Sunday, April 26, 2009

Motherhood ...

Have I told you how much I LOVE being a grandma? Yes , I know I have ... several times, right? The old joke "if I'd known grand kids were going to be so much fun, I'd had them first!" I feel that God gives us grandchildren to 'make up' for all the mistakes we make when we're parents. I have a myriad of guilt feelings about my maternal 'skills.' "I did the best I could with what I had at the time" ... some of those times weren't very good, though. It isn't that I didn't love my children ... I love/loved them more than words could ever say. But there were times ... too many times, I fear, where I had difficulty showing them my love. There were times when I was not 'there' for them ... oh, physically I was present, but emotionally I was often absent. I was a 'reactive' mother, I was a screamer. I was not consistent, it was 'easier' to give in to them than make them mind or stop whining. I didn't even know about 'time out' back then! I was young, having had two children by the time I was only 22 years old. I blamed my failures of mothering on the fact that I did not have a mother role model. My mother did not have a role model, either. And so the 'vicious cycle' continued to spin out of control for years.

My childhood was not a 50s sitcom ... there was no cookie baking, PTA member, Girl Scout leader, sewing, cooking, "Leave it to Beaver" mother ... it was what it was. My mother was an alcoholic ... she had a hair-trigger temper and lungs to go with it! She was capable of cutting you to the quick with her razor shape tongue. She had an addictive personality ... first it was alcohol, then it was prescription drugs ... a period of both addictions followed and lastly it was food, especially sweets were her drug of choice. Along the way she was diagnosed with chronic depression, also with schizophrenia at one time and then diagnosed bi-polar another time by one of the many doctors that treated her over the years. She attempted suicide several times and endured electric shock treatments. There was a family intervention and multiple admissions to the psych ward at the hospital. It was what it was. Over the years, I learned that some people probably should never have children and that giving birth does not make you a mother! My mother was a very troubled soul ... she was so unhappy and sought solace in many forms. It took being a parent myself, accepting responsibility for my own actions and several years of therapy before I was able to 'make peace' with my mother. That's when I realized that my mother had done the best she could with what she had at the time.

My mother never got over losing her father when she was barely six years old. In 2005, at the age of 84, her eyes still filled with tears whenever she spoke of her 'daddy.' She died that year, peacefully in her sleep at an Alzheimer's care center. I remember my daughter remarking "Grandma's confusion is over." And indeed while her death was sad, I felt she had been released from this trying world. With my husband's encouragement I can honestly say that my mother and I enjoyed the last ten years of her life. That's not to say that we didn't disagree about some things ... like the pronunciation of the La Quinta motel chain! You see, she was the 'English major' and had a flair for languages. She valued education, devoured books and loved to travel. She was proud of her children and even more so of her grandchildren, although she was never close to my children. As her memory continued to disappear, certain words and names of people were difficult for her to summon. We would talk (long distance) a couple of times a week, but always on Sundays. The Duck would laugh at me, saying he knew I had been on the phone with my mother, because I seemed to always understand what she was trying to say when others could not ...and I would continue to talk in her 'shorthand' speech pattern after we had hung up ... leaving out names or nouns such as "they wanted to but didn't but it's okay" ... ( that was short for "Pops and Mother wanted to go out to dinner, but the weather was awful and they couldn't drive, but they had a nice meal at the center and it was great") ... it could be very confusing. My stepfather and half-sister lived in the same state as the center and therefore carried the heavy burden of Mother's demands, confusion during visits as well as all of the complaints she would repeat ... over and over again. She had absolutely no patience ... she wanted it yesterday! Because of this tension, my mother would tell me that 'they' were in cahoots with each other and against her! Once when she was trying to tell me how 'they' didn't listen to her, she struggled to find her words and finally blurted out "two of a bird!" When I started laughing, she grinned sheepishly and joined me in a very cathartic laughing spree. My mother was so many different things ... good things, she was not evil ... she was once a very beautiful woman. She could play 'Stardust' and 'The Entertainer' on the piano by memory, she could dance as though she was floating to all kinds of tunes, but she loved the Big Band Era the most. She could run and do handstands well into her 50s. She was a whiz at Scrabble. She could make the best fudge, she wrote beautiful letters. I have chosen to remember those things about my mother.

My grandmother had been a widow with two teenagers when she married my mother's father, a younger man. My grandmother was 39 years old when my mother was born. My grandmother was not demonstrative, there was no cuddling or hugs in the home after my grandfather died. My grandmother, widowed a second time, ran a boarding house with three apartments during the Depression when men could not provide for their families. She was no nonsense, with only an eighth grade education, very business oriented, money was her safety net, her focus ... no pun intended, as she was totally blind by the time my mother was grown. My mother never spoke about love or being close to her mother. And yet, this same woman, my grandmother spoiled me ... taught me about unconditional love, "favored" me over the other grandchildren. She was the reason I became a nurse ... she was my 'anchor' in an unruly sea. I lived with my grandmother from age 3 when my parents divorced until I was 9 years old when my mother remarried for a third time. That marriage would have lasted 50 years had my mother lived for another month in 2005.

I have rambled on far too long and only scratched the surface. I wanted to give you some background before telling you about an amazing mother that I know. She is an 'older' mother, never did any babysitting growing up, was never around babies. She never talked about having children, wouldn't hold babies when they were pushed towards her. She didn't have a great role model for being a mother, but after becoming a psychotherapist, she remarked that her childhood and upbringing were so much more 'normal' than any she had seen during her career. She is sensitive, kind, loving and deeply understanding. She is intelligent and beautiful inside and out. She has a young daughter of her own now. She doesn't raise her voice, she isn't negative, she is consistent, so patient and loving. My eyes fill with tears when I watch how she interacts with her daughter and my heart almost bursts with love for both her and her daughter. A friend wrote that this amazing mother is a rare jewel and indeed she is ... for she has broken the cycle ... she is my daughter and I love her so very much.


Bz said...

Wow... I loved reading this and not because of the kind words that you had to say, but because I learned more about you and your mom and grandmother.
I won't go on here, but I will say one more very important thing.. something that you are wrong on... (sorry)... but, it was YOU that broke the cycle, it was YOU.

Tatersmama said...

I don't know what to say.
I was moved beyond mere words.

I just feel so blessed... to be able to get to know the woman behind my dear friend Bz.