I talked to an old high school friend. She had called to tell me about another old friend who gave up the fight & ended his life this past month. We talked about old history and some of the crazy things we’d done. As it always does it turned into talking about all of the hell we had put our mothers through.
She was my best friend & her mother and mine had a lot in common from their hairstyles to their wayward daughters. I don’t know how my mom survived my teenage years I really don’t. If my children did half of the things that I did I would probably be insane from the stress.
I mean I once jumped on an airplane & flew over 800 miles away just because I could. I jumped on a return flight the same afternoon and was back by the time dinner was served. Who does that? I’ll tell you who. Someone who has had their whole rocked by the loss of my dad. I floundered for a very long time, but that’s a whole other book.
Anyway, it’s been 7 months now since I lost momma and the guilt is still there, a constant shadow, that follows me everywhere I go. Guilt for the things I did after my father passed. Guilt at the things I did as her caregiver. Guilt for things I didn’t do as a daughter. I don’t want to feel this way, but it’s there every single day.
I loved my momma, anyone that knows me just a little bit knows that, but it hasn’t always been the easiest of relationships. There were times when I felt choked by her. I had so much I wanted to do with my life, but couldn’t because I felt guilty about the stress I was causing her.
She was delicate. Oh she pretended to be tough, and sometimes she really was, but underneath that bravado was a terrified woman who didn’t understand the world and her place in it. Her wants were always fighting against her beliefs and sometimes that fight got ugly. It didn’t matter what you were going through, you had to put on a brave face and never let them see you cry. Behind closed doors, it was another matter.
My mother’s biggest fear was looking stupid in front of someone. That fear paralyzed her and caused her to not trust outsiders. People like Doctor’s, Insurance salesmen, mechanics scared her so much that she froze and was unable to deal. So I dealt instead taking her to Drs. appointments, meeting with the salesmen or taking her car to the shop. She became dependent on that and any little deviation would cause her to get sick to her stomach to the point of collapsing.
She could keep a job, but it was cleaning houses (when no one was home), cleaning offices (when the business was closed), and working in a factory where she was covered from head to toe including earplugs. She was so self-conscious and as dementia increased her ability to deal with the outside world decreased.
I see in myself these same traits. My years of confinement that I spent at home taking care of mom has left me gun shy. I no longer know how to meet people, how to make small talk, and more importantly how to make friends.
Sure, I can make friends online because I can hide behind my screen safe in the confines of my living room. In real life, I seldom leave the house. In the 8 years I’ve lived here I haven’t befriended one person…not one! You don’t get to see that I wear false teeth, have a few too many pounds wrapped around my stomach like the proverbial spare tire, & walk with a pronounced limp. It’s not just that though, there is this deep-seated fear now that I never had before.
I know all of the terms: low self-esteem, social anxiety, depression, sexual abuse. I deal with all of these, but I’ve dealt with it all of my life and could still carry on a life outside of these four walls. Mom and I are more alike than I ever wanted, more than I was willing to admit until now.
There is one big difference between momma & I. I recognize this as a huge problem and want to put an end to it myself. I want to be the last in a long line of dysfunction. I want to be healed, whole, and really happy. This is the best time of my life, but even though my mind understands my heart is dragging its heels. I go to my first counseling session on Wednesday. Wish me luck!
What are you passing down to your kids?
Over the next couple of months, I’d like to share a little bit about mom’s life. Recently, we found out that a picture of her Uncle’s family hangs in the Smithsonian. Here’s that picture now. My Great-Uncle Felix & Family.