Thanksgiving Without You

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I’ve never known or remember experiencing a holiday with my mother.  I’ve never stood next to her in the kitchen, peeling potatoes or making a pie.

I’ve never sat next to her at a Thanksgiving dinner or sat on the floor going through albums of photographs.

I’ve never held her hand as we bowed our heads in prayer.

Too many “I’ve never”, not enough memories.

My 33rd Year

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I’ve read before, that motherless daughters often feel as if they will die at the same age their mothers were when they passed away.  For me, that age was 33.

 

At a time in my life when I should have been coming into my own, I was anything but… I never could visualize myself as a mother or even as I might be when “I grew up.”   I was frozen in limbo yet desperately wanting to know exactly when I would die during my 33rd year, for I knew it would happen.  Would it be on my birthday?  Would it happen in the middle of the year or cruelly on the day before I turned thirty-four?  Anxiously I approached that year and every day until it was over.  I lived in a constant state of uncertainty.

 

During my 33rd year I got divorced, changed careers, gave up sleeping and lost ten pounds.  Sadly, and now with compassion, I look back at my perplexing choices and addled behavior and wonder how I made it through.  I must forgive myself for not being totally present for my children, knowing now, that I was doing the best I could.  I must forgive myself for not being present for me.  My 33rd year was brutal and frightening and even now, brings me to tears.

 

I have lived 30 years past my mother’s age at the time of her death.  I slowly and methodically pulled out of that 33rd year and must say I’m finally growing into my own.  I am not without scars and memories of that time, but the intensity has lessened.
I truly am grateful for my extra years.  I think God knew I would need an extension to get it all together, in fact, I’m still getting it all together.  In the end, isn’t that what life’s all about?

Make a Wish

 

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I haven’t always known my mother’s birth date.  I’m sure my daddy thought about it as every September rolled around and she was not here to celebrate, but he rarely spoke of it.

 

About twenty years ago, Auntie Sue began calling me on my mother’s birthday, September 28.  She would call while I was getting ready for work, sometimes at 6:30 a.m.  “Hi honey,” she would say.  “I’m still sittin ugly, but I wanted to remember your mother on her special day.”  Then she would tell me a quick little story about her or just tell me something about her personality.  Most of the time we would laugh while she was telling her story, but we both knew our tears would flow as soon as we hung up.

 

As I’m prone to do, I imagine that I would have been a wonderful daughter.  I would have called, sent gifts and baked a cake.  I could imagine her eyes lighting up and us hugging as we both said, “I love you!”.

 

The truth is probably somewhere between my imagination and reality.  I might have been busy with my own life and children and only managed a phone call or card purchased hurriedly to make it on time.  I’ll never know how it might have been.

 

But today, I am wishing my mother a Happy Birthday.  Today, I am remembering a story Auntie Sue might have called to tell me.  I’m missing these two special ladies, but I’m happy they are together and celebrating within the Pearly Gates.  Who knows….they may be eating some heavenly delicious cake!  I hope so.

 

Happy Birthday Mom!

Enough

 

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I just knew there was a rule book for life that I did not read.  Guidelines for living that I never understood.  That’s exactly how it felt to grow up without a mother.  I felt everyone else knew the secrets to life, except me.

I was the perfect faker, the ultimate counterfeit girl, imitating others and impersonating the girls I read about in Seventeen magazine.  It was exhausting to be constantly watching others for cues as to what to say or do.

There are many of us walking on this earth, that for whatever reason, feel the same way.  I see the others now, and I know I was never really alone.  But today, when I notice someone who looks afraid or uncertain, I reach out to take their hand, literally or figuratively, so they can feel the warmth.

This life is too much for tender souls, but as we hold another’s  hand, we ourselves gain strength, and wisdom and safety.  We can feel safe and secure to be who we really are and know  that is enough.

We are enough.

Friendships

 

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There are so many different types of friendships.  Childhood friends; co-workers; acquaintances who upgrade to friend status for a specific purpose or activity, the list is endless.  But, to a motherless daughter, a true friendship is a healing balm, an anchor to this world that helps her stay grounded.

A girl who has lost her mother at an early age, lost her teacher, her road map as to how to have and be a ‘girl friend.’  Often there was no time spent on mother-daughter activities.  Shopping together or just hanging out is a foreign idea to the daughter who has no clue how to begin and sustain a friendship.  She has no idea what girls ‘do’ or how they act or think.  As is sometimes the case, the motherless daughter got her cues on how to ‘be’ from her father, sibling or another caregiver.  Her primary role model, her first friend is missing.

To the friend of a motherless daughter, you might not realize your importance…the value of your friendship is immeasurable.

You might not realize how much your consistency and trustworthiness is relied upon and what that safety means.

You might not realize how your love, laughter and advice provides  strength and support to walk through this life.

You might not realize these things, but they are real.  Your ability to be present is a gift from above, to be cherished more than silver or gold.

Maybe, just maybe, the mothers in heaven get a sayso in sending the perfect friendships to their daughters.  You might not realize it, but these true connections are divine.  And God said, “This is good.”

 

Desert Rose

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Parts of my childhood are shrouded in a thin veil of mist.  Of course there are the big things like school, vacations or birthdays, but many of my day to day memories are vacant.

For example, I never knew that my mother had chosen Desert Rose dishes when she and my dad married.  After she died, my dad packed them away.  It seems he couldn’t stand all of the memories and yet everything was a reminder.

When I got a little older, he finally showed me the dishes.  At first glance I thought how old fashioned they were.  I knew I wanted something more modern and less flowery.  I recall distinctly the look on his face when I muttered my displeasure.  Only now, looking back, do I see the whole story.  To my dad, these dishes symbolized my mother and the life they had had.  To me, at the time, they were just flowery dishes packed away in the garage.

I never remembered the dishes being used or a meal being prepared.  Years would come and go…husbands, moves, children etc, until I finally grew up.  Emotional immaturity seems to plague some of us motherless daughters, as we often freeze at the time of our loss.  The thawing out of feelings and emotions can take a long time.

My modern dishware changed through the years.  I was never satisfied with whatever type or pattern I chose.  Nothing was quite right until I saw those Desert Rose dishes again, when my Dad was moving to a retirement home.  I wanted those dishes and I knew in my heart I was ready for them.  Nothing else would do;  nothing else had stood the test of time and still maintained its classic status.

As if the universe was celebrating my maturity too, Auntie Sue called and offered me her set of Desert Rose dishes.  Now,  I have a large collection that I proudly use everyday.   Am I blessed?  Yes, beyond measure.  Am I grateful?  More than I can ever say.  I feel like a Desert Rose blooming for the first time.  The Desert Rose is slow growing, but it is also beautiful, classic and durable.  Amen.

 

 

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Mothering Motherless

 

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Being a motherless mother has its own set of rules, fears and thought patterns.  I cannot speak for all motherless mothers, yet, what I’m about to say  will make perfect sense to them.

I used to have an idealistic vision of myself as a parent.  I was not prepared for this overwhelming feeling that I wanted my mother.  For me, because  my mother died when I was so young, I did not have a mature enough mindset to even begin to grieve her, until I became a mother.

As strange as it may seem, I felt blindsided with emotions and grief because all of a sudden I was stepping into ‘her’ realm, motherhood.  Which also meant, that something bad might happen.  It could happen to me and it could happen to my children.

I had an overshadowing feeling of fear.  I was afraid I was doing “it” all wrong, after all, I never even remembered being mothered, how could I know what to do?  I read Dr. Spock’s book, watched and asked my friends and constantly second guessed my ability to mother.  While this was happening, I was simultaneously severely over protective and fearful about everything.  Neurotic?  For sure.

These feelings would seem to settle down until a new phase of development would begin.  How do I know the right thing to do?  I couldn’t ask my mother and I needed her reassurance so much.  I kept telling my children that I loved them.  I wanted them to know, really know.  But, then the questions would start…what if they forgot? Or what if I died, would they be able to remember my words?  My voice?

Every since becoming a mother, I have had the stark realization that I could die at any time.  The year I turned 33 was the longest and most dreaded year of my  life.  My mother died when she was 33.  While I knew intellectually it (probably) would not happen, emotionally I waited for those 365 days to pass, so I would know for sure.

I have made it well past the age of 33 and now even both of my girls are past that age.  I’ve learned a lot about living from this fear of dying and I know in my heart, that my mother was giving me her love and assurance all along. I see it now and I can look back without staring, without blame.   I can forgive myself for some of those crazies and  breathe a little more deeply.