Growing up in our home, my Mom was my seamstress, cook, confidant, protector, disciplinarian, etc. Some where around the age of 21, I can’t put my finger exactly when, but i think it was around then that things changed. There was a shift. I didn’t confide in my mom as much especially when it came to certain topics. I stopped sharing because i just felt like she didn’t HEAR me and our conversations felt more like monologue cloaked in dictatorship instead of a dialogue.
At the time when I was married and going through a tough time with my husband, I tried to give Mom the benefit of the doubt and share with her what was happening…after she pleaded with me to share what was happening since she could visibly see something was wrong. I shared and somewhere in the conversation, I felt worse for opening up to her.
The final straw was the day I left the courthouse after signing my divorce papers. I was a complete wreck. I remember it like it was yesterday (it was 12 years ago). It was a gloomy day in July. I called my parents to tell them what happened. I ended up speaking to Mom and again…I felt worse. That was it. No more sharing. I made up in my mind that my mother will only know about the surface stuff about my life and nothing else. Not only does she not HEAR me…she didn’t SEE me. Over the last 12 years, I did not have the type of relationship with my mother like some of my friends had.
Since Daddy died, I think i told you guys i’ve been seeing Dr. Su (my therapist of 2 years). During the first few sessions, Dr. Su said, “You know…i notice that whenever you talk about your Dad, you glow up like a Christmas tree, but when you talk about your mom…your face and your entire demeanor is tense and somewhat angry. What is that about?” After i talked with Dr. Su about a lot of the things that transpired over the years that I experienced and witnessed that I did not like, she said to me, “Okay. We’re going to work through those things together, but i need you to understand something. Your mother is grieving too. I get how much you loved your father, but you have to lighten up on your mom because she was married to him. You only saw one side, but she was married to him and her grief is probably heavier than yours. Lighten up on her.” I rested my shoulders and took Dr. Su’s advice.
I began calling her every day to check up on her and let her know that she’s not alone even though she lives alone now. It has been two years and several months since Daddy died. Those phone calls have been out of duty with very little compassion. The conversations between Mom and I were surface (how was your day? did you eat? how’s work? did you go to church?) I promise… we would be on the phone no more than 15 minutes…TOPS! I was fine with it, but wishing that i could have the same relationship with her like i had with Daddy. It’s hard because Daddy respected me as an adult and saw me as an adult even though I was his last child (i’m the baby of the family). My mom on the other hand, did not see me that way. It was expressed in the way she would address me and her treatment of me. In her eyes i’m still 14 years old. I didn’t like that so i kept my distance in proximity and in phone calls.
Two weeks ago during one of our 15 minute conversations, she mentioned that she was longing to see me. She said she would be visiting my sister in Alabama for a month or so. She said, “So i’m going to see you..right?” I said, “I’ll see. My schedule has been crazy (no lie. it really has). I’ll see what my schedule looks like.”
It turns out that Labor Day weekend was the only time I could see her. So i went with a reluctant heart, but I went. I was reluctant because for as long as i could remember, when ever i visited mom…she would not hug me upon greeting me. I never understood that. I’m pretty charismatic and I’m serious and genuine about my hugs. So when people don’t hug me back for real…it bothers me…especially from people who matter to me. I was also reluctant because if I spent more than two days around my mom…some falling out was bound to happen…and I’m really don’t here for drama.
However, I went..and it turned out to be a nice time. I surprised my mom and she was elated. She actually hugged me. It made me feel so good inside…it really did. I noticed that she also looked very little. I’m not that tall so for her to be short than me was strange. Later that evening, I went into my sister’s room where my mom usually rests and i couldn’t find her in that huge king sized bed. I had to walk up close to see her. Wow. She’s really small…in size.
We had a bit of an emotional moment talking about Daddy. She told me that she sees him all the time. She said she doesn’t eat at the dinner table anymore because she sees him. So she eats her meals in her bedroom. She said she doesn’t go into his bathroom because she sees him. (My mom found my Dad slumped over in his bathroom the morning he died, you guys). I just listened to her and let her talk. I asked her if she’s thought about moving and she said no. She’s not going to move. She said she focuses on the good times, but all the while i can see the sadness in her eyes.
She asked me when will i come home to visit and I said, “Mom? It’s not that I don’t want to see you. It’s just that I’m not ready to come home and NOT see Daddy on the porch or not run into him in the kitchen or in the bathroom. I’m just not ready (i teared up).”
She listened and didn’t want me to cry, but i expressed that it’s okay. I had to get it out. My Mom is a stronger person than me. I couldn’t continue to live in the place where i saw my husband die. I couldn’t.
I noticed during my visit, that my mom was making an effort to SEE and HEAR me. I could also tell it was frustrating because it seemed like she didn’t really know how. For example, while she was listening to my sister and I rattle on in conversation about a couple of the guys i’ve dated, career choices, hair products, etc. she would try to chime in every now and again, but then she’ll just stay quiet and observe. That’s interesting to me because I realize that I do the same thing when i’m with a circle of friends and i don’t know how to jump in conversation or i feel like i have nothing to contribute to the conversation…i stay quiet and just observe.
Oddly enough…this visit made me SEE and HEAR my mom. As much as she tells me over the phone that she’s fine…seeing her made me realize that her grief is heavy. I felt compassion for her. So needless to say, my phone calls will now become compassionate instead being duty-driven. I love my mom and care about her well-being. I don’t want her to waste away. She’s a spit-fire underneath the sadness. Pray for my mom, guys. Pray for real.
I am Tash and I have one parent left. I’m going to make the most of our time while we’re both still here on this earth. I think after the Labor Day weekend visit..it’s safe to say that my mom and I are finally SEEING and HEARING each other…at least…that’s what i think.