Last night, my friend lost her mom. She held a vigil at her mother’s bedside for 9 days, watching the struggle for breath, feeling the cooling limbs, staying strong for the other family members. After 9 days, my friend knew she needed to sleep in her own bed for a night, get some rest, gain some perspective. And on that night, her mother slipped to the next life.
Why did she wait for 9 days? Why did she wait until she was alone?
What’s hard for me to swallow is that we can’t know the answers to these questions. If they won’t share it with us, we just can’t know what is going on in our mothers’ minds.
My own mother is not the same as she was two years ago. I suspect dementia is slowly taking her away, but there is still not a diagnosis. And so we wonder and speculate while we visit doctors, try medications, and wait.
What is clear is that she is changed. Gone is the fierce leader I was afraid of during my growing-up years. She is now insecure, unsure of the best action in the simplest of situations. Gone is the woman who disapproved of my thoughts and decisions. She is now thankful and complimentary at every turn. Instead of it being a pleasant reprieve from the way things used to be, I’m finding it challenging to strike a new way of being with her. I just don’t recognize my mother in this new person.
And so I want to know what’s going on in her mind. I have questions I want to ask her:
Do you feel like something is wrong? Are you afraid? Is it okay that I am here by your side?
And yes, I still want to ask: Do you have any regrets? What do you see when you look at me? Are you proud of who I have become?
Several years ago, we arrived at a surface level relationship that we both could live with and, while I’d like to find a deeper level of intimacy with her now, I worry that I will scare her away. And maybe I’m still afraid of her rejection.
I think there is a longing for intimacy found in the daughters of emotionally absent mothers. I thought I had grown away from my yearning for this, but now, as my mother is changing and becoming lost to me in a different way, I find myself craving that intimacy again.
I’m almost 50 years old and I still want my mommy. I still want her reassurance and acceptance and love. And yet it seems that it is my turn now to give those things to her. To let her know what I see in her: an under-mothered daughter herself, who did the best she could in difficult circumstances; a woman who raised me with a home, adequate clothing, and three square meals a day; a mother who, in good and not-so-good ways, helped me become the woman I am today. And it occurs to me right now that, in spite of the fact that she wasn’t always who I needed or wanted her to be, she did a pretty darn good job.