Knowing about my non-relationship with my mother, a dear friend told me how her mother always thought growing up that she was the least-loved daughter. Long after she had gotten married, she would wake up night in tears about this. It ate her up so much but in her 40s, found the nerve to ask her father if he loved her like he loved her sisters. Her father was stunned. He told her that he always felt that she could go through life on her own—that she was strong, resilient, had tons of friends, was well-rounded, etc. He said that he worried least about her, spent little time supervising her because she was great on her own. However, this did not mean that he loved her less. He apologized if she suffered as a result of that seeming “distance” from her and that he knew no words could erase the past feelings she had. But hearing these words from him brought her mother a world of healing.
I think her mother is so lucky to have gotten that assurance. Instead of confronting my folks, I decided, instead, to accept the distance and detach myself from them. It was less painful that way, not having a constant reminder of rejection. I know my mother wanted us all to be independent and, later on, regretted it because we were all off on our own–I suppose she meant me in particular, because my brothers were always around her anyway and she was always helping them out and they were also running to her for help, which I never did, even as a child–and she swore she wouldn’t do the same with my sister, who had more loving and attention than all the other four of us and my dad together. It was only in her 30s that my sister finally found the courage to become her own woman and cut that figurative umbilical cord, with the help of her 2nd husband.
As my friend’s grandpa and her mom knew, nothing will erase those past feelings or any of the pain that was experienced. My mother was not easy to live with, much less grow up with. Despite all that, there is no bitterness, no blame, and no more anger. Only pity and sadness that she was incapable of understanding me or of showing me the same kind of affection she shows others. Her methods of winning the attention and affection of my siblings never worked on me. There was nothing she could say to convince me that she loved me the way she loved my siblings–and she never did say she loved me, not in all the years I have known her.
And for a while, I grieved, as my token sign of respect for the woman who bore me and gave me a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food to fill my belly [ and of that, a little too much, maybe]. That was her way of showing how she cared for us–she sincerely believed that being a mother was being a provider of our most basic material necessities until we were capable of taking care of ourselves.
My grief came more from the fact that I could not honestly say that I would miss her or that I loved her, in the same way my siblings and their families do. My grief came from the fact that my family and my family’s friends see me, in many ways, through my mother’s eyes. It’s like having a family and yet not really having one. Something many are so lucky not to have ever experienced. My grief comes from the fact that that chapter of my life will always be left hanging, unfinished. Thankfully, I do not have Sheldon Cooper’s obsessive need for closure. I just move on as I always have. Perhaps, in a way, some of that grief comes from having to be drawn back to that unfinished chapter long after I had set it aside.
It is a chapter that I might revisit once in a while, much the same way you take up a book you have read before, each time seeing more and different details, realizing new things, and always, always, leaving yet much more to the imagination.