Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why Do I Say It?

Tonight, my sisters and I met for drinks - dirty martinis for me.

We always end up talking about our parents; my mother, who has been gone for almost three years now, and my dad, who grapples with the strange mix of his grief and his freedom.  As the oldest and youngest child in the family, my sisters share some common circumstances, like the burden and benefit of great expectations from my mother.  She was in awe of both of them for different reasons and encouraged them to be all that they were capable of being.  All that she knew they were.

Perhaps it's different for middle children - at least it was different for me.  I was not necessarily expected to excel, and to this day, it puzzles me that Mom seemed to overlook the possibility that I could achieve something of value, or that I, too, had unique gifts.  That we were all simply diamonds in the rough. 

Tonight, I stayed silent for a long time as my sisters talked about how hard it is to go home now that Mom is not there.  They both long for her company, her nurturing and even the drama of their imperfect relationship.  The audience of her is gone, and they miss it profoundly.  I listened with a conscious half smile that I was certain reflected the perfect level of empathy and understanding.  This time, I almost made it. 

And then, I said it.  Yet again.  'I don't feel that way.'

For some reason, I still have to assert my perspective, like I will disappear altogether otherwise.  I loved my mother, but we did not share the intense connection that exists between the believer and the one who is believed in.  Unlike my sisters, I had to create my own self image without the benefit of being essential to my mother's satisfaction.  Even though their relationships were not ideal, I envy my sisters' longing, their need for her and their desire to bask in her adoration one more time.

Every time I say it - 'I don't feel that way' - I regret it.  Stating this serves no one and just feels immature and bratty, like the prelude to a toddler's tantrum.  One day very soon, I will fulfill my goal of being supportive and warm as I listen to them recall the connection with our mother that they long for and have lost.  I will smile sweetly and nod, keeping my own loss to myself.

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  1. Perhaps it's not surprising that I disagree. Their loss is their loss. Your loss is your loss. You have as much right--and need--to share yours as they have to share theirs.

    Yes, it's messier and darker to mourn what you never had from a parent, while others are mourning what they did have and now miss. It doesn't feel as clean, or accepted. My mother loved my brother and he loved her. My mother did not love me, and I don't know if I still loved her at the end of her life.

    I'm of course not saying that you and your mother didn't share love, but I do think that mourning what you never had, and what you're now never going to get, is mourning that needs to happen.

    1. Martha, I thought I may hear from you, as we seem to share some similar experiences with our mothers. You have said it so well.

      Long ago, I gave myself permission to feel what I feel, but the sharing of those feelings with my siblings will forever be uncomfortable. And yet, I continue to do it, knowing the outcome and knowing I will wish afterward that I kept those thoughts to myself. It seems unbecoming somehow to remind those she loved most that she was incapable - for whatever reason - of showing that same love and acceptance to me.

      My grief for what my mother and I did not share is mine alone. I hope to work that out through my own avenues and allow my siblings to do the same. Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. "I still have to assert my perspective, like I will disappear altogether otherwise."

    This broke my heart a little bit. I don't ever want or expect you to keep your thoughts about Mom to yourself. Being honest about our complex and sometimes painful experiences with her is part of our healing process, and your voice, (yes, YOU middle sister) is respected and valued more than you know.

    As sisters united at last, We are already spearheading a different experience for our children. We are striving to create a family bound together by love, trust and mutual acceptance, free from the past and the judgments that have left scars on all our hearts.

    This is the most healing thing we can do for ourselves and each other. I also recognize that YOU are often the one leading the way.

    This is beautiful writing; honest and unafraid. I celebrate it and cherish you.

  3. Awww, thanks, Mermaid. We'll figure it out together and watch the weirdness fade with time. In many ways, it already has. Thanks for your kind words.



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