When you lose your Mom before becoming an adult, people write books about how that will affect your development, and how to help you succeed in life despite this tremendous blow to your young psyche.
When you lose your Mom when you’re in middle-age, people write sympathetic articles in magazines about how hard it is to be ‘the sandwich generation.’
When you lose your Mom when you’re 24, nobody really knows what to say to you. You are too old for people to *really* feel sympathy for you. It’s only *really* tragic if your Mom leaves you as a child. And you’re not old enough for your most of your same-aged contemporaries–those most obvious in your social network–to have been through anything even remotely similar to be able to understand (though the really good friends really do try).
The thing is… I’m a motherless daughter, and a motherless mother. And I am both far sooner than I ever imagined I would be. I know how lucky I was to have my mother for 24 years. I think of a girl that I went to Sunday School with when I was very small who had a daughter about the same time I had Little Miss. She was diagnosed with Kidney Cancer while she was pregnant and died when her little girl was a year old… How very robbed that little one is.
But I’ve been robbed too. Here I sit, raising a toddler. I wonder each and every day how Mom coped with this stage. How she coped with being at home. I wonder each and every day if she would tell me that I’m doing a good job or if she’s want to shake me and tell me to get it together. I wonder each and every day what she especially delighted in when I was this age. I wonder what I did that drove her nuts. And I will never be able to ask her. Nor will I be able to ask her the plethora of questions that will crop up with each and every stage of my children’s development.
I won’t get to see her beam with pride at seeing her grandchildren march out to hug her. I won’t get to drop them off for a special weekend at Grandma Caro and Pa-pa’s house… They’ll never crawl into bed with her at night and swap secrets, or get filled up on junk and sweets and grandmotherly permissiveness to come home and be bratty to me–well… at least they won’t do those things with *her.*
I’m pregnant, and find myself wishing that I’d taken copious notes the first time around of all the conversations Mom and I had about being pregnant. I miss her wisdom. I wish I could hear what her take-no-prisoners response would be to my morning sickness, or emotional ups and downs.
When Little Miss was born, Mom was in getting a chemo infusion. I called her while she was literally hooked up to a chemical drip 2,000 miles away. I never had that… picture perfect–‘have the baby and Gramma is at the hospital to hold her’ moment. I never had that overwhelming blessing of having my Mom move in to help with the baby for the first few weeks. When she was diagnosed, we were trying to set up a long-term hotel option just for that reason. But by the time Little Miss was born she was too sick.
I will never, ever have that. Not with Little Miss. Not with this baby. Not with any child that may come after.
I am truly taking my first faltering steps into adulthood. In many ways I am in a new sort of ‘toddler stage.’ I’m learning to walk as an adult on my own. On the days where I fall flat on my face, I long for her arms to run to. On the days that I feel anxious and scared, I wish desperately to hear her encouraging words. On the days that I need a reality check, well… I even long for her special way of giving those.
I am in a club that nobody wants to be in, at an age that no one really thinks about.
I’m old enough that people think I should have “gotten over it already,” but young enough (and lucky enough, I guess) that this is really my first experience with close-hitting grief.
The loss of one’s mother, especially for a woman, is a unique sort of loss. I’ve lost the woman that shared her body with me for 9 months. I’ve lost the woman that knows my history, and knows parts of it that I can’t recall. I’ve lost the person that I had to break free from to ‘become an adult’… but never quite could–and never quite wanted to entirely. I’ve lost that irreplaceable, but so often taken for granted relationship. I lost the person who taught me the meanings of the words ‘feminism’ and ‘femininity.’ I lost my safe place. The one who first put tinting on the glasses through which I see the world.
And I lost her when I was really beginning to understand what a mother is. Who a mother is. What she really does.
I am a motherless daughter. I am a motherless mother. No time would have been a good time to join this club. But I sure wish, above all, that we could have had more time.
(Perhaps you are reading and thinking, “I wish she would get over this talking about missing her Mom already… We get it already. Perhaps you wish I would ‘get over it’ finally. The thing is… My world has been re-made and I’m still making peace with that. So I still have feelings about it. I am not sad all the time, but I am still grieving… And I try to write where I’m at here. Maybe you cannot relate… but maybe I can give you a glimpse–so that when someone else you love goes through this, you can support them–or so that if it ever happens to you, you’ll know you aren’t alone. My feelings don’t always have a positive spin. They just don’t. Do yours? I mean–do they really???)