Part VI: Realizing my mothering days will never be over
My mother came to stay with me from April 20, 2021, until April 24, 2021. The intent? To be here with me after my consultation and workup for keratoconus on April 22, 2021. I had been informed prior to the appointment by the nurse that I could have blurry vision for a few hours. My mother thought it best to be here so she could help with Jernee. I will preface this by saying, I am not used to having someone in my space for more than three days (or needing assistance or reaching out for it) and each time my mom stays with us past that mark (it’s not often — it’s quite rare), I am further reminded of why I left home at such a young age.
To say that we are vastly different would not cut it. I am daytime and my mother is nightfall. We are at two different ends of a spectrum yet — the love we have for each other knows no bounds. As I age, I thank God for lending me another year so I can continue to try to understand the woman who gave birth to me.
Will I ever succeed in this? Or, will I die trying?
I want to be optimistic about who we are and the fact that we still have growing to do and we will accomplish that together but an aching nag in the back of my mind tries to subdue me and cause me to believe it is impossible.
I can see a picture of us with growth behind us that leads to a positive outcome years from now, but I can also see a picture of the opposite. Which one will prevail?
Those days spent with my mother a couple weeks ago, ushering in earlier dinner times and trying to be patient with her long, drawn-out stories and rehashing of things said earlier in the day could not end soon enough. My mother will be sixty years old this year and there are already signs of her mental faculties closing in on her. When I was in my teens, she spent most of her money and time depositing various drugs into her system including copious amounts of alcohol.
She had been running away from who she was for several years and now it seems as if she is circling back to that past person sans drugs, of course. Her temperament is easily disrupted. A word that is spoken out of turn or in reference to something she may have said that was incorrect will send harmful epithets flying in the very direction of those she loves.
We have many conversations about her failing memory and how if I truly needed someone to take care of me should an extreme turn of events occur, she may in fact not be that person. I do not feel confident lending my life to her — not in that way and it pains me to say so — to even see the words typed on-screen, causes me to tear up.
What do you do when you’ve mothered a mother who was a mother before her time and you may have to keep mothering her well before you think it’s time?
At the age of eighteen, motherhood was thrust upon her and although she used to tell me she was ready, she truly wasn’t. Neither of my parents was. The two of them have my great-grandmothers, grandmother, godmother, and older aunts to thank for helping them raise me. And with this, what did they get? A little girl who was mature enough to handle certain situations they could have never thought of handling while they were growing up. I also had the label “grown” thrown at me more times than I care to remember.
To grow alongside one’s parents is an odd thing. My mother was my mother but felt more like a friend. My father was my father but felt more like the homeboy up the block I played basketball with to sharpen my skills. We were all growing up together but I was being groomed, it seemed, to be more of an adult than them.
And when their divorce happened, so did the crash into drugs for my mother and my taking over her mothering role, and it kind of stuck. So, instead of being an actual sister to my siblings, I am more of a godmother or a mother or a being they show far more respect to than they do their own parents. It doesn’t feel good — it isn’t something for which I applaud them. I am rather upfront about how I feel they should treat our parents.
I don’t like the angered human being who spews out never-ending wrath because of trapped pain or perhaps the fear of aging or perhaps the fear of losing a handle on her children even more? I believe my mother felt useful being here with me during those few days but swiftly noticed that I was still as independent as I have always been.
So, where did that place her? How could she try to insert her mother role if there were no more opportunities?
In walks Jernee . . . the nine-pounder who has truly stolen my mother’s heart. I enjoyed every moment (as I always do) watching my mother and my dog interact. Jernee has a favorite spot whenever my mother visits or when we visit my mother and that’s as close to her nana as she can get. My mother is calm with her, undeniably sweet, and rubs or pats her tummy or back until Jernee falls asleep.
She is cautious in how she prepares her food and is rather vocal to anyone who thinks Jernee can have every treat there is under the sun (she can’t, she has various allergies and I am serious about not having her hospitalized again for hemorrhagic gastroenteritis). She will let you know in a way in which you will not forget that Jernee “cannot have that. Thank you, but no thank you.”
She loves on her with genuine sincerity and this touches me at the very center of who I am and I cannot help but appreciate the love she pours into this pet who means so much to me.
Not a grandmother (my nieces and nephews are my dad’s grandchildren), my mom shows me the mothering qualities she has stored up over the years in hopes of using once again, are carefully being issued to her “granddog.”
It is in her voice — in the way she lures Jernee to her. It is in the way she takes her time with Jernee who now, sometimes struggles to see late at night. It is also in the way she disciplines me for attempting to demand something of Jernee.
I look at the two of them together and there is no doubt in my mind that my mom is mothering the way she has always wanted to. And all it took was a connection to my dog who has really become “our family’s dog” since I introduced them to one another thirteen years ago.
We may not be the best mother-daughter team but we know our flaws and we’re willing to continue to work on them and get better at being open to the changes occurring. We will forever be works in progress but we have come so far and the war still rages.
Both of us are warriors, ready for battle — ready to keep each other first, no matter the cost. I realize now — I’ll always mother someone for it is deeply ingrained in who I am. And perhaps my mother will no doubt use her newfound mothering skills to press forward into the coming years sharpening those skills.
Maybe with her human grandchildren, if two of my brothers decide to actually make that dream a reality. I can almost smell the love in the air.
I think we’re ready.
To those of you mothering mothers who have lost their way, mothers who cannot remember their roles, or mothers who look up to you more than you can fathom, this is for you. Mothers and mothering people giving your all to your children or someone else’s, thank you. Happy Mother’s Day.