Mom Before Me
My mom had a life before me (obviously). She was born in Fort Fairfield, Maine just like I would be twenty years later. She loved reading, and passed that love on to me and my daughter Lena. She loved roller skating, flirting, and chasing boys. She knew how to type and speed read. Her work after high school included nursing home assistant, harvester worker, short order cook, and a potatoe factory worker at McCain’s Potatoe Plant. I don’t know if my mother ever considered higher education. I believed her to be quite intelligent and maybe it is because of all the books she read. I often wonder what her life would have looked like if she had the opportunity to go to college.
My mother suffered a great deal of abuse as a child. It impacted her in multiple ways, damaging her mental and physical health. It is my belief that marrying my father exacerbated her trauma wounds. He loved her and she loved him. But their relationship was toxic. She wasn’t a perfect partner, but I always knew she deserved to be treated better. Treated with more respect and dignity. I always wished that for her.
Growing up with a mother who suffered from major depression, post traumatic stress, addiction to prescribed medications, was simply hard. It wasn’t easy to witness her struggle with her emotions and feel powerless to help stop them. My mother’s depression showed up in her nightgown all day, suicide ideation, and physical complaints. She was once a vivacious outgoing woman who became less of herself day by day. She was isolated by where she lived and lacked the energy or motivation to engage in activities she once enjoyed. Her relationship with my father was toxic. I have many wounds from my childhood and I’m not sure how much to write here. Can I write a tribute to my mother and yet share some of my wounds? I think so. I’m sure some will judge me for it. I can’t help that. I am choosing to share in case my words or my voice helps others share their wounds too. Sharing our narratives help us heal. I am healing.
My mother didn’t protect me from my father’s abuse. She burdened me with her stated desire to complete suicide. She didn’t ensure we had food or appropriate clothing. She did ensure our warmth by busting our windows with a crowbar so my father had no choice but to purchase new windows with a tax refund. My mother failed to take care of herself which makes it more difficult for me to take care of myself. I was introduced to diet culture at a young age and was the only child at weight watchers. I know she thought she was helping me with food restriction and the weekly meetings. We gained all the weight back and more when she could no longer afford for us to attend. Please note that I don’t blame my mother for my weight issues. I know I need to take responsibility and take action on my own health. I’m simply stating the reason for the struggle.
My mother was misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. She took meds for Parkinsons for years. All the medications she was prescribed for both her mental and physical conditions did significant damage to her kidneys. I believe the misuse of prescribed narcotics caused constant constipation which lead to her bowels exploding and resulting with an ostomy at a young age. She nearly died from this experience. In fact, my mother nearly died so many times during my life I am amazed she made it to 70 years old. She died because of diabetes and the damage it did to her kidneys. Her last few days were filled with pain until the palliative team could get her comfortable. Once comfortable, she gently passed away in her sleep. I’m so grateful for this. I’m grateful that my brother and I were by her side at the end. I’m grateful that my niece Jenna got to hold her hand and paint her fingernails. I’m grateful Aunt Doris brought her a Junior Whopper for her last meal and that Uncle Jim had an opportunity to pray over her.
Some of My Gifts/Mother Love
I am thankful that God didn’t take my mother until she was 70 years old. This surpassed everyone’s expectations. I kept comparing her to a cat except she had more than nine lives. In the later years of her life, I felt her desperately trying to make up for the past. She apologized a few times and I accepted her apologies. I am comforted in knowing my mother loved me in her own way. It is not the same way I choose to love my children but I need to accept the way she loved me or feel stuck. I no longer want to feel stuck. My mother tried to stay connected with me and I wasn’t a perfect daughter. I believe our attachment had wounds not easily repaired with duct tape. But we tried.
Because of my mother, I work hard at my own mothering of my children. Thank you mom for this gift. My children are such precious gifts to me. I love them extra hard because I don’t want to keep passing down family trauma. Thank you for the time you lived with us and we were able to create fun memories. Thank you for saving my photos, newspaper clippings, and both your highschool yearbook and mine. Thank you for giving me a little brother. Please tell him to call his sister more. Thank you for not dying until I could be by your side and not having regret for not belong there. Thank you for being a gift to me.
Thank you for sharing your Mom with us. I’ve learned that facing the realities of our mothers’ traumas helps to heal ours and stop them from impacting future generations. So glad you were able to hear and accept her apologies and be by her side as she transitioned.
Thank you Michelle for both reading my blog post and for your comment. I absolutely agree that learning about our family’s history provides context and opportunities for healing.