what she knew…
…that she loved me with all of her heart and wanted nothing but the best for me. That she did the best she could, with what she had, at that time.
And that’s the circle.
At least it was for me.
With my Mom, I ran the natural timleine of emotions that I suppose a daughter runs:
I was in love with her and she was beautiful and perfect… then slowly the facade cracks and the child starts to press, and press, and press… craving boundaries and safety and most importantly, autonomy. She pushed back. I pushed harder. She pushed harder. There were disagreements and periods of silence. There was crying… oh, so much crying. There were arguments. Doors slamming. Rules. Broken rules. Sigh… We didn’t get along. Not much. There was the “I love you, but I don’t particularly like you…” But… during all of this time, just to make it that much more complicated… she was sick… and it’s really hard to hate your sick mom. Especially when she’s the only parent you have. And as time went on… the iciness, as it always did, especially when she was sick… it dissipated until it just sort of became a memory.
We fought when we had energy and when it seemed like she’d live forever.
When it got a little scary, we retracted and were kind… because I think underneath we both knew how precious life was.
Tomorrow, the Ides of March, will commemorate, er… signify… um… mark? Whatever. The 15th of March will mean that it’s been 27 years since my Dad died.
I’ve lived a solid percentage of my life without him in it and there have been years when this anniversary would come and I’d feel… nothing. And there were years when I’d weep for what wasn’t.
I cried for conversations that never happened.
I cried because he didn’t get to see my sing in the choir concert.
I cried because I had no one to give the Father’s Day craft to.
As I got older, I wept at the milestones and for them: high school graduation, college graduation… marriage. Oh, the marriage one was tough.
I’ve cried that he didn’t get to meet my husband.
I’ve cried that he didn’t get to meet my sweet girls.
Today, I’ll be honest with you… I’m sad because we don’t have a story.
I have this story with my Mom. But with him? It’s different.
We just don’t have it.
He died when things were still childlike and wonderful. (Which, some might say is a blessing… and I agree. It is.) I didn’t have a pattern with him like I did my Mom. There were’t really any conflicts or differences. There was just a 10-year-old little girl and her Dad, who battled cancer and then died.
End of story.
But… there’s not any depth. There are no stories. I didn’t get to create a relationship with him, as an adult. I don’t know what his childhood was really like. What kind of student was he? How was his childhood? I don’t know if he liked peanut butter. (I’m assuming that as my Dad he did.)
I do know that he liked tea. Which is why I drink tea.
I also know that he liked SNL. Which is why I watch SNL.
It’s funny how you cling to what you remember and you weave it into your story.
I’d like to think that when our parents die, or anyone for that matter, but especially the ones we are deeply connected to… I’d like to believe that they can still tune in and see what’s going on with us if they chose. I’d like to think that he knows what I look like, who I am and what his granddaughters are like.
I also like to think that he met my girls before they were given to me. Does that sound hokey and implausible? I don’t even care. I’d like to think that he met my girls before I did. I think that connections span life and death. I have a friend who grew up not knowing her grandma because she passed before she was born… but she’s always felt a an unexplained closeness to her…
I’d like to think that even though we didn’t get to know one another as adults, that when we do meet again, we’ll immediately connect and we’ll hug and we’ll sit and all the years that have passed will melt away in that second.
I hope he recognizes me… and I hope he has that amazing hair that I remember.
These days I seldom reflect on being a parentless child. For the love, I’m nearly 38 years old. I’m not a child. Still, it’s funny how as the years go on and the memories lose their clarity, the emotion is still there. The hole, it never quite closes up.
The grief, it doesn’t go away, it merely changes shape.
When I was little I had a favorite blanket. It was my “silky.” It was yellow and cotton and along the four sides there was a “silky” edge that I’d rub my fingers on as I fell asleep. It calmed me. Over time, that poor blanket, got thinner and thinner… I’m not even sure where it went. But I remember it, the comfort it brought me…
Today, I hold on just as tightly to my memories of my Dad. The memories are just as comforting as that silky edge of my blankie. I hold even tighter to my siblings, whom in their voices and laughs and mannerisms make me feel like I’m closer to him.
I am so thankful for the blanket of warm memories. I’m thankful that he was here and that he was mine.