October 24, 2023

Moms: Grief and Gratitude

Last week was a tough week. Nothing outwardly calamitous happened to me, it was just a week of reminders and anniversaries of not so great things. 

My mom died on October 20, 2021. I had been thinking about her, and our relationship, as I do when something like her birthday or Mothers Day comes around. About ten years before she died I felt her pushing me away a bit. She didn't want to answer tough questions or talk about difficult subjects anymore. I resorted to simple, low stakes conversations about my kids, my work, her retirement activities, etc. in order to connect with her. When she developed full blown dementia, four years before she died, I couldn't help feeling ripped off. I still had so many questions to ask her, so many things I would have liked answered. Now, when I look back on my perception of her pushing me away, I recognize it, along with some other indicators, as the beginnings of the slow cloud of dementia starting to cover her thought processes. She simply lacked the capacity to 'go deep' with me any longer. 

I loved my mom. She was a good mom for the most part, and I miss her. I wish she had been tougher on me, and fought for me a little harder. I gave up on things too easily, was too flighty. Maybe she had her reasons, but I could have done with a bit more coaching. I took that into my own practice of motherhood, and perhaps I overdid it a little with my own kids. (Violin practice was almost the death of my son and me a few times.) I was a fairly typical GenX hippie kid,  left to my own devices and allowed to honour my whims for the most part. My family went through some really tough times during my upbringing, and I think I paid a bit of the price for that. My mom was a hard worker, an intellectual, a philosophical person and somewhat of a local celebrity. She was a lot to live up to, and thinking about her often leads me to facing stuff about myself and becoming conflicted. Still, we were close, and she was great in so many ways that I forgive her for any and all shortcomings she may have demonstrated in mothering me. On our last visit together, when she was able to walk downtown with me, I took her to a lovely craft store full of handmade, artistic creations. We walked around the store hand in hand, looking at pottery, jewelry, woodwork, ironwork, and fiber arts. She couldn't say much, but I could tell she was enjoying looking with me, and holding my hand. We held hands a lot on that visit, and I hold on to that memory when I am missing her most. 

There are other ways the week was a tough one, but I won't go into that now. When some personal hard things are in progress, we prefer to talk about them only once they are resolved.

Saturday night my husband and I had tickets to a band we have seen several times, The Paperboys. After a hard and emotional week, I was ready to let my hair down and have a good time. Our son had given us a gift certificate to the local Greek restaurant months before, so we decided to go all out and go out for supper as well. Mojitos go well with Greek food, I found out. After supper we quickly took the leftovers of our generous 'Greek Platter for Two' home and put them in the fridge. We drove to the hall where the concert was to take place and quickly found a table at the back. We were soon invited to sit with some friends who were seated closer to the stage, which would be less of a trek to and from the dance floor. After a couple of songs, my husband and I, and one of our good friends, got up to dance. The Paperboys' music is an enticing blend of Celtic-inspired Folk, Rock, Jazz, with Latin roots - very danceable. We only sat down for the ballads to catch our breath and quench our thirst. At one point, Tom Landa, the band's leader for all of their thirty years as a group, introduced his mother. He said she had been coming to their gigs and supporting them unequivocally for all of those thirty years. "If you want to know what support looks like, she is it," he said to an appreciative crowd. Tom's mom looked about eighty, but she danced all night. After the encore, because of course there was an encore, we were all cheering our hearts out. Tom's mom was right next to me. She caught me up in a surprise hug, and I was so honoured. I suppose she could see how much we were enjoying the band, and her son, and wanted to share the moment with us? I'm not sure, but it felt great. We chatted for a minute or so, and I thought how lucky she was to have a son like Tom, but also how lucky he was to have a mom like her. I remembered how my mom and I used to go dancing to my brother's band back in the late 1980's.

Motherhood is a journey, that's for sure. Most of us do our best and we still screw it up sometimes. We can also be hard on our moms, but, I think as we get older and have our own kids and our own trials as moms, we understand our own mothers just a little bit better. We may even feel a kind of solidarity with them. I heard it said in a movie once: "Even people who hate their mothers love their mothers". I certainly didn't hate mine, and I am eternally grateful for all the support she gave me over the years. 

Until next time, 


1 comment:

  1. Oh Rebecca. Our relationships with our mothers are complicated, for sure! I have been drafting a blog about my own mom who passed away this last July. We had a complicated relationship which most often manifested itself in not much of a relationship at all. The hardest part for me in her passing is that there will never be the opportunity for it to grow, for me to know her and, hardest for me, for her to know me and my family. An extremely thought-provoking piece of writing. Thanks for sharing your words and your heart!


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