Mother’s Day is a strange one for me, tangled relationships up and down generational lines. I always approach this day with trepidation, always have even as a child.
I have three mothers, two of them have passed away.
I have two sons, yet no children of my own body, I am forever grateful to their mother, my wife-in-law for the generosity of her heart in sharing them with me. They hold me firmly anchored in the future.
I have, somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-four siblings and some of them are my cousins. Many of these relationships are troubled by the tangle of maternal relationships.
Reading those words, I suspect people wonder how all this came to pass and why I am not more psychotic then I am. I have written about my relationships with my three mothers before, all of the history is available under various series in this blog if your interested I am happy to provide links for you to explore in the comments section, just ask. For Mother’s Day though I want to take a different tact, a more positive one with regard to each of my mother’s and their contribution to who I am.
The mother who raised me, who I have always referred to as Mom or my Second Mother; who adopted me, perhaps unwillingly after suffering multiple miscarriages. We had a troubled, even sometimes violent relationship during my childhood and through my early teens. Our personalities were like sandpaper rubbing together, despite living in the same house from the time I was three days old we never found common ground, not even in our memories.
Truthfully we shared only two great loves, my father and my younger brother and these would act as wedges between us rather than bringing us together. It was a difficult relationship, for both of us to navigate even as we steered into our very separate adult lives. Ultimately I chose to limit my interactions with her and she seemed to be happy with this choice, as she made no attempts to mend what was shattered between us. My mom passed away this year at nearly 94 years of age. She suffered from acute Dementia and her body finally failed her, I was there in the end. Her passing has driven a wedge between my beloved younger brother and I, someday perhaps we will heal it. What my First Mother gave to me even through our troubled relationship was this:
- A progressive and independent view of the world, one that she was outspoken about and frequently argued with my father about who shared many of her views but not all.
- A love of books and reading, she gave me my first book and taught me to escape into the worlds of the written word. I have never lost my ability to lose myself in the pages of a book my first true love.
- The love of travel and the appreciation of the antiquities of history. As a child we trekked Europe and its castles and museums. She bought every guidebook, every memento offered and saved them all for years.
- Manners, I learned manners in her home. It wasn’t all from her, my Southern bred paternal Grandmother certainly influenced some of this, but much of what I learned were European manners and I learned them from her.
My First Mother, who gave birth to me and without ever seeing my face gave me up for adoption I owe much too, certainly my life. But, more than my life, there is much she has given me since I met her when I was twenty-five. My biological (First) mother and father married after I was born and went on to have five more children, thanks to this I have true siblings, people who I share DNA with, who look like me and who in many ways I share common traits with. I grew up thinking I was alone in the world, there was no one like me, no one who would completely understand me. Certainly I did not look like my ‘family’, I did not think like my ‘family’ in many important ways. Suddenly at the age of twenty-five I faced not only a mother and father but siblings as well, all of whom I shared common DNA with, all of whom looked like me and in strange ways, acted like me despite sharing no common history. I don’t want to paint this reunion story as if it was hearts and flowers, as if it was easy. Certainly all of us had challenges to overcome as we tried to come together, to understand each other. Truthfully we were estranged for nearly ten years, only now in the past three beginning to re-discover balance and a loving acceptance of our mutual flaws. What my First Mother has given me that I am so grateful for:
- First and forever, an understanding of where I come from at a very deep level. Having felt so isolated my entire life, never knowing what or who I was this was such a gift. Now, when I look in the mirror, I understand what contributes to what I see.
- My resilience, my strength. After meeting my mother, listening to her life stories I believe we share a common spirit, something she passed to me to insure my survival even as she released me to a world she couldn’t protect me from through my life.
- My siblings, all of them. Though I don’t have close relationships with all of them I am nonetheless grateful they are in the world. Perhaps someday we will see past egos and angst and make our way closer.
My Heart Mother (aka Step Mother, Aunt), the love of my Second Fathers’ life (aka Daddy) was perhaps one of the greatest blessings of my adult life. Certainly she was the greatest blessing of my Daddy’s life and I will forever and always be grateful to her. I have written about their marriage, the strange relationship and her end elsewhere, I won’t repeat it here, suffice to say she was a fabulous woman I still miss her. What she gave me in the years she was married to my father:
- She returned my Father to me, she reached across wide chasms of misunderstanding and hurt and taught us to talk to each other and listen. There could be no greater gift in the world.
- She taught me hope, even when everything was horrible when I was willing to give up and just stop, when I hurt everywhere she sat with me and talked about how much I was loved, how much she loved me and she gave me hope, she was helplessly hopeful that I would walk, that I would go dancing, that I would live, that I would have the life I wanted, that I would love. She never gave up hope.
- She taught me about beauty, when I felt fat and ugly and terrible about myself as I learned I might never do things I loved again, she told me the story of myself as a child when I thought I was an ugly duckling in a family of tall blonds. With her thick Texas drawl she stared me deep in the eyes and told my how all my cousins hated when I came to visit, how I was so ‘exotic’ and ‘beautiful’ I put them all to shame with their beanpole common looks, then she laughed and told me now I looked the way I was supposed to look, like a woman.
- She taught me about unconditional love, as my father descended through Alzheimer’s, as his once brilliant mind disappeared she cared for him without wavering. She protected him and loved him with constant attention, even as her own health was failing. When an accident took her life, my father followed her a short eleven months later.
Each of my mother’s hold me tethered to a strange history but have also cut strings and released me to find my way. I am finally grateful for their sometimes-unwitting guidance and certainly grateful for their loving direction.
To all the Mothers out there today, Happy Mother’s Day. So we don’t forget until they are returned;