Today is my mother’s birthday…She passed away in 2013. As a kid and young adult, my mother and I had a terrific relationship, never any teenage angst…I really loved and respected her. Then my father passed away when she was sixty, and I think she lost all sense of herself and her worth then. She had friends, but distanced herself from those who still had husbands, and found even small tasks difficult to accomplish. I knew she was depressed and missing my dad, so no matter how many hours I worked, we always took her out for dinner every Friday night. My sister moved to North Carolina, and that compounded my mother’s insecurities, and she became more judgmental with me, telling me if I didn’t call her every day, I didn’t love her. I was an area manager for PNC Bank, and worked long hours..With that and keeping my home and Rich as a priority, I didn’t have much left to give. She started having mini-strokes, and that changed her personality even more. By the time she passed away, I’d already been in counselling, as I saw myself as a bad daughter and couldn’t shake that I did nothing for her that made her happy. After she died, I went to two more counselors, and none of them could help me with my guilt and certainty that I had failed her. My mother and father never had a lot, so after my dad died, if Mom needed a new refrigerator or washing machine, we’d make sure she had one. In the months before she died, she told me that I was always there for her financially but never emotionally. And here it is, over five years later, and that remark still leaves a mark.
I realize that she had emotional issues from the strokes, and losing my dad devastated her, but it’s my failure that still bothers me. I’ll say this, I gave as much as I could in the way of emotional support. I know it wasn’t enough for her, but it was what I could give. In the final days of her life, people who came to see her would mention how good her family was to her, and she’d respond with “Until a few days ago, I didn’t even know that they loved me.”
So what do you say to that? And five years later, I’m still wondering. I loved my mother, and I failed her. It’s the people who are closest to us who leave the biggest marks. My mother’s death came as a relief to me, and that also makes me feel guilty. Three counselors and I can honestly say, sometimes you just need go give yourself a break. You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can do your best, and that’s all anyone can ask of us. On my mother’s birthday, I’m remembering the mother who made my favorite dinners for my birthdays and who showed me how to appreciate giving back and adopting strangers for Christmas. (I’m not sure what to do with the rest.)