Because I can’t say good-bye… (a poem)

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For my Mom, Rosa Pilar Roxas Amador, who passed into another world at 11:10 p.m. on April 26, 2014 (Philippine time). She was my mother-in-law, but more of a mother to me. I will never forget her.

 

Because I can’t say good-bye, I will remember

Days of loving and caring, sharing and laughing

When we first met I will never forget

Into your home you took me

You made it mine and made me yours

Unconditionally

You loved me

As a mother would a child of her blood

Into your fold you took me like one of your brood

You gave freely what you could

And even what you could not

Without second thought

Without hesitation

With far-reaching hands

With large heart

And open mind

Giving to a fault

Mindless of means

You heard with your heart

Listened with love

Counseled with care

There was nowhere I could go that you did not find me

And what I could not say you always knew

Now, everywhere and nowhere, you will be with me

Always in my heart, in my mind

Forever in my words because I can never say good-bye to you

I will remember.

 

© Cindy Lapeña, 2014

 

New books from old chapters…

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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.

 

The daughter is her own woman

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I found out from my sister-in-law yesterday that my mother was seriously ill. Only after bombarding my sister with Facebook messages did I finally learn more about the situation in the Philippines, where my family is. She has sent me updates since then, although nothing seems to have changed in the last 20 hours, or so it seems. My mother suffered multiple brain infarcts, a.k.a. strokes, which caused her to collapse and hit her head. Apparently, she was also suffering from severe pneumonia which was flooding her right lung and causing extremely difficult breathing. CT scans also confirmed that she has vascular dementia in an advanced state.

All my life, I have known my mother to be the worst patient ever. She refused to see doctors and always self-diagnosed and self-medicated, relying on her own knowledge and skills as a doctor. The only thing she always ever complained about was her varicose veins, which she refused to have treated and which made walking and standing very difficult for her as the years progressed.

She would never admit to any other pain or illness. She would never admit to or show any sign of weakness. Everyone who knows her will say she is a very strong woman. Many will say she is also a very stubborn woman. All her life that I have known her, she would not show emotions. Seeing her laugh was a very rare thing. She did not really smile–the most would be a sort of half-twisted grimace that was meant to pass as a smile, one eye blinking shut in the way you make a face when you taste something sour. She always had a serious, stern face. Because of that, she didn’t develop any creases or wrinkles on her face. I haven’t really seen her in several years, but I don’t think she had wrinkles the last time I saw her.

That’s probably why nobody ever realized that she already had dementia. At some point, she was becoming somewhat forgetful, but not anything serious. She has always been an extremely organized person, and had a system and a routine for everything so that she was not likely to forget things. She was always in control of herself, was not spontaneous, and followed a schedule. She was also very good at being nice, friendly, and generous to other people. She would fawn on them and flatter them and coo and chirp. Her side of the conversation consisted of a lot of questions that would focus on the person she was talking to. I don’t know if she ever really gave a solid answer or shared feelings or personal opinions with anyone. She could be completely displeased and angry at us, but would be all syrup and sweetness the moment she turned to face someone else. So I’m not surprised nobody saw her dementia coming on. All she needed to do was to pretend she was perfectly fine and never admit to any of the symptoms she might have been experiencing.

But what do I know? This is all just from my point of view. I have never truly interacted with her in any way besides her being a strong and distant authority figure in my life. I was never taken in by her public persona because I had experienced otherwise.

I don’t blame her for the way she treated me or dealt with me. I don’t blame her for all the times she betrayed me or my trust. I have gotten over that and have made a life for myself several times over. I have shaken off the need to please her or be accepted by her because I have realized that I don’t need her approval or praise to be successful at anything. I have realized that I don’t even need her love to be me, to be successful. I have succeeded in detaching myself, letting go of her, because I did not want to be drawn down by the negative emotions that always surfaced after spending enough time around her. I have learned not to care and to leave her be, just as she left me to my own devices.

Which now brings me to her current serious condition. Is it wrong that I am not distressed, not distracted, not depressed, not emotionally affected? I am certainly not going to go out of my way. I know I will be of no use anyway. All her favorite children are with her. I don’t imagine she will even miss me–she wouldn’t remember to invite me to any casual occasions they would have, expecting me to just magically show up when I didn’t even know there was any occasion to do so. She never missed me on all those outings and never went out of her way to include me, even if she included many others whom she had “adopted” into her family. With her favorites and her daughters-in-law and grandchildren all surrounding her, I’m sure she’ll be perfectly fine.

I have defined my own life, my own happiness, my own success. I might be her daughter, but I am my own woman.