I have been thinking a lot about my mother lately. I have been trying to reconcile myself to the fact that like many children we have characteristics that are like our parents; both in personality and physically. And that is difficult for me. Especially since I have so many not so pleasant memories of my mother and the things that happened to me when I lived with her. Both at her hands and the hands of others. But, on her deathbed I told her that I forgive her though I couldn’t forget. And I meant it. But what does that mean for me? What do I do with the memories and the feelings that pop up from time to time?
Something funny is that I look at my feet and they remind me of her. We have very similar feet. We both had relatively small feet. Though hers were smaller than mine. But I am also almost 5 inches taller than her. I think she was 5’2 I am 5’7. I used to be 5’7 1/2 but lost 1/2 inch somewhere. At any rate I look at my feet and think of her running. When she was up and moving when she was younger she was always running somewhere it seemed. Always rushing. Always late for something. I felt like a shadow In a room, a presence not generally noticed as life rushes by. I have purposely tried to slow my life down, but when I was younger I was rushing, always rushing. I guess most people do when they are young. I envy the young who have already found a balance in their lives. I have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain, so did she. I fight depression all the time. She had even darker demons to fight. We both suffered at the hands of our parents. We both suffered at the hands of others. The things in life that shape us and break us. There are dark ways in which I am like my mother. But, there were good things too.
I want to remember good things about her. If I am so much like her I want to remember that there were good things about her. She taught me how important social conscience is and how to be compassionate and passionate about what you believe. She had kept her Vietnam protest posters for years and had marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Washington. She had friends of color when it wasn’t acceptable to do so. She dated men of color even though it was totally frowned upon and caused our family to be essentially social outcasts. But, it didn’t matter to her. I am angry about it sometimes, that she had so little regard to her children who had to live in that town. She was very selfish in that regard. However, what change comes with being comfortable?
I would discuss it with her from time to time and she would get angry at me for being so selfish and “closed” to others. Other times she would let me know that if we always walk in line and if we don’t fight what is wrong with the system then the system can never be fixed. She was a political activist, a social activist and a person of passion and conscience. This doesn’t always make for a great parent. Definitely not in her case. She was brilliant and intelligent and incredibly flawed. But, I didn’t see her give up. Not really, not ever. Not until physically and mentally she could do nor more even if she wanted to. Even when her mental illness would crush her down she would get back up over time. She was a manic depressive and bipolar and that was a formidable combination to try to live with much less be a single parent to four children.
She painted for years. They are very hmmm…original…but they are definitely her own style. At least she had the courage and the determination to paint and be creative no matter what. She didn’t let anything stop her until age itself put limitations on her that even she could not overcome. If there is anything that I hope and pray that I have gotten from her it is that ability. That trait to not give up. As I am typing this I realize how much regret I have that I couldn’t over come my anger enough to tell her all of this while she was alive. I could barely stand to have her touch me when she was alive. I would cringe at a hug, feel nauseous at a touch of her hand. There were times I thought if I stayed in contact with her that I would lose my soul to her; It would be sucked right out of me. Even as she was dying I was afraid of her at some level. And it makes me so sad.
She did die though and I still have my soul. And I was able to touch her before she died and not hate her and with my last look at her knew that I had loved her and she had loved me to the best of her ability. At least I had that. And so I look at my feet and think of her and I will do the best I can to think of all the good ways I am like her.