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My maternal grandmother died when my mother was two. She was raised by a single father, and a slightly older sister. When she became a mother, she had no template to show her how.
Untreated mental illness always haunted my mother. I knew three versions of her during her lifetime. She was, as I later understood, chronically depressed, something she passed along to me. A stroke altered her personality. She began her decent into dementia; probably something else we will share.
My father, mother and I were three individuals orbiting each other. At the eclipses, our obits might sync for a while before we each swung out into space.
My mother and I muffled along. Her spirit died the day my father did. She developed a passionate need to feel miserable, to refuse anything that might make her life easier. Nineteen years later, one day after her 83rd birthday, her body let her go join my father.
My original mother, and the later models had lessons for me – some very hard to learn. Perhaps the strongest and most lasting began in my childhood. She and my father instilled taking responsibility for one’s actions. I was encouraged to be independent and self-sufficient. Taught that alone didn’t necessarily mean lonely. You can do things on your own, and enjoy the experience.
As the personality changes caused by a stroke fused with her decent into dementia, she began to shrink her world, refusing to utilize equipment that would allow her to move within the scope of a broader world.
By default, and through many tears, I learned that without engaging that wonderful, scary, strange, inviting world outside your door, your body and soul atrophy.
So my relationship with my mother, lessons learned or discarded, was complex and complicated. I felt relief when she passed. She was released. During the difficult years (for both of us) when I became her care-giver, I would walk over to the cemetery to talk to my father. My conversations were punctuated by tears. My father listened, and always seem to whisper “You can do it. You can take good care of her.” I tried, and at the end, honouring her living will and her wishes for when she died.
I look at Mother’s Day as a gift to those who have a special relationship with their mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. Celebrate your connections. Keep any pleasant memories from childhood to adulthood. Within them, the most important things will be taught. I hope these things are courage, compassion, understanding, listening, and caring. Those are the types of lessons we all should learn.
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie: Writing Prompt #106 “Valuable Lessons from Mom”