Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Letter to my Mother

Dear Mom,
Even though you've been gone for more than three years now, I still find myself getting the urge to call you on the phone once in a while.

Then I remember.

I can't tell you how many times I wish that we could just sit down and have a cup of coffee.  You were always such a great listener.  The numerous tragedies, catastrophes and crisises that you faced in your life put you in a position where you always 'understood'.  You never forced any advice on us, or seemed to be shocked at whatever 'situation' we found ourselves in.  And you were always supportive.  For some reason you had the uncanny ability to see the bright side of things, even at our darkest moments.  Sadly, there were few that we didn't share with you.

But now, dealing with my latest 'difficulties' with my own daughters, I think I suddenly know you better than I did then.  Raising kids is never easy and I think it's even harder when they're grown.  You can't ground them or take away their allowances when they misbehave.  And the problems that they face, are... exasperating at times.

I thought that our situations didn't affect you much.  That once we poured our hearts out to you, we'd talk, and everyone would feel better and go on.  It never occurred to me that you would spend one sleepless night over it.  Or agonize over our pain.  Worry what would happen.  Many times I'd see you 'just relaxing with a good book' after such talks, and that seemed to assure me you were unaffected.  I thought your calm demeanor indicated that, although you wished us the best, it was, afterall, our lives, and in the end, we stood alone.  I'd see you enjoying a TV show, drinking a glass of brandy.  How carefree I thought you were!  I'd laugh.  Brandy.  Who drinks that?  Especially a poor person whose last dollar would go to whoever needed it at the time.  I remember resenting it at times.  Did it not occur to me that that was your only means of escape?  Would I not be satisfied until I saw you rocking back and forth weaving baskets in an asylum?

We'd blissfully close our eyes to your needs.  "Mom's happy.  She doesn't need much.  Give her a cigarette, a good book and a glass of  brandy and she's just fine."  We never considered that you might long for more than that.  Your own place, quiet and peaceful.  We thought you enjoyed living with Steve and helping him out with his bills.  Traveling the world.  You were a widow.  Why would you want to travel without Daddy?  Your own car.  You didn't need one; there was always someone who could take you wherever you needed to go.  To the doctor's.  As if you'd ever desired to go anywhere else.

And we never hesitated to pour our hearts out to you.  We were all 'me people'.  Did we never stop to think that on any given day, there were six others brothers and sisters doing the same thing?  How much could you take?  And it's not like we only had minor problems.  God knows you could have written a book.  Who did you have to turn to?  Both of your parents were gone for most of those years.  And all of us were too caught up in out own lives to give you any support. 

I'm sorry, Mom.  I know that you had dreams.  Ones that went to the wayside after you gave birth to seven kids.  Instead, you instilled those dreams in us.  Told us time and time again to get out there and try.  Nothing was impossible, you said.  Quite a hefty bit of optimism considering your circumstances.  I know that many a night you and Daddy went hungry so that we could eat.  There just wasn't enough to go around.  I'm sorry that you never had any nice clothes.  That the only place you ever go to see except Philadelphia was Bermuda.  A one week cruise where you spent most of it in bed because you were seasick and then got a migraine headache.  I'm sorry that you never got to have one of your stories published.  Youwere a great writer, Mom.  I'm sorry that I didn't realize how much Daddy's death broke your heart, and how much you missed him the next fifteen years, until you joined him.  I remember you telling me when I was a little girl that when you were old you were going to have a face lift if you were wrinkled.  That was a pretty bold dream for those days.  Only movie stars did such things.  But you never did get that facelift, Mom.  Never got anything for yourself.

But up until now, all I remembered where the times that you weren't there.  The lousy few times that you were busy caring for all the kids that came after me, while I looked out at the audience for your face during a school play.  I thought only of my own disappointment.  How could you come when you were needed at home?  I didn't even stop to consider the fact that you too, wished you could be there.  I never saw your suffering.

We gave up on you, Mom.  We let ourselves believe that it was always too late for you.  That your only means of success and fulfillment came from hoping that we would someday do all the things that you had wanted to do, but never got the chance.

Thank you, Mom, for never throwing in the towel and giving up on us.  Never.  For always seeing the good in us, even when we couldn't see it ourselves.  For all the sacrifices you made throughout your life for us.  For making a big deal out of even the smallest achievement.  For always being patient and having the appearance of understanding, even though I'm sure you must have wanted to throttle us many times.

I'll never be able to be the Mother that you were.  You were a very special person, Mom.  I'm sorry I didn't see it before this.

I miss you. 

I think this weekend I'm going to curl up with a good book and a glass of brandy.