Like Mother, Like Daughter

 
via Flickr

via Flickr

 

This time of year is hard for me. My mom passed away a week before Mother’s Day four years ago. We were estranged until she became very ill a few weeks before her death. Our Mother's Day ritual in the years before: I'd send flowers a day late then send her response direct to voicemail. 

It hurts, physically, to repeat the cliche, to tell you to love and appreciate your parents now, because time is shorter than you know. 

It hurts because yes, obviously, you should. I should have. I tried. 

And it hurts because I did love and appreciate her. Estrangement and discomfort aren’t the opposite of love. 

We were estranged, on some level, because we loved each other too much. We were too alike to survive in the same airspace. We didn't fight so much as take up each other's oxygen. 

When she died, I was just beginning the journey that has taught me to make room for other people, to make myself right-sized. I was changing in ways that would have made it easier for us to have a real relationship, if we'd had the time.

It would be easy to regret that I didn't start that journey sooner, that I could have been both big and small enough to fit into her life before she died. 

But the great irony of her death is that in order to fully love her for who she was, I can't wallow in what might have been. Of course I have spun out fantasies where we synergized our mental health, where my growth prompted her growth and we wind up finishing each others' sentences in a way that's totally not annoying and texting each other cute cat photos with no passive aggressive asides whatsoever. Where our Christmas gifts to each other don't come with unwritten commentary and warnings. Where we can hold each other without either of us flinching away.

But when she died, I was still wrestling with myself. She was wrestling with something even bigger, and it took her from me.

So I have had to learn to love her without either of us changing. I will get no new memories, no better birthdays, no more chances to call her on Mother's Day. I have had to learn to love her in the memories I have. I have had to learn to love her exactly as she was, which is to say, exactly as I was. 

She never loved herself very much, and until relatively recently, I didn't love myself much either. Today, I have to love her -- and myself -- enough for the both of us.