so last year i had 3 mother figures, and this year i have only 1 living. i spent a lot of time with my aunt and grama growing up. my mom was 3 days shy of her 21st birthday when she had me, with her husband on the other side of the world. luckily she had support. a good portion of my childhood memories are against the backdrop of grama and grampas house and their big backyard, or over at barb and rick’s. these are happy memories.
i came across this photo last night.
even though it’s fuzzy, everything in that picture makes me nostaligic. everything about it is so typical of a family celebration. that bucket of ice cream with the ancient ice cream scooper, a round cake, the glasses, the decor in grama’s house, that set of drawers full of who knows what, but in the middle and 3 drawers up – that one was mine and i could always find some little trinket grama had saved for me in there. my mom is on the right, barb on the left. even the way they are sitting and looking at each other looks so perfect and typical to me.
i miss them so much. grief has been back to bite me in the butt more frequently lately. i don’t know if it was the anticipation of mother’s day or the fact that grama’s birthday is coming up next week or that we’ve just passed 6 and 7 months on the deaths. i know it was a year ago now that we got barb’s diagnosis. i feel that, too, in the springtime. it’s beautiful out, everything is waking up, but i can still feel the shock in the air of a death sentence. last year i was busy busy busy. school was coming to an end and i had to go back and forth to the hospital and finish homework and get to class and get to work. a year ago today i went to a wedding. it was kind of horrible. i just found out barb was going to die and i was watching another couple starting their lives. it didn’t make any sense. i remember watching them, and watching my friend dance with his grandmother and just thinking, “shit. you don’t know what’s gonna happen. all this joy and happiness and in 30 years you could both be dead.” it also reinforced that when i get married my aunt and grama won’t be there. it was a sad time.
on mother’s day, usually we would all somehow spend it together. we’d pick grama up and go out to eat with the whole family. i remember once a couple of years ago, my cousins were either out of town or working or something, so barb and grama just came over to my mom’s house and we had dinner there. it was nice. i remember writing out 3 mother’s day cards and telling them all how much they meant to me and that each of them were like a mother to me. and they were. mother figures. i clung to that, especially around the times that barb and grama died, to make a point on how meaningful they were to me. however, they were not my mothers.
with barb, i realized that in the last week of her life. andi had just come back home to be here for the end and they were having a discussion that got a little heated. in trying to counsel and be a peacemaker, i realized that this is mother-daughter stuff. i was lucky to have a close, loving, adoring relationship with barb, but without that tension that comes from the nature of being mother-daughter. and that’s what’s special about being aunt and neice. she was a wonderful aunt! we had a good time. i needed her in my life because she was like me, my counterpart. in the sibling sets in our family, there always seems to be the smart, achiever, perfectionist older one, and the charismatic, personable, lovable, cute, younger one. barb and i understood each other, i needed her influence, her encouragement, and her companionship. i can’t imagine my life without her.
with grama, sure she performed some motherly duties when i was a kid, but i got to be spoiled rotten by her, coddled, loved, adored. i was the only grandchild for such a long time, and i got to be the favorite. and then i got to know her. i was patient with grama, tried not to be frustrated with her, and got to spend lots of one on one time with her. you know, i never talked much around my grama, but i just loved being near her, looking at her face, listening to her. it’s really the epitome of a grandmother/granddaughter relationship. she was not my mom, and that’s great because she was a really good grama. we loved each other so much!
and in these realizations, i come to appreciate my own mother more and more. in these realizations, i can give her a break. i had villanized her for many years, focusing only on the negative, the controlling, the ugly. but she has a lot of great qualities. she’s fun, she has a great sense of humor, she’s real, she’s honest, she loves me so much, she has always tried to do everything she could to make a good life for us. after the deaths, i’ve just come to this great appreciation for her, just for who she is. when i stop expecting her to be someone she’s not, stop comparing her with others, acknowledge there will always be a little something extra in the strain department because of the nature of being mother and daughter… she’s pretty great. i had to grow up and she had to grow up, but i’m glad we’re where we are today. i love her very much.
so today, i’m thankful for all the women in my family who have made an impact on me in their uniqueness, their roles, and our relationships.