Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Saying Good Bye (or not) to Mom,

Mom and I, seeing my aunt off on a Cruise, around 1964

My mother is 96 and dying. 

 It's not going to be easy for her to die because she's healthy and tough.  Too mean to die, that's my Mom.  She's in California, I'm in Iowa.  The congregation I'm serving as generously given me a gift in honor of my 25th ordination anniversary early in case I wanted to use the money to go see her.  

In a different story, I would take that money, fly out to see her before she dies and we would all have "closure" and no regrets.

But that is not going to be our story.  

See, my mother never wanted me or any of her kids for that matter.  As she told us many times, in those days you had no choice but to get married and have kids.  She was a negative, critical, unhappy person.   Fortunately, I did not notice that growing up. My husband noticed it.  "I am never going out there to see her again.", He told me,  "You will have to go without me"

So I did one last time, a little less than 20 years ago.  My children were toddlers.  I never tell anyone this story because it's just so unbelievable but this is what happened.  We were staying at her house.  She was pretty irritated because my children spilled ketchup on her white tablecloth, didn't want to eat dinner at her usual time of 4 pm and they liked to watch cartoons on television.  What kind of a mother was I?  I was washing clothes and she came in to tell me how to do it.  Well you know mothers and daughters.  I rolled my eyes and said "MOM! (you know, in two syllables) I know how to use a washing machine!"

She kicked me out.  "I can't stand you.  Get out of my house"  I said I was sorry.  I cried.  I begged her not to be that way.  But she was done with me.  It was 10 at night.  I had to call a friend, pick my babies up out of their beds sleeping and leave.  And I never came back.  Not because I wasn't willing to forgive, she was not willing to forgive. 

I have an older brother and sister from another marriage. When I was younger.  I never understood until then why they never came to see her.  Now I do.

But she tolerates visits from them.  Me, she never wanted anything to do with although we have exchanged a few polite phone calls.   

I've called her a few times since she's taken to her bed trying to die.  "I love you Mom," I say, "Okay thanks for calling, goodbye," She says.  That and "Don't come visit me"

There is something wrong with her.  I know it's not me.  It took me a long time to realize that.  I used to feel guilty about messing up her life for being born but she chose to get married again, get pregnant at 43 and have me.  

Oh, yea she would tell me how everyone told her she should abort me but she didn't.   Oh how noble. Abortion was illegal,  she was not stupid, she didn't feel like dying in some back alley.   

I could make excuses for my Mom and believe me I have.  But excuses can get in the way of forgiveness.  If  it's not your fault, then what do you need forgiveness for?  

My mother had a hard life.  But she had choices.   We all have choices.  I do forgive her.  I do feel sorry for her.  I do pray she dies soon and finds some peace.   If there is a hell I'm pretty sure she's already served her time there on earth.

So I'm not going back there.  She's not going to die alone.  My sister takes a bus (because she can't afford a car) every day to go see her and listen to her complain.  My brother, who is very successful, pays for round the clock care for her in the house he bought for her.  She never says thank you, she just complains.  And she has the housekeeper she's had (paid for my brother) for 30 years.  That's who she is close to.  The housekeeper.  

Sometimes I look at how lucky she is to have all that care, to be in her own house and think "nobody is going to do that for me when I die" .  

That's right, I'm not going to die the way she is, bitter and closer to a housekeeper than her own children. 

She's had a hard life but so have I and I am not going to die like she is, only thinking of the hard things, not all the blessings and love and good things there have been along with the hard things.   

There is always something to be thankful for.

*Update - my mother died a week later on August 31, 2011.



  1. *Hugs*. Yes, there is. I am reminded of the book of Proverbs: "Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith". Or, as the modern version has it: "Better a bread crust shared in love
    than a slab of prime rib served in hate."
    (I must admit, I have never heard of cooking an ox by "stalilng" it....).

  2. you are wise. And yes, there is a lot to be thankful for.

    thanks for posting this.

  3. Thanks. I really don't like hugs. You can probably guess why.

  4. Living well is the best revenge. I don't know where that comes from, and I know you're not looking for revenge in any way, but that phrase sprang to mind when I read this. You have so much that your mother has chosen not to have, even with the hard times you've been through. No hugs from me, just respect, admiration, and gratitude for your courage in sharing this piece of yourself.

  5. Thanks. Honestly I think sometimes my mom envied me that I had done so well with my life.

  6. Ick. I'm sad on every level. I wonder if what she really envied was your ability to love people.

  7. Good for you! Takes a lot of growth and guts to take care of yourself this way. I have my own horror stories about a very sick and destructive mother.

    I was well into my 50s (which included many years of therapy) before I finally FINALLY said, "absolutely not" to my mother. In return, she disowned me two months later -- in a letter.

    Relief was followed by grief and then relief beyond the beyond.

    So glad you're not re-wounding yourself and going for continued healing on your part.

  8. ..I am very late to this comment section, but I have to tell you how much this means to me. I had to walk away from my mother in 2003, after a life of strange tidings, thence for her to pass on a couple of years later with everything left unsaid. I carry guilt for this, though it was not my fault. Reading this blog entry helped me immensely, and you have my gratitude.