Friday, May 9, 2014

A Very Complicated Happy Mother's Day

When my father passed away, and even before he was gone, I tended to write about him a lot. I shared the stories I could while he was here, even if I was often elusive about details and fuzzy around the edges. Once he was gone, this blogging platform became my primary mode of therapy. I wrote what I was feeling when I was feeling it, and though I didn't have much opportunity to work through things because of everything else that was happening, my writing saved me. It kept me upright, ushered me onward.

My relationship with my father wasn't necessarily always an uncomplicated one, but it became that way as I grew up and away and realized a lot of things about the conflicts we had always had. It wasn't him and I that always had issues with one another. Often they were initiated, perpetuated, poked and encouraged by someone else. My mother.

Looking back, so much about it makes sense now. So much about almost everything does. She so badly wanted to come in and be the rescuer, the one who fixed it all. To do that, sometimes she created the very issues she sought to fix in the first place.

Okay, more than sometimes. 

I didn't see it all until I was older and away and out of the house. Once there was enough distance, things started to become clearer, and as my father and I both realized that we didn't actually have many problems with each other, it all settled.

Things between us were just different. Better. Calmer.

Things between my mother and I, anything but.

When you realize that most of your life has been a game to someone else, that you've been antagonized almost constantly, it's not a settling thing to come to terms with. When you realize that person is your own mother, all the more so.

Unlike my father, I haven't written much about my mother. I didn't write much about her when she was here, and I don't write much about her now. I don't do it because it is exhausting. Most things about her always have been. The kind of exhausting that sucks a piece of your soul out through the tips of your fingers, then lays in wait for the inevitable picking apart of whatever you've written by those who don't understand.

For people who don't understand, I know that some of this may seem harsh, but I've done the best I can to cope with her life, her death and all the chaos that came then and still comes now. Part of that coping meant that there came a time when I had to erect walls and boundaries, I had to draw lines in the sand.

When it wasn't just about me anymore, when my own children were involved, I had to stop it.

To be the mother they needed, I had to stop being the daughter she wanted.

Stuff like that will mess with your head, I tell ya.

She, albeit unintentionally, forced me to become a better mother.

I've spent the better part of the past year in therapy, and though there were other bigger things in my life to deal with, most of my time was actually spent focusing on her. My relationship with her, coming to terms with the way things were, unraveling all the lies that were told, disclosing the things that had happened, the things she had done intentionally and the things she had done for other reasons that weren't intentional at all. There was a lot to unload.

I love my mother. I loved her then, I love her now. I will always love her.

But I couldn't fix her. I couldn't help her. I couldn't keep letting her hurt me, I couldn't let her hurt them...and she was doing both. I couldn't keep doing it anymore. And I couldn't subject my own children to any more of the chaos she created.

I couldn't do it.

She never forgave me. I understood. It was the price I paid to be the mother my children needed me to be.

This weekend, one loaded with emotions. It's the first Mother's Day without her here, but it isn't really. She was gone long before then, if I'm being completely honest. She hadn't been the mother I wanted or needed in so long that I had forgotten what that even felt like.

She, for better or worse, got me here though, to this place. Whether the path was smooth and unblemished or whether the path was full of potholes and obstacles, she is a large part of why I am the way I am today.

She's the only mother I ever knew.

And I love her.

You can love someone from a distance. Sometimes it is the only way that you can love them. Now, she's even further away, never to return again, and so I can love her even more now. I can remember only the good, piece together the memories, try to erase all the terrible events of the past.

There is a clarity and peace that grief brings. The fog lifts, the pain eases and all that is left is just love.

There is something to be said as well for the truth that this is the first year that I don't have to worry about her. I don't have to work myself up to make the phone call, not knowing what will happen when the line connects. I don't have to feel like I'm playing the equivalent of emotional roulette as the ball bounces from self loathing to blaming to projecting to guilt to shame. I don't have to attempt to reset myself after that obligatory interaction, focus on the family I've built with my husband, focus on the children who made me a mother. I won't need to gather myself and refocus. Not anymore.

I don't have to take any time away from the joy in my own household. I can just be the mother I've always wanted to be now.

I don't have to be the daughter who failed anymore.

It is freeing.

I know that I should miss her, and a part of me does. A bigger part of me feels relief though, because we are now free to love one another the way a mother and daughter should have always loved one another, wholly, entirely, without all the encumbrances of life and reality and everything in between.

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother's Day in heaven.

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are gray
You'll never know, dear
How much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away


  1. Beautiful


    You have turned into the mother that people dream about. I relate to this so much.

    I am the black sheep in my family and I'm the kid they're disappointed in. Yet, my immediately family life - wife and 3 daughters is loving and fulfilling and happy.

    You should be proud of who and what you are. HUGS

  2. Sarah Hartman SalcedoMay 9, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    Your line: "There is a clarity and peace that grief brings. The fog lifts, the pain eases and all that is left is just love." Nailed that. Love your writing, love your story, Kelly, thanks for sharing.

    1. It's a strange clarity and tends to come in waves. Thank you. XOXO

  3. Dear Kelly, I am a mother of an addict - my beautiful 22 year old daughter. She is currently serving time in prison for a drug-related death. I read your blog today but switched the word 'mother', with 'daughter'... For us, it's the opposite. I've had to do with my daughter, what you had to do with your Mom... I know the gut-wrenching feeling. My condolences for your loss.
    Thank you

  4. Truly moving.

    Sometimes we have to love at a distance so we can healthily love ourselves and others.

    Have happy Mother's day Kelly.

  5. Wow... beautiful post, thanks for sharing. Sending warm thoughts your way, Happy Mother's Day.

  6. I recently came across your blog and have been reading back through some older postings. You are a beautiful writer and although my four children are now grown, I can identify with many of your experiences. You never forget the joy and chaos--and sometimes heartache--of a houseful of young children. (And you get to experience it all again in a new way as a grandmother!) This post touched me, especially when you wrote, "To be the mother they needed, I had to stop being the daughter she wanted." So true! I still remember the day that it hit me like a lightning bolt: I am acting just like my mother, creating conflict with my kids so I can then later apologize and hug them. WTF? From that day forward, I vowed to change. I worked to become the mother I wanted my children to have. I hugged my kids spontaneously. I told them I loved them--out loud! I did not use my childhood as a template. And somehow she knew. And as years went on and I decided that I no longer needed or wanted her approval for the decisions I made, the distance between us grew. We became estranged, although never completely. Decisions she made--or avoided--in the last 15 years of her life put an unbreachable emotional space between us. And for a long, long time I couldn't recall anything positive. She died in 2008, and it is only now, in 2014, that I can start see the good things she gave me, as well as the heartaches. I am sorry for your loss, and happy that your children will have a different role model to emulate.

    1. There is a clarity in grief, I firmly believe it. Peace and love to you. XOXO


Some of My Most Popular Posts