Monday, March 2, 2015

My Mother's Daughter




When I decided to participate in this challenge, I knew the hardest part for me would be coming up with things to write about.  I'm not a storyteller by nature, full of detailed narratives about my life.  My friend Meredith always has stories to tell, absolutely crazy tales of things that have happened to her and her family members that are sometimes hard to believe.  The most amazing part of her stories is they are all true.  Mostly my stories and reflections stay inside my own head where they don't have to be fully realized to be understood, so I spent the day yesterday wondering what I would write for my next post.  I had a couple of ideas, and I may use them yet, but when I started writing, I just didn't like anything I put down on paper.  It all seemed pointless.  So, I did what comes naturally; I procrastinated and called my mother.

Lately, though, conversations with my mom most often leave me feeling sad.   Without even meaning to, I find myself listening through her words to the emptiness behind her.  I am listening for a sound . . . a presence . . . that I am never going to hear again.

I am listening for my father.

For all my life he was there in the background.  Whenever I would call, he would tell my mom things to tell me and she would relay my messages back to him. (I still laugh when I think of the time we got my mother, who doesn't swear, to use a couple of choice four-letter words.)  Even when he didn't say anything, I knew he was there.  His presence was a given.  Here it is almost eight months since he's been gone, and I can still feel that presence.  Maybe that's the one benefit of living hours from my parents.  I can go about my life as I normally do, still feeling him so strongly that it's almost easy to forget he's gone.  Until Mom's on the phone and the emptiness reaches mercilessly through the phone line to remind me.

The thing that gets me the most, though, is the sadness I hear in my mom's voice.  She never speaks of it - she'll tell you she's fine whenever you ask - but I hear it just the same.  My own grief I can handle.  I don't know what to do with hers.  How do you console your mother?  How do you tell her that everything will be okay, when you know, for her, it will never be okay again?  I reach for magic words to soothe and heal, but I come up short every time.  I feel useless.  I don't know how to be anything but a daughter.

Then again, maybe that is all I have to be. 

As I put my younger son to bed last night and sat there rubbing his back in the glow of his nightlight, I thought about how neither he nor his brother had any magic words either.  Yet, they soothe and heal me just the same.  Just simply by being.  Children force our gaze upward and urge us onward even when we think we can't take another step.  They give us unquestioning love (most of the time), a reason for being, and hope for the future.  While they do not take away the sadness of losing my father, they make it bearable.  They fill my days with happiness and life.  So, maybe no magic words are needed after all.  Maybe all my mom really needs from me is to be the daughter I have always been.






11 comments:

  1. Your post is reflective and revealing. I share in your daily conversations with your mom as I do the same and like them very much. I also share in your profound loss as I lost my grandmother this year and can likewise hear the tiredness in my mother's voice. I look forward to your other posts.

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    1. Thank you, Amy. I am sorry about the loss of your grandmother.

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  2. Over the last decade, my husband has lost both of his parents. Then, his brother died unexpectedly. Now, we are losing his other brother to cancer. I've lost my parents as well. Through it all, I've tried to remember what someone very wise and experienced with loss once told me: people simply need our presence. Bearing witness to such profound loss, wanting to help, feeling useless....it's so common...so frustrating and painful. Know that your company provides tremendous comfort. You're so right: all she needs is the daughter you are. I'm sure she sees your father in you too. This is a brave post. It's a gift to readers like me, too. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you, Angela. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for you and your husband to lose so many loved ones. My heart goes out to you.

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  3. That was beautiful, powerful, and shares the truth of loss. Thank you for your words. I have not loss someone close to me for many years, but I could feel healing in your words.

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  4. Meredith better watch out because YOU are a storyteller! But I can tell you are a quiet, reflective storyteller with such wise words to share. Your honest words moved me to tears. And reminded me I need to call my mom more often! My dad's been gone 26 years and it is still a loss. But I love chatting with mom and taking trips with he to make new memories together. Thanks for sharing your slice!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Sally. I don't think it's possible to ever completely recover from the loss of a parent.

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  5. Meredith,
    This was beautiful! I lost my mom three years ago next month. I miss her voice and those phone calls! My mom was an only child. Her mom is 93 and still lives alone. I hear the loneliness in my Meme's voice. I have learned that Meme just wants me to call and listen. So, I do. Thank you for sharing your slice!!

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    1. Thank you! I am so sorry for your loss. I am sure your grandmother looks forward to your calls.

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  6. Amanda, This really moved me. I often feel the burden of my mother's grief since losing my father. Sometimes I feel that I've lost my mother too. Knowing that I am not alone in this actually makes me feel better. And knowing that I just need to be a daughter right now is good enough. Thank you.

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