How to Save a Life

I know a number of women who have “bad mom” stories.  I know a number of women who have “no mom” stories.  I know a number of women who have both stories. I am not one of those women.  My mother is one of those women who steps up, no matter what, regardless of the circumstance or event, whether or not the situation appears to be difficult or may cause unease, every single time…From the morning of my dreadfully complicated birth, causing her great pain and needless suffering, and numerous complications, because she did not have insurance and therefore what should have been, even back THEN, a Cesarian session, was instead a spinal-block and an otherwise natural birth, that could have left both of us dead, she has been there for me.

In my years on this planet I have done things, said things, initiated things, participated in things, denied things, and started things that she neither liked nor approved, and while she has been very disappointed in these said things I did, she was not disappointed in ‘me,’ in the person that is who I am.   You see, the characteristic that seems to me most special about her is her ability to separate the behavior from the person.  I see these contemporary “yuppie” or “millennial” parenting books, that espouse these new and latest ways of discipline, that the child should not be disciplined, but the behavior that was bad or wrong is what should be punished, making sure the child’s sense of self is left unharmed, or lessons of that nature, and I have to write, in all honesty that she did this, long before it was such a “hip” way to parent.  She has been very upset, and truth be told, rightly so, over things I have done, choices I have made, and decisions I insisted were right, that were in retrospect, very wrong for me, or just in general very poor judgments, but she never denied me her love or care or shoulder to cry on when I “came to” and accepted the errors of my ways.  I have been disappointed and let down by people time after time in my adult life, but never by my mother.

When I found out that I was too far pregnant to get made un-pregnant at the clinic, and begged that my little sister tell my mother, because I was too ashamed, on my sister’s 15th birthday no less, my mother was so sad and so mad, but she never ever said bad things to me or against me.  She never said mean things about what a mess I had made of my life, of which 17 of them she had been so diligent to make “good” years.  AND most significant, to me at least, was that she never once said, “how could you do this to me?” or acted embarrassed or ashamed over what was happening to her daughter, me, in her world.   She never once made her upset and worry seem somehow more valid than my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad situation, and for that, I am so very thankful.

The first time I left my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad marriage, was eight months after my wedding day, and she and my Dad and my sister came to my cold, sparse, paneled, island house and started packing and moving what little I had into my Dad’s work truck, but I was inexplicably not ready to give up, and did not want to move back home.  I reluctantly went with them.  WHY?  Why I did not want to be in my family’s beautiful home with people who loved me and treated me well is still a great one of life’s mysteries, but I really did not want to be there, and so after only six months with them I moved back out, this time to a tiny apartment with intermittent heat, very little food, no car, no phone, and a bike to ride myself to and from work, and a not very nice man who I called my husband, and it was, as I should have expected a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad situation and again my mother did not judge me harshly, never kept her love from me or from my child, and I suppose just waited as best she could for me to come to my senses.  In June of 1987 I did just that, from the pay phone at 7-11 while my baby lie asleep in her crib a couple blocks away, called one of my two best friends and said, “I need you, please come” And she did.  And she drove me and my things back to my parent’s house and my mother accepted me with open arms.  When my chin starts to quiver and my eyes begin to well up, no matter what has led me to that point, my mother’s first inclination is to open her arms as wide as she can.

My mother and I, as all, or I suppose most daughter/mother relationships go, have had our share of spats and upsets, slammed doors, stomping up the stairs, rolled eyes, exasperated sighs, and raised voices.  I always apologize if I lose my cool and when she has blurted things that she wishes she could take back, she too has always apologized…I am a huge fan of knowing when to say sorry and knowing when to forgive and moving on.  My mother tells me that when I was only about four years-old I stopped letting her hold or cuddle me or hug me…I have no memory of this of course, but it must have made her feel bad.  I can list many things that I did as a daughter that were not nice, and I can list a few things that she did as a mother that were not nice, but always being able to say “I’m sorry,” and meaning it, and saying “I forgive you, forget it,” and meaning it, really matters in relationships.

Yesterday afternoon I talked to my mother about some things that have been weighing heavily on my spirit, things that have been keeping me from sleeping soundly, and things that keep me overstuffed with many emotions, none of them peaceful, and in mid conversation my chin began to quiver, and my eyes began to well, and I really REALLY hate to cry…I’ve always felt like it made me seem weak and needy, and have spent many, many moments of my life fighting the action, but yesterday, before I could hold back the deluge of tears and that heavy first breath that comes with the immediate release of deeply buried feelings, her arms were open and wide and extended to me before I could gather my strength of will to hold back or compose myself, and again without a word, she opened her loving arms, and I felt that she knows how to save me, even when I can’t figure out how to save myself…


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