May 10, 1979, it sees like yesterday, yet it seems like a lifetime ago. I guess it’s both. That was the day I said goodbye to my mother for the last time. I always refer to her as my mother, not mom. I guess because she was a mother to me, not a mom. Mom’s are there for you. They make you feel safe and cared for. Mothers are just that, your mother, a word, a title. I wished she had been more of a mom.
I was born late in her life, although by today’s standards to have a baby at 34 isn’t considered late. However, in 1953 women traditionally had their babies in their twenties. I was the fourth and youngest child. Perhaps she was tired of taking care of children by then, I don’t know. Possibly being a woman alone with four children in the early 1950’s was too hard for her. My memories are of always yearning for my mother to visit me, take me home, love me, accept me, and I guess maybe in her own way she did do some of those things, as much as she could anyway.
My visits with her were wonderful. I believe she tried to make up for all the lost time in those brief interludes. They say smell is one of the strongest trigger of memory, I suppose that’s why I will always remember my mother’s smell, a combination of perfume and cigarette smoke. During our visits she was very affectionate, hugging and kissing me. For those moments, I felt I belonged, she really did love me. “Can I come home to be with you?” I would ask, hoping maybe this time I would be able to be with her. “Soon dear, soon.” She would say, as she attempted to distract me. “Do you want a manicure, how about if mom does your hair?” I always allowed her to do this, although the tears struggled to fill my eyes.
These brief visits ended far too quickly. We were both emotional when it came time to say goodbye. I never knew when I would see her again, although she would tell me she would come again in a couple of weeks, I knew in my heart it would probably be longer. My heart ached as I watched her leave. It always took me a few hours to be able to talk to anyone after these visits. I just needed to be left alone.
As the years passed, my feelings of yearning changed to hurt and anger. I stopped waiting for her, or believing that I would ever live with her again. Although I still looked forward to her visits, I pulled back a bit. I knew I had to protect myself from my mother. For some of my other siblings the pain was too much, they became angry and could not forgive. Therefore their relationship with her became simply one of visits on special occasions, like Christmas or birthdays.
When my daughter was born, my feelings for my mother changed, as I suppose that would be normal. Your perception of everything changes when you become a parent. Your view of yourself, your family and your parents comes into question. As I held my tiny baby girl, I felt overwhelmed with emotion. How could my mother not feel those same feelings? Maybe she did and couldn’t deal with them. Maybe she was aware of her own inadequacies and felt it would be better for me to be raised by other people who were better equipped to take care of me. I just wanted to be with her, but I didn’t have a voice. I vowed never to allow my daughter to feel the pain I had felt. She would always have her mother with her, I would do everything to make her feel loved, secure and accepted.
My daughter was six years old when my mother died and she has only fleeting memories of her grandmother. She is now a grown woman with children of her own. Although at times we have had a difficult relationship, as most mothers and daughters do, I believe I did accomplish most of the tasks I set out to do as a parent. I still often think of my mother, and when I look back I think she did teach me an invaluable life lesson – how to be a good mom.
Barbara is working towards her B.A. in English. She enjoys writing in her spare time. Barbara is located in London Ontario and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.