Monday, October 25, 2010

Life Lessons

I'll be here in 2 months.
Scotty and my beautiful young Mom.

Most of us avoid uncomfortable topics, shy away from pain.
Facing the difficult parts of life is not a joy ride,
however, standing as testimony to our lives is vital.

It is with this intent that I join Char at Ramblings
today as several of us discuss our Life Lessons.
I have given much thought to sharing something
so intimate in such a public manner, disregarding my "normal"
blog fare but obviously have opted to do so.

Life lessons are meant to be shared.


Alice Kae
Mothers bake cookies, read you stories before bed. Mothers teach you the lessons you need to be happy. Mothers get you ready in the morning, and have snacks waiting after school. Mothers are not expected to get severely ill when you are a little girl of eight, and they are not supposed to spend more time in the hospital and bed than they do in the kitchen or even at home.

Becoming chronically ill before the age of 30 and fighting to survive for the next 40 years, changed my mother. We will never know what her life, our lives, would have become had she been well. My father once told me after a very bad period of discord between Ma and I, that he wished I could remember what she was like as a young mother. How she kept their very modest home neat and cheerful, and we were always clean and in fresh clothing.

The type of illness my mother suffered, required many years of steroids and it was not until I was well into my adulthood that I realized much of her erratic behavior was most likely the result of decades of innumerable medications. Although they kept her alive, they altered her, she became her illness. It defined her, enraged her, saddened her.

My mother and I were often volatile, though never estranged for more than a few days at a time. We lived 2000 miles apart for 30 years yet we spoke several times weekly and during difficult times, multiple times daily, as one or the other of us hung up on the other. We shared a lot of wonderful days during infrequent visits, and I bore up through many horrific days, trying to maintain a relationship with someone who I could not reason with, as she vented rage my way for a multitude of reasons.

I spent 30 years after leaving home trying to understand how we got to this place, praying and wishing and begging for a different existence with this woman who was my mother. I never failed to see her through each medical crisis, told her daily of my love for her, and never doubted that she loved me.

Loving someone is no guarantee that you will treat them kindly, with respect or with intent to make their lives easier. I wished, oh, how I wished, that things would change. I wanted Barbara Billingsley, Donna Reed, I wanted the Mom I thought I was entitled to have.

Within a week of my father's passing, and with devastating and cruel timing, my husband left, and I became a single Mom, struggling with heartbreak and fear and not at all prepared for the loneliness and demands of my mother who had miraculously outlived the man who had cared for her 40 years of medical needs. Thus began three years of constant struggle between two women, Mother and Daughter, both suffering such tremendous loss and having little tolerance for the pain of the other.

My hardest adjustment was the loss of what I knew to be true for 16 years; what was to have been my and my children's future. For my mother, who had been told since I was eight that her life was limited and each crisis was a death sentence unrealized, the suddenness of her life without her caregiver was intolerable. At her death bed three years later, gasping each breath in unbearable pain, came the words, "I just want it to be over. After all these years why does it have to be like this, be this hard." My mother had no faith, leaving this world in pain and sorrow, with a lifetime of regret and anger.

Suddenly, came the realization that there was no sense in grieving what never was; that Mother had done what she could, as she could, and from her view her life certainly had not turned out the way she had planned either. Two women united in sorrow for what could have been, should have been, in their own lives and with each other. The anger that I always felt directed at me was more likely misdirected as she railed at the universe, "why me?" Feelings I was all too familiar with. Feelings I now rejected as my legacy.

With intense clarity I envisioned that other young woman, Alice Kae, faced with devastating news that would leave her to become a different Mother than she had ever planned to be. As I sat by her bedside, holding her hand, I knew with absolute certainty that I must release the life I had planned in order to embrace the life ahead.

Seven years have passed and more often than not, joy abounds. I assume no outcomes as absolutes. My mother's lesson on happiness, unintentional though it may have been, was valued beyond measure; granting me peace, with the power of forgiveness, the power of grace.

I love you, Mom.


Sissie's Shabby Cottage said...

What beautiful words, although filled with sadness,forgiveness and understanding,is poignant.
Thank you for your heartfelt expressions about your memories and thoughts of your Mother.


Unknown said...

A beautiful, intimate, painful story very well told.
It is an unconscious, gracious gift when our parents teach us about the life we do not want and the person we do not want to be.
Suzan...this sounds like another step along the healing road. Travel well.

Sue said...

This is powerful and I'm left not knowing exactly what to say to you. I think sharing your story may help others and I have a feeling it was helpful for you.

I wish your childhood had been different, but maybe you wouldn't be who you are if it had been. So, maybe that would be the wrong wish. I do think your story will make a difference. You may just not know what it is yet.

Marguerite (Tina) Smith Hart said...

Thanks for sharing that story Suzan. I also had a very volatile relationship with my mom that still haunts me to this day.
The great thing about getting older though, things acquire a new perspective. The first 40 years of my life I thought everything was so dramatic, now....not so much.
I like to think that is what they were referring to when they say the "years have been kind".
Have a great week Suzan!
Tina xo

Olive said...

Z, what a hard yet touching lesson from your Mother. I imagine this was not in any way easy to write about. Your strength shines through in all you write about on this blog. The past makes us stronger or crushes us. ♥Olive

erin's art and gardens said...

well my dear friend, i know you so much better now. your relationship with your mother has shaped who you are and the way you mother your own children. at least, you HAD a relationship....unlike me. your honesty is so refreshing...... forgiveness is everything.

WhiteWhispers2u said...

So sad when a Mother becomes ill and life changes.Though a daughter and mother will always have their battles that's for sure.Sounds like she tried to deal the best way she could.We all do the best that we can at the time.Thanks for sharing~Cheers Kim

Char said...

i so identify with a lot of this as my mother dealt with a fatally ill child which caused her to neglect her other children - not to the point that social services came out but to the point i became the adult. (hugs) thank you for sharing this private and personal lesson.

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

Wow..these could have been my words..only my mother fought with mental illness..and was even harder for my young-child self to understand. I never felt loved by her..but now reading your words..I can see that in many ways, she did love me - I just couldn't recognize it. Wow..I have to digest what you have so eloquently shared here..I feel like someone has crawled into my past and held up a candle..

joanne said...

I cried while reading this post as it was as if you were holding a mirror up to my own life. Letting go of the anger and embracing the woman who wanted and expected more has been difficult for me. I am so glad you shared this story of Grace and the power of was very brave of you. Blessings to you and your sweet mama.

Kit said...

This must have been very hard to write. But I am so glad you shared your story. You are truly such a lovely person. Kit

Julie@beingRUBY said...

So sad Suzan
It's strange how much the past can continue to live with us in the present.. My mum died when I was 13 and I have nothing but wonderful memories of her before her illness .. but sad memories of all the years without.. and I think I relate to what you have written more re the relationship with my father..

Glad though you have been able to accept the situation... it's funny isn't it.. we can't change the past.. Your mum must be happy to hear these thoughts now and know you have found some peace.. xxx Julie

north pal said...

Dearie, my heart aches for you,but i do believe you are a stronger woman. i am thinking you are a very appreciative kind woman. these are the feelings i feel as i have read many blogs before this one. you certainly have had heartbreaks in your life time. adding you to my prayer list. one can pray for strangers and starting tonight i will be praying for you. consider your self hugged.:) Bestest,Denise

Carole said...

Oh Z what a story... I knew of your mothers illness but to have reveal so much was truly touching. I can't possibly understand the sorrow you felt thru your childhood and into adulthood. We really never realize how lucky we are to have our health. I was just saying that to George who complained today about his hair turning gray. Rubbish!!!
Ok I guess I could put this in an email.

If I still have a computer with the puddle of tears on my keyboard...


Jillayne said...

What a story you have told us. This can't have been easy, but sometimes pain eases once the telling begins.
I remarked to another friend lately that, from the parent side of the equation, it is hard to understand that the people you love the most, your children, know you the least.
And as a child, it is very difficult to see our parents as anything outside of their relationship to us.
It can be very difficult to empathize with the other side of the story, but sometimes what matters most is the recognition that a different version has played out for the ones we love. Hugs to you, for sharing this. You made me think about a thing or two, as a mother, and as a daughter.

Pooch Purple Reign said...

i dont really know what to say, but i can send a hug...
~laura xx

Gigi Thibodeau said...

I'm so glad that you wrote this. The power of forgiveness is valuable, indeed, and only attainable if one is willing to let go. You are an incredibly strong woman to have found grace and peace. Thank you so much for sharing this story, Suzan. xoxo Gigi

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

You are a brave woman, and I am happy to have recently become a reader here.

Gentle hugs...

margie said...

these are beautiful and revealing words. cherish them, you are lucky to be able to write them. keeping these feelings inside of our hearts leaves little room for love. congratulations on making room.

Tanya said...

XOXO, Z - Tanya

Country Girl said...

Beautifully written, this heartfelt tale. Wonderful read.
I came here via Charlane at Ramblins. So glad.

the old white house said...

Know that I am reaching through cyberspace and giving you the biggest hug ever. The fact that you recognized the lesson and USED it to become the magnificent woman you are is more than beautiful. you are a true gem and I am blessed to call you friend. Theresa xoxoxoxo

Rust: Vintage Inspired Design said...

What beautiful heartfelt writing.....I am so very sorry for the tremendous losses you have suffered, but I am so proud and in awe of your astounding journey and ability to put it all in to such beautiful and moving words. So sad that your mom wasn't able to be the person you envisioned (higher dose steroids wreck havoc on emotions). Wishing you all the best and thank you so much for sharing your story.

Rose ~Victorian Rose ~ said...

Brave, strong and honest...that is how we should all be about our feelings.
I too had a very hard relationship with my mother..and altho she was physically healthy..she was so burdened with her life of raising five children ...that she did not necessarily want ..and the life my father forced on her and us...she was to say the very least "maladjusted" emotionally..and it effected us children....especially me it seems, as I was always the "sensitive" one..and that was NOT a tolerable trait in our household.
But I am glad you came to the point of acceptence with your mother....I am still working on it...she has been gone a number of years now...and so has my father, but interestingly ...I was thinking the other day, I would like to see my father again some that is PROGRESS.
You are a very good writer...wish I was more as well.

Hugs, Rose

Tete said...

And she loves you more than words could ever say. She is no longer the illness and is free to be who she was meant to be. Just wait until you meet her on the other side.
Her illness may have taken away so much- but it also gave in return. If she hadn't been sick- you may not have had much of a relationship at all... and even in the anger and the pain- there was love. The stronger the hurt is, it's because the love was strong, too. The opposites match in extreme. If there hadn't been the love there- the anger wouldn't have been there either.
I'm so glad you found your peace in this, and your mother finally has hers, too.

Blessings- Tete

June said...

I am not sure that I can express my thoughts well right now, but this story of loss and sadness, and joy and triumph over things that cannot be changed, made me realize that though we all have traveled some very difficult roads in our lives, it is always a choice. A choice about what we will do with the lessons that we learn along the way. You have chosen joy, while many choose bitterness...and that is why I love you!

This is so beautifully written and I felt every word of it. Every hurt and every bit of the acceptance that had to come.
Love to you,

Puna said...

I hope that my daughter will remember and honor me like you do your mom.

Dee@FrenchBleuVintage said...

Oh Suzan ~ I think Tete says it best, now without the restraints of her body, your Mom is free to be the Mom she wanted to be in life and loves you so so much. This must have been very hard for you to write and Im so glad you did. Both of your parents raised an amazing woman. Thank you ~ Dee

Karen said...

Thank you for this story that touched me so deeply. I too wanted Donna Reed and got a totally different mother. I spent my childhood trying to find a woman to fill those voids and did in some ways find someone who did. I realize now that I like you need to give up that dream and understand what I do have. My mother is 82 and someone I try hard not to be like but find myself unconsciously saying or doing the things I most dislike about her. Life can be so hard sometimes. Hugs

FrenchGardenHouse said...

Thank you for this writing. So honest and open, and filled with a lesson all of us can learn or be reminded of.

You are a different Mom than she was, and in the end, your Mom gave you the best lesson of all. xoxo Lidy

marcia said...

Wow ...this touched my heart as I fight back tears.

Hugs to you and I am honored to *know* you. Thank you for sharing your story. You are a strong,wonderful and inspiring woman.

Faded Charm said...

What a heart wrenching story as my eyes fill with tears for both you and your mother. Why things happen sometimes we will never know, but I'm sure your mother's illness made you into the person you are today and that's something to be proud of.

We both know being a Mom is probably the hardest thing we'll ever do, but there are so many rewards to go along with all the pain and heartache.

Thanks for sharing this story with us.

Best wishes,


Brenda Pruitt said...

I've never known a mother. Your words touch me beyond measure.

The Boston Lady said...

Z, I just looked back at this post you did about your mother. Although my mother and I had a very different relationship than how you described yours, I can relate to those final painful moments that you both experienced. I am glad your mother found peace and as she did, you seem to have found it too. A gift that she was finally able to give to you, her daughter. Ann

kitchu said...

i don't remember how i found you but i am honored to have read this - what a powerful post and testament to what love truly is, to our common struggles, to our humanness. thank you for this. it is striking to me how similar our life experiences are.