Sunday, April 30, 2017

      My mother would have been 101 years old today. She lost her fight to cancer at my age well over twenty years ago. Scary to think your mom was no longer on the earth at your present age, but mine chose to smoke, and that started her horrific battle. My father was lucky enough to find a second love and shared twenty years with her before he died at 93. It is all so surreal to me. 

     Talking to a friend about our moms yesterday reminded me of the cassette tape I made in 1987. I was off work for five weeks with bronchial pneumonia after performing in a play at the Greenfield Village Playhouse in Dearborn, Michigan.The doctor gave me a choice of five weeks at home or in a hospital. No choice. This time, however, gave me time to reflect. I had divorced the year before, so reflecting was a daily routine. My mom and I were never close, but for some reason, I decided to make a tape to tell both of my parents how grateful I was for all they did for me, for what they taught me and how much I loved them.

     I thanked my mom for her vivacious personality which I inherited. I thanked her for her flair for decorating and her sassy feminine style.  She taught me to  dress like a lady and walk tall to show off my legs. She taught me to be independent and always have control over some portion of my own money. (I took that to heart, and I always have some “Sandy Stash.”) She taught me that girlfriends are treasures and to be sure I always have a circle of them. She taught me to always have more than one career, so I took typing and shorthand which served me well earning money for college. She taught me to keep a neat house and pick up after myself. The dignity and courage she showed in her final days will always be a benchmark for me as I face the unknown of aging.

     I have friends whose daughters are resentful and angry like me because my Mom wasn’t the one I needed. They have their list of “you never. . . “ from childhood. I would say to them, “Focus on what your moms did well, not what they lacked. Tell them the good things, and try to understand and forgive their motivations for what you consider were their shortcomings.” I made the cassette, yes, but I was not kind to my mother due to the hurt I felt in her absence growing up. It wasn’t until after she died when I read letters she wrote to my father during the war that I got to know the mom I never had. I began to understand her motivation for things she wanted and needed. I forgave her before she died when she said to me, “I know I wasn’t a very good mom.” I answered, “You did the best you could, and I love you.” 

     I mourn the relationship we could have had, but in those days, we didn’t talk about such things. It is still difficult to talk about the “raw” of any relationship. We are all products of our families of origin. We can blame our parents for what they did or didn’t do, but they were products of their own families. I recognize now that intention has much to do with forgiveness. My mother never intended to ignore, to hurt, to criticize, but she had her reasons and her own legacy. 

     I pray that whatever shortcomings I have, my daughters will forgive me because I love them with all my heart, and I want nothing more than for them to be happy and whole. I did my best, and that’s all a mom can do.