I really don’t mind this place we’re in right now; this place between leaving and arriving. It’s pregnant with new horizons and new possibilities. I find it invigorating.
After visiting the vet today and dropping over $200 on vaccinations for the dogs, we went to visit my grandmother where she lives in a rest home (there’s plenty more on that topic here). The last time we were there, I told her we had to leave, knowing full well grasping the fact would be a process for her. She was relatively clear headed today, however, and had specific questions. Thelma never ceases to surprise me with those times when she is fully cognizant.
Last night I wrote a comment on Jane Devin’s recent post. The article focused on her father, but, perhaps inadvertently, what she wrote was a revealing description of her mother. I really enjoy and relate to Jane’s writing. It got me to thinking about how my mother’s disdain for her children often left us as beggars, waiting for the tiniest scraps of her love and attention. Her article had me reflecting on the years that I spent there “at the gate”, as Jane wrote, waiting to see myself reflected positively in my mother’s eyes. When finally I no longer needed those tiny scraps of attention, and when I was able to release the confusing need I had for my mother, I was surprised at how strong my resolution was in the end.
I was surprised at how I'd emerged a stronger woman.
Today, it was mid-day and lunch had been served. My grandmother ate heartily in her room surrounded by room mates, who also ate ate hungrily (with the exception of Mary, who was too tired). Thelma’s aid, Karen, has limitless energy and limitless compassion, and she buzzed from one resident to the next, fussing over this and that, tending energetically to what I consider one of the most important, but least paid, jobs in the country. I sat in a chair close to my grandmother, as I always do, so I can reach out and touch her, scratch her shoulder maybe, or lay a wet one on her forehead when I feel like it. We were going to leave soon.
And through the door walked my mother.
I did a double take. It felt like I was watching the twin towers burn down again, really. You know that moment when you’re not sure your eyes are seeing what they see? My mother lives a few hours away in Massachusetts, and for the last three months has been virtually nonexistent, so what were the chances of us running into one another? She’s somewhat infamous for not visiting Thelma, as well. Rumor is that she’s left her third husband, again, and was set to move into a senior complex. She’s only 60.
She was as shocked to see us as we were to see her.
Leslie started laughing, which is what she does when she’s surprised and slightly uncomfortable. I took stock of how I felt, and it surprised me that I wasn’t disgusted with her any more. She looked terrible, tired and run down, and wore one of those funky bandanas on her head that she wore when I was a kid. I hate those things. It always meant her hair was dirty. She’s put on a lot of weight, too, although I’m not one to talk. But she looked puffy and uncomfortable. Her shirt was torn, and her jeans didn’t look clean.
I gave her a big hug, a good squeeze, and kissed her cheek. She always seems surprised when I do, as if she isn’t worthy. How ironic that is considering the pedestal on had her on when I was a child. I remember loving her with the same intensity that my daughter loves her mothers, Leslie and I. I remember wanting to be with her all the time, rather than outside. I remember adoring her with everything I had, and then being devastated on the most visceral of levels the first time she left when I was four. And then again when I was 11, and again when I was 17, even though by that time I was living with Thelma & Ed, and had numbed myself to a degree.
What I discovered in this moment today, in this gift the Divine Mother gave me, was an objective and genuine affection and a little bit of sadness that, for once, didn’t pierce me to the core of my being. I felt no confusion and no internal battle. In fact, I wasn’t upset at all. At this point in my life, when I'm carefully taking stock of what baggage I'm casting off, what burdens I leave behind when we go, I'm very grateful for this clarification.
I have to admit, however, that I had no desire to sit there and chat either.
So, we left, my family and I, after I gave my mother one last hug. Elizabeth hugged her, too, and under the circumstances, I have to applaud my 11 year old daughter’s compassion. She’s fully up to speed on these circumstances, and still finds the strength to grace the adults in her life when she knows it’s appropriate. Her hug made my mother shine. Even Leslie, who still feels stung by my mother’s carelessness this time around, had it in her heart to impart a smile and a warm gesture before leaving.
Thelma was thrilled her daughter was there to visit. That smile, beaming out of her toothless face, was priceless.
Maybe the last two years helped my mother see how easy it is to lose someone, and maybe my grandmother will reap the rewards of her lesson.
Maybe that is the Divine Mother’s truest gift to all of us.