There were a lot of things about my mother that I didn't like.
She walked around the house naked when I was a kid. Totally traumatized me. Seriously.
She spent more time watching Falcon Crest, Dynasty and Dallas than being a mom.. to me at least.. by the time my siblings were born those shows had faded out so they got a little more parental interaction than I did.
She smoked. I hated that she smoked. I hated that we never had money for anything I wanted to do, but she always had money for cartons of cigarettes.
She was abusive - mentally, emotionally, physically. I can't tell you how damaging it is to a child to grow up feeling unloved by your mother. If I didn't answer the way she wanted, or questioned something she said she would just go crazy swinging her arms slapping me in the head. She busted my lip once. Pulled out some of my hair another time.
She was a mother, but she wasn't a 'mom'. Not until the last couple of years anyway.
There are a dozen or more things I could say but those were the main things that stand out.
Those.. and many many other events and memories of an unhappy childhood I have carried with me the majority of my life.
Some I'd let go, some I thought I'd let go but realized after she passed they were still very much a part of who I was and how I saw the world. Some we'd begun to work on sorting through and overcoming in the last few years.
Those have been the hardest to come to terms with since she died. The ones that we'd begun the process of working on, the wounds we were healing and the gaps we'd begun bridging.
I was for the first time in my life.. in my 30's.. starting to feel like I had a MOM.
And then she died.
The Kübler-Ross model says there are five stages of grief.
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, & Acceptance.
I think I skipped the first and third stages.
I've known my mom was dying since she was diagnosed with emphysema over 12yrs ago. Her doctor told her then she had to stop smoking. She didn't. So I've never been in denial that her lifestyle and choices would end in death. We all die - she just knowledgeably chose to hasten her end by continued bad choices.
Having never had a true 'mother-daughter' type of relationship most have left me with little to bargain for. It's not like I was losing something I ever had. I was never a mama's girl. We didn't do things together, share secrets, confide in each other. We never had a relationship. At least not one I was going to miss.
Anger hit me hard. And in many ways.
I was mad at her for choosing smoking over her family. Mad at her for never being the mother I needed. Mad at her for all the bad choices she made in her younger years that had such a profound effect on me as a child. Mad at her for robbing me of the type of mom I could curl up on the couch with and tell about my day. The type of mom I saw my friends have... a mom that made them feel loved, and accepted.. a mom that let them know they were good enough.
I was mad at her for all the things she put my brother and sister through when they were kids. Mad at her for flipping out and acting crazy when her and my dad got divorced. Mad at her for making me take sides in the custody hearings. Mad at her for just not being able to get her shit together and be a mother. Mad at her for not standing up for me and knowingly allow me to live my entire life as the 'step-kid' to my dad and his family. Hell even to my own brother and sister. My step-dad married my mom when I was 4, but he never knew who I was.. he only knew who my mom made me out to be.
My brother and sister had a vastly different life than I did and I spent the majority of my life resenting my mother for that because she was the only one who could have done anything about it and she didn't.
I was sexually molested when I was 3 by a babysitter. I was angry at her for that. Your mother is supposed to be your protector. She didn't protect me.
I was mad at her for sleeping around when she was a teenager and getting pregnant from a guy who didn't want kids. My brother and sister got to have their dad... I didn't.
I was mad at her for playing the victim to my brother and sister and pitting them against me when all of her guilt finally starting hitting her.
The last year of her life my family pretty much turned against me. They couldn't understand why I wasn't all lovey gooey over mom. "She's dying & you're a heartless bitch!" I got that from more than one sibling on more than one occasion.
She wanted everything to all of a sudden be OK because she was sick, but I just couldn't snap my fingers and pretend we had the happy mother-daughter relationship she all of a sudden regretted never having with me. And because my brother & sister had a completely different relationship with her and were too young to ever see how things really were between my mom and I they didn't understand. They didn't get it. So in the face of their grief they turned on me and she did nothing to change it or tell them the truth of how things were.
Most of all I was mad at her for waiting until I was in my 30's to finally try and be a real mom to me then die when we were just starting to make headway. I was angry she wouldn't see the first home I made with my husband. Angry she'd never come visit us, or see how well we were doing. Angry I couldn't call her and let her know about my new job, or my latest accomplishment. Angry that for something as stupid as a cigarette she took so much from me. Angry that she took so much from herself.
Whew - that's a lot of anger.
Thankfully depression had a much smaller and short lived place in my grieving process. I'm not sure I would have survived the combination of a full depression on top of all of that anger.
It did hit me though. For a couple of months almost every little thing made me cry. It felt like a huge hole had been torn from my chest - and it was even worse because it was the hole of always missing having a 'mom' combined with the hole of losing a 'mother'.
Matthew & I started fighting - because instead of grieving I took all that I was feeling and channeled it into other places. Being annoyed at him forgetting to do something I asked became a 4 day nagging fest.
Being bothered by him leaving his pants on the floor turned into a full blown rage fest and tirade about how much of a slob he was.
Needless to say, the months since my mother's passing have proven that I still had a LOT of repressed anger and that my husband is a saint.
If you've ever lost someone, heck if you've ever just been going through something you know that it doesn't matter what someone tells you, or how many different ways they say it - until you are ready to deal with what is going on and process through it - nothing helps. And no one, not even you know when that moment will arrive, or what will trigger it. You just know that you do the best you can to hold on until it comes.
During the last couple of weeks I've watched several movies that had to do with the death of a loved one. Then Sunday I watched a movie called 'Life as a House' with Kevin Kline & Hayden Christiansen. Kevin Kline was a dad who was dying of cancer, and Hayden was a very very angry kid who had pretty much no relationship with his dad at all. The movie was beautiful and I HIGHLY recommend it.
I don't know if it was seeing so much of my life in the movie and being able to grieve and then heal with Hayden's character or what but something happened, my moment came.
And Monday I woke up Happy. Totally, completely, truly from the inside out HAPPY. Happy with my life, happy with my home, happy with my job, my husband... most amazingly.. happy with myself.
And instead of focus on all the things I never got from my mother, I started thinking about the things I did - hence the title of this post.
First of all I got fabulously gorgeous hair from her. No really - we have great hair.
I got strong healthy nails.
I got fantastic Indian cheekbones.
I got a brother and sister - that while they can be total asshats, I love more than life.
But more than physical superficial things..
I got my spirit.. my strength... my determination... my stubbornness....my heart.
Some of my family may disagree on that last one, but ya know what - for the first time in my life I am completely OK with that. It's fine - they don't understand me... to be honest they barely even know me...
What matters is that I KNOW that I am an amazing woman who has an incredible future ahead of her.
And I know that for reasons good or bad, I owe a very large part of that to my mother.
Thank you momma... I love you.
Diane Beatrice Spiers Abshire
December 26, 1957 - February 5, 2011