Today is my mother’s birthday. She died in 2011. The void is still gaping. My mother was complicated, as I suppose we all are to some degree. Our relationship was not always smooth and easy. Sometimes, depending on the phase of our relationship, picking out the right Mother’s Day card was a challenge because nothing accurately reflected our bond. But deep down I always knew she loved me and I hope she always knew I loved her too.
Love between a mother and a child evolves through stages. In the beginning, a mother is the mooring. She is the center around which everything revolves.
A child counts on the stability of her mother to satisfy her hunger, kiss the boo-boos, teach her to cross the street, and guide her into the bigger world.
Then as we make forays away from Mom we discover aspects of the world that she never showed us. We learn things Mom never taught us. Sometimes we react with anger. “How could you have kept this from me?” Sometimes we react with disdain. “How could you have not known this? How could you have thought that? How could you have done that?” Our perceived imperfections of our childhood loom large.
Gradually, perhaps with the wisdom that comes with age or the experience of becoming a parent ourselves, and most definitely by the grace of God, we see Mom as the imperfect, wounded, but very loveable human being that she is. It is at that point that we really love our mothers.
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why my mother did some of the things she did. I was looking to justify the things that made loving her difficult. Then I realized that it didn’t matter. There were some things that were not going to change. I could make the choice to love her and all her foibles, or I could walk away. I stayed. We spoke on the phone at least once a day. I didn’t always want to talk to her. The conversations could still occasionally be uncomfortable. But our frequent interactions allowed me to see her as a woman who was so much more than just my mother. I grew to appreciate her tenacity as she finagled help for women in crisis pregnancies. She never backed down from her principles. She always put God first. And there was absolutely nothing she would not do if she thought her kids or grandkids were in emotional, physical, or spiritual danger. She could still drive me crazy but it became much easier to silently “offer it up” and smile.
Every tear I cried in hurt or anger was dried by the joy I found when I finally let myself love my mother. And it hurts a lot to have her gone. But her legacy is that I learned to love. Not just the Hallmark cards or Disney movie kind of love. But the real love that happens when the road is bumpy and the destination is unknown.
So now I am hoping that my own kids eventually understand. I know I am imperfect. I am doing what I think is best. I am sure I drive them crazy sometimes. There is absolutely nothing I will not do if I think their emotional, physical, or spiritual welfare is threatened. And no matter what, I always love them.