April 17, 2014 was the one-year anniversary since my mother passed away suddenly of a massive heart attack in the back of a taxi cab. Yes, my mother died alone with a stranger, a poor cab driver who had the misfortune of having someone die in his backseat prior to their arrival at their destination.
Did the driver collect his fare that day? I have often wondered about that small fact. Weird perhaps, but I am curious if he hung around after the attending doctors at the clinic began working to revive my mom on the sidewalk; or if he decided to move on to his next fare with a heavy heart.
At moments when my mind may be strangely idle, I find myself revisiting the day I went to my mother’s senior housing apartment in Fitchburg to take inventory of her assets and prepare to take care of her affairs post-mortem (aka clean up her messes). My mother’s oldest daughter, my half-sister, flew up from North Carolina to “assist” me in taking care of business. Out of kindness and support, my husband accompanied both of us to the high rise building knowing I would need him for a multitude of reasons.
When we unlocked the door to her small apartment, it was as if we walked into a time capsule: the radio was playing, the light was on, breakfast dishes remained on the table, and my mother’s morning blood sugar log remained out and newly updated with the results of her last finger prick. My mother had intentions of coming back home. Welcome to the first of many, unexpected sucker punches to the gut.
As I took a deep breath to alleviate the aforementioned sucker punch, I tried to hold back tears (I do not cry) and remain stoic. My mother and I had a cordial, civil relationship at her death. Despite years of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse – I was now motherless and that kind of hurt in a way I had never planned for.
My mother gave me a priceless gift. A year after her death, the gift of knowing exactly what type of mother I do NOT want to be to my children remains upfront and center. How many of us joke about turning into our mothers as we age and our tendencies mimic the exact behavior we despised as children but coming from our mouths, our mannerisms, and our habits?
When I start to get angry at my children for their antics, a quick visit to not-so-pleasant memory lane allows me to recalibrate myself and parent differently and in a better manner. Thank you, Mom.
When I start to manipulate my children into doing something for me because I am mom and demand they should; I again find myself having a one-on-one conversation with myself about changing my tune or perhaps doing said deed myself because it is not necessary for my children to be manipulated for my purposes. Thank you, Mom.
When I have uncomfortable conversations with my children, perhaps about boundaries, instead of making dad the bad guy, I quickly and firmly announce that their father and I stand together, united, and that is the way decisions in parenting get made around here. Thank you, Mom.
Much like any other injury, a broken-heart heals with the passage of time. On Sunday, May 11th, Mother’s Day – I will be wishing my mom a heavenly Mother’s Day for the inadvertent messages she has gifted me with, as I celebrate Mother’s Day with my own three munchkins.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of you Mommas out there.
Originally posted at my former blog, Confessions Of A Curvy Girl: RIP MOM
So, I am on a vacation with my family – a rare treat, indeed. We are relishing the days of no routine: no work to race to, no after school pick ups, no soccer practices to run to, and more. You know the feeling! Waking up with no agenda, we get to the beach/pool when we can. We pack our snacks and our hydrating beverages when we feel like it. We wear nothing more than lycra bathing suits with mere cover ups as we transfer from beach to pool to condo. It is a luxurious feeling.
And then you get THAT call.
Mid way through my vacation, I received a weird email transcribed by Comcast from a voicemail left for me. I have not been checking my phone, but I have been following the Boston Marathon explosions closely because of my history with running. I was going to blog about my feelings of the terrible event of April 15, 2013. But I got the call today, instead.
The doctor nervously asked me if I had heard about my mother yet. Of course not. What is going on? He sadly and stoically pronounced that she had passed away earlier today.
I stood silently and awkwardly in the cabana pool room of vacation wondering what to feel. My heart hurt, but my brain told me to not feel the pain. My mother just died. I felt conflicted. My internal emotional radar was flashing all alerts red, but my rationale ruled – reminding me that my mother and I have not been close since my cancer diagnosis and that any emotions trying to rear their head were to be surfaced and quashed immediately.
If only that easy.
How would I tell my children that their grandma just died?
My mind raced. I know she does not have a will. She did not plan for stuff. Ever. She just went with it and if there was a mess, well, by gosh darn it, someone would clean it up.
My mind continued to race. Of course. My mother would pass while I am in the midst of a vacation with my family. That would be the ultimate way she could get her negative attention.
My mind went on and on and on. My heart ached with the reality that now both of my parents were gone. I was an “orphan” so to speak. My children, swimming happily in the pool, now questioned their own mother’s whereabouts – who would she be speaking to on the phone for such an extended duration on their devoted vacation time.
My mother passed away today. The woman she was today was not the woman who was my mother. Despite a tumultuous upbringing with what I now know to be a bipolar woman, I did love my mother. I grieved for the loss of my mother when she was living with me and I was her caretaker, along with caring for my father.
Despite a roller coaster childhood, filled with regular beatings and manipulative mind games, I still loved the woman who birthed me. Are we not supposed to love our mother’s unconditionally?
It was only during my own fight for my life – my cancer battle, that I realized that not all mothers are created equal. The mother I longed for, the one who would nurture me and return me to health, along with that of my then unborn child, while we went through horrible bouts of chemotherapy and surgeries and more…..well, she was non-existent.
My mother-in-law stepped up and filled the void, but I would be lying if I said my own mother was one I longed for. I am envious when friends have that nearly sisterly relationship with their moms. However, a year and a half of therapy let me know that it is okay that not all of us have healthy moms – healthy relationships with moms or anything in the remote vicinity.
I was cordial with my mother these past few years. We visited when necessary. The children retained their relationship with her. I kept a safe distance away because the reality of who my mother was to me hurt too much.
I have learned what NOT to be as a mother to MY children. Unconditional love is all they will ever receive from me. Good, bad, indifferent – I am their mother and I will be there for them.
Instead of focusing on the less than stellar memories, I have chosen to focus on the positive. Yes, there are some positives in all of this. Part of who I am today is because of my mother. There are the “Oh, god, did I just say that? I AM my mother!” moments…….and then there are the “Phew, I will never act like that – I am NOT my mother!” moments.
My mother, she struggled with loving herself – so I question her ability to truly and deeply love others. However, I see that she loved my children. I know that deep down inside her core, aside from her mental illness, she did, in fact, love me. She had a very odd, and often times demeaning, way of showing it, but I know she did.
I will start to pick up the pieces and put them away neatly; after all, I am a care taker, I clean up messes, I like organization and stuff all tucked away tightly. I take care of stuff.
I will let the good memories surface, and I will store away the unsightly.
I will hug my children tightly and I will hope that my mother rests in peace on the other side.
Hope M. Pritchard
January 15, 1936-April 17, 2013
Read more here about moving on and forgiving My Mother: