Gone are the days of dancing the Twist with my mom in the living room. My infant sister (the last of five girls) sleeping in the next room. Those early years of my childhood spent playing outside in the summer with my sisters and neighbor kids are still vivid in my mind. Mom always inside cleaning, cooking and doing general housewife duties for that era. They were good days and my parents were living the life they had dreamed about as a young married couple on the other side of WWII. The American dream.
A few years later and that dream life began to slowly crumble. Piece by piece it fell into a state of arguments and disarray. Nights of dancing and music were replaced with screaming at each other and violence. Mom had always worked a small part time job at night for a little extra money. She always made sure we had nice church clothes and holiday outfits. Her daughters were not going anywhere looking unkept. Appearances were everything and so was behavior. When we visited at someone’s home they need not have ever put fragile items away from our reach. Ever. We were taught manners and respect from day one.
My mother’s lessons included teaching us civically. Had things been different I believe my mom would have joined the Civil Rights Movement. She saw people as people, nothing more and nothing less. Mom had personal experience with discrimination when she became engaged to my father. When her grandmother found out that mom was going to marry an Italian Catholic and converted to Catholicism she was disowned by her grandmother who was devout Methodist. And anti Italian.
I’m just going to say that the breakup of my parents created many horrible circumstances. It was a very rough bunch of years for five sisters but in those years were more lessons. The greatest being how to survive. How to deal with a new life. How to move on after trauma and heartbreak. We each made huge mistakes with our lives but we managed to either correct them or deal with them.
Dad moved on, mom moved on and we moved on for the most part without them. About two years before dad died I made peace with him and we became very close. I actually lived with him for a while and it was wonderful. He’d make me a lunch that would pack nicely on my bicycle that I rode to work. My sisters kept their distance but loved him also.
Mom found a new man and settled down again. He was a poor replacement for our dad. I now had a sister in Seattle, a sister on a Naval Base in CA, and two younger sisters at home with mom and her new man. I would come and go because I was young and wanted to be free. I couldn’t be held down. Then one day I was put on a plane and sent to live with my sister in Seattle. More trauma. My sisters husband was a Vietnam Vet with severe substance abuse issues. After a few months we packed up the tiny little car we owned and headed back east. The party was over. Once they realized his dream of moving to Ireland was a dumb one they headed back to Seattle and left me behind. Again.
There were few conversations with my mother and lots of resentment. My sisters and I spent many years frustrated and angry with her. Decades. Once she and her now husband split it didn’t ever change how we felt about her. She had become helpless in her own mind, demanding and needy in ours. Whenever we would visit her there was always a long list “do this for me” waiting for us and very little conversation.
Slowly approaching her 80’s things with mom began to change. She would forget water running in her kitchen or bathtub. Little things like that. She started falling and would not tell us. She stopped taking showers and would only wash up at the sink. Eventually we moved her (against her will) into a senior housing complex. She lost her eyesight and most of her hearing during her time there. No longer able to read or knit or figure out how to play music on a machine she’d had for years. That lasted about two years at most and we had to take the next step to Assisted living. She could no longer care for herself or be trusted to take her medication correctly. Mom made it almost one year there and then had a stroke. That’s when things spiraled out of control. With one daughter still living in Seattle, one daughter with horrible resentment issues, one daughter who completely disconnected from her by choice that left two of us to work through the maze of getting her into Skilled Nursing.
I think I am very lucky to have come to terms with the past and am now able to return to the love for my mother. It was a process and not easy but I think all of those lessons learned from childhood played a huge role in learning to truly forgive. From my very core. I no longer resent her, no longer have anger towards her. I have chosen to remember all of the good and wonderful moments with my mom.
Mom is on Hospice care now. Her brain function is limited and bouts of dementia and delusions are her normal. She is a body void of life just waiting her turn to summoned to the heavens. Watching her go through this “final phase of her journey” on earth has been extremely difficult. At best. For the past year in my sleep I hear my mother call my name. Sometimes it’s unnerving and sometimes it’s comforting but regardless all signs are pointing to her leaving. Will it be a relief or will it be devastating? Or both?
Yesterday I went to her on what I am sure will be the Last Mother’s Day. May all that was good be all that’s remembered.