Monday, November 26, 2007

For Our Mother

I always loved my mother at the deepest levels, although I know I did not always feel that way at the surface of things. I may have even told someone (I’m not sure the words ever left my lips but I fear they may have) that I hated her, when I was a teenager. I know I responded very negatively to some of the things she did, but I know now that she had limited control over some of them, and that some of them were side-effects of medicines she needed to take. But this is not one of those stories from someone who’s trying to make peace with a deceased loved one, after the fact. I spent hours with Mom, even before cancer began to steal her energies, wrestling with things that had come between us. On several occasions, we ended up crying and hugging, understanding each other much better, and forgiving each other for hurts and misunderstandings.

I am the last of five children and I’m afraid our father has never fully grasped the depth of reconciliation that Mom and I found in the last ten years or so of her life. He seemed to think that I hurt Mom’s feelings, but I believe we truly were able to work our way through most of the things we had done in the past that caused each other pain, and I know I only think fondly of her now.

Over the years, a few acquaintances, and even a few members of our extended family, treated our mother with a lack of respect, and even with scorn. I always suspected this was in response to her emotional idiosyncrasies. She was very emotional and obsessive/compulsive and all, but little did other people know – at least until recently – that Mother’s foibles have specific, medical labels. They unfortunately also bear stigma, even if less so than in the past. We, her children, have always felt set apart, apparently because of our close association with Mom, and perhaps because we resemble her. It is not that people haven’t been generally cordial, but many have let us know they regarded us differently. I think in some cases they couldn’t even have acknowledged that they felt that way, to say nothing of knowing that they were sending such signals. Perceptions are such elusive things……..

Anyway, it was a lovely surprise, last Friday, when a family friend joined me in walking up the street, and made a point of saying that they missed my mother, even though she’d died seven years before. In the course of conversation, I remarked that some folks thought Mom was a “strange bird” and this friend reminded me that my mother’s love was never in doubt, and that it always flowed freely from her. This friend said “we go back a long way, don’t we?” It was my pleasure to concur.

Even in this time of Muslim-bashing and Christian fundamentalism gone amok – it would be no surprise to Mom that this Muslim (ZR) friend would have recognized her love for people, for all living things, and for beautiful things like sunsets…….she was that sort of woman.

G. Douglas Clarke March 20, 2005


Barb Crumb said...

Dear Doug,
With tears running down my cheeks, I want to thank you for this entry. It was nice to think about Mom in a realistically positive light. I often heard you criticize Mom such that at times I wanted to smack you for it! (I am glad I restrained myself. LOL) This entry answers a question that I have harboured for years somewhere in the depths of my psyche without it ever really coming to the fore. I wondered if you had made peace with Mom before her death and how. It makes me feel good to KNOW that you did reconcile with Mom before she died. (I felt intuitively that you had, but this confirms my hunch.) Thank you for this beautifully written piece of work and thank you for sharing details about your relationship with Mom, so that I could know some of the nuances.
I love you.

shermaniac said...

Carol and Doug--
I started to respond to Doug's message and then read your comment, Carol. In the weavings of inter-relationships, I remember a conversation we had, Carol, in which I was describing my relationship with Mom and you had a different sense of it than I did.
Love you both very much.

Carol M. Clarke said...

Sherm, I remember our conversation too. I think we were in the car on the "Northway" near Berta's so we had just been to see Berta or were on our way there. I remember comparing our perspectives on our mother and how it varied. You remembered things that I did not and vice versa and we compared notes. I think it was also the time that we talked about preferring "oblivion" to over analysis of life's complexities. some where in the middle is where I see myself. And now I do not mind if people say I am like Mom, but I can remember vehemently swearing that I would never be like her. Look at me now, carrying on the bipolar/manic depression tradition. Well, I never did want to be "normal"!!
Love ya'