Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Things She Left Behind

My mother has been gone for almost ten months now. I don't write about her all that often for a few reasons, most of which revolve around the fact that our relationship was complicated.

Strike that.

Complicated isn't big enough of a word.

She and I had a turbulent relationship, one that I am still constantly thinking about, making realizations about. Growing up, I didn't have the ability to see our family dynamics as anything outside the ordinary, because to me that's exactly what they were. It wasn't until I was much older and away that the haze began to fade and I started to see so much for what it really was, rather than just being what I had always known.

The last several years of her life were chaotic ones. The last year and three months took place far, far away from me, not just in distance but in every other possible way. She pushed me away, she pushed so many of us away. Through words, through actions, through any means necessary.

She moved here, then moved back, and there was nothing I could do to stop her.

She forced us to make choices we didn't want to make.

The chaos didn't end when she moved away, and it hasn't ended in the wake of her death.

There are things, so many things, she left behind.

She was a serial shopper, buying things no one wanted or needed as a force of habit. I'm convinced it was a self soothing sort of coping mechanism for her, that it was a compulsion. She stopped buying things for me after months of begging and pleading for her to stop, to save her money for when she needed it. She never stopped buying things for the kids.

Instead, she taught them to hide what she bought from me.

Like I said, complicated.

As a result of this strategy of hers, during the time she lived near us, the kids acquired stuff. Very little of it ever stuff that they wanted or needed, almost none of it that I knew about past a certain point. All of it stuff that was shoved into closets and under beds and hidden in the basement.

Stuff that she gave them in secret and that they smuggled into the house.

Stuff that I am still finding.

Stuff that they, for the most part, have forgotten about.

She hasn't lived near us in over two years and I am still finding these things tucked into every nook and cranny in the house, still having things appear that I've never seen before, still wondering where this came from. Wondering for only a moment until I am being punched in the gut with reality, knowing exactly where it came from but never knowing why.


It was all from her.

I've struggled for these two years without her in so many ways. Missing her, wishing that things could have been different, wishing she hadn't left, wishing that she would have sought the help she needed, wishing that she would have taken care of herself better, wishing she would have let me in even just a little.

It never happened and the time for that to remain a possibility is gone because she is gone. Nothing can ever be better or different.

What happened instead were these constant reminders of the chaos that I would unearth periodically, the symptoms of this compulsion of hers that I couldn't help her with, the reminders of everything that had transpired.

It was overwhelming. It still is. I couldn't even bring myself to look in the closets or basement for months at a time.

All the while, I was being judged. Blamed. Scolded. Disowned. Shunned.

Not for what actually happened between her and I, but for what other people believed about what happened between us. I didn't explain myself. I never explained myself.

I knew it wouldn't matter.

I accepted that, just like I had to accept so much else.

I don't write about her very often because it still hurts so much. I'm not sure that will ever change.

And then this week, this happened.

This lily, a stargazer. A stargazer with a story, of course.

Her story.

When I was pregnant with Little Boy, she and my father came to visit towards the end of the pregnancy. Without even talking to me beforehand, she extended her plane ticket so that she would be here for six weeks. (don't ever do that to someone, you guys)

While I was in the hospital after having the baby, she decided to get up one morning and buy plants for the front yard. (don't do that either, you guys)

Two of the plants she chose were perennials that have come back every year since then. One lived two years and then died. This one, the fourth of the group. Her favorite flower.

Planted in the most precarious spot, it didn't last long. Too many kids with too many bikes and scooters and balls nearby, the stem broke within days. Her intentions were good, I suppose, but it wasn't done with any input from my husband or myself...and there's no way we would have ever planted something like that in that spot.

She was never one to involve us in her decisions, though, even about things like this.

In the following years, the lily tried to bloom until it gave up trying.

Last year, the year after she left for good, it poked up out of the ground for just a little while then withered back again. By then we had begun debating whether to dig it up and replant the spot with something hardier.

This year though, it is blooming. I'm not sure how or why. I'm amazed it's even still alive. It started to open up on the 2nd of August, on the day of my mother's mother's birthday.

It fully bloomed a few days later.

It is gorgeous and moves me to tears every time I see it.

Not all of the things she left behind are painful reminders, some of them are stubborn but beautiful pieces of who she was.

For this, right now, I am grateful.

I miss you, Mom, and I love you.


  1. I can't imagine the difficulty you had in writing this piece. Having a difficult relationship with my mother as well, I know how hard it is for me to write or talk about it at all...and especially sometimes with any level of clarity.

    Nonetheless, what a beautiful flower and such a great reminder of your mom's good. Peace to you :)

    1. Anytime I write about her is hard, far harder than it ever was with my Dad. Everything with her always was, so I guess it makes sense that it should just stay that way. Thank you for your kinds words. xo

  2. Such complicated relationships mothers and daughters have!! I am blessed that my relationship with my daughter is NOTHING like the one I had with my mother.

    Very pretty flower!

    1. The lessons we learn are ones that we have the option not to repeat. I vow the same. xo

  3. Sending many hugs to you. Beautiful post. xo

  4. Sending you so much love, Kelly. What a beautiful piece about such complicated emotions.

    What a beautiful flower, to remind you, to enjoy - and to help you feel.


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