Happy New Years Eve!
Mom and I are together again tonight.
Things are quiet here in room 752. It’s not my first New Year’s Eve in the hospital. In fact, at this very hospital, in 1999…the eve of the doomsday Y2K, I was at the hospital with my father. He was very sick and we were all a bit worried about how “Y2K” would affect the hospital. I volunteered to be with him and stayed up all night watching his monitors…waiting for the fallout. Nothing happened. Everything was okay. I remember driving to my mother’s house later than morning to check on her. When I got there she was taking inventory of her Y2K closet…counting just how many cans of pork and beans were on hand. (On a side note, the last time I was at the house, I noticed there were still a few of those cans in the pantry…yikes)
Earlier today my brother stopped by to see mom. We had the most amazing conversation. We reflected on the good times we had with mom and we were able to talk about some of the challenges we faced growing up. It has been an unspoken thing that we never really talked about. She adopted him at age 21, so he is eighteen years older. He had his share of issues with her like I did. But by the time I came along, he was an adult and on his way out of the house. There is almost a guilt, a shame in how we were raised. We are still, to this day, reluctant to talk about it. Mom was married to his father (a terrible alcoholic) for 19 years. He was abusive to her and in turn she was abusive (verbally) to my brother. Once she divorced him, she married my father and they had me a couple of years later. I don’t think she got over the ordeal from her first marriage and the only way she knew to parent was with an iron fist and a sharp tongue. Today we talked about the things that hurt us the most. The things that were carved in our memories and how that shaped us into the people we are today.
He told me about countless vacations promised to him as a child/teenager. She would go as far as to pack, and then at the last minute, something would anger her and she would cancel the entire thing. Learning later that she had no intention of ever going anywhere. He talked about the anticipation and the extreme disappointment he felt. He said because of these experiences, he vowed to keep his promises to his child, no matter how big or small, because breaking them destroys trust.
I told him about my missed opportunities. Mom was terrified that something bad would happen to me if I participated in anything outside of school. I wanted to take ballet, but she was fearful I would injure my feet. I wanted to run track, but she was convinced I wouldn’t be able to have children later in life because of it. So, I was sequestered to the house for most of my life. I also had my share of the “promised” vacations. But when I was 15 and had an opportunity to go to France to study at the Sorbonne, she acted like it was going to happen. She went as far as to arrange for my passport. I was beyond excited…it was a dream of mine to go to France. And at the last minute, she said there was not enough money for me to go. I found out years later that she had never brought it up to my father. He worked two-states away and was rarely home, so I had no way of knowing she didn’t tell him. She told me that my father said they couldn’t afford to send me and “that was that” it was his decision. I resented him for years because of it…only to find out he never even knew. She didn’t want me to go.
My brother and I talked for hours. It was therapeutic and healing for me. I hope it was for him too. We have never been close. I don’t think mom wanted us to be. But now that we are facing this together, I look back and wish I would have invested in getting to know him sooner. He is a great guy…reserved and quirky (and I am quirky too) but a he is a good person.
So tonight, as I watch her chest rise and fall…focusing more carefully when there are those long pauses…I feel closure. Clearing the air and talking openly with my brother allowed me to forgive her even more. I understand her more tonight that I did last night. I feel a sense of peace. It wasn’t that she didn’t love me…or that I wasn’t good enough in her eyes. She was the same way with my brother. She did the same things to him. It was her style of parenting and we have both learned from her mistakes. And I think we are both better parents because of it.
Here we are…this is the last night of 2014 and it could be the last night I spend with my mother. I have no regrets. No baggage. No grudges. I have learned the true meaning of unconditional love through my relationship with Mom. As midnight approaches, I am filled with love and hope and anticipation for this new year that lies in front of us. For her, she will venture on to be with God. For me, I will venture on in my journey to be closer to God. Our paths are parallel, eventually intersecting and meeting once again. But everything in its right time.
UPDATE: As I posted this at 11:57 pm, Mom took her last breath, with me at her side. She gave me life and I was there to help her transition to the next one.
God bless all of you who have been there in spirit. She is at peace.