The Mother Load
By Kathleen ODonnell on February 04, 2014
The woman I thought would never die, did.
When I was ten, there was a girl in my class who had no mother. I don't remember anything about her other than that. At the time, I couldn't imagine anything worse.
I realize that a ten year old losing her mother is a tragedy. A 51 year old losing her mother is the ordinary course. Illogically, I feel orphaned. There should be something between tragedy and ordinary, and whatever it is, it's painful.
For most of my adulthood I worked hard to maintain a healthy separation from my mother. I sometimes over reached in my efforts, in ways I'm sure she found hurtful. I needed a reprieve from her intrusion, her enabling, her self destructive lifestyle. At the thought of her permanent absence, I only imagined relief.
Now I only miss her.
One of the many things she did that drove me crazy, I now admire - she lived her life exactly the way she wanted to, with no explanations or apologies.
And, here's the kicker - she never expected explanations or apologies from me either. And I can assure you I owed her some. Everyone raise their hand who shouldn't apologize to their mother.
That's what I thought.
My mother didn't come from a generation that sat around talking about their feelings, and she didn't. Ever. To my great annoyance. But now I realize she lived what she felt. No words necessary.
I knew she loved me and she knew I loved her. That's what it comes down to in the end.
But, I find myself in a mother-free limbo.
Where is my place in the world without my mother? Besides, next?
I'm still a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a writer.
But now, I'm no one's daughter.
Who do I call for a quick, invigorating tussle?
Who can I count on to disagree, disapprove?
Who has to love me even when I'm a jackass, a shit head?
And who has to always open her door for me?
When my mother died, all those certainties went with her and I'm adrift, feeling like a real grown up, responsible for myself without her as a safety net. And she could be the greatest safety net ever.
I don't believe death makes us better than we were in life. So, as much as I loved my mother I'm not about to elevate her to sainthood now that she's gone.
To say my mother was a saint would be an insult to her memory.
She was no saint. She was a card carrying human being with all the flaws and frailties that membership requires.
She was complex, hard to figure, often difficult.
But she loved everyone she knew the best way she could, with no hesitation, and she gave everything.
I didn't always agree with the way she went about it.
I didn't think she made the best choices.
We didn't often see eye to eye.
I didn't understand her.
But there's a hole in my life where my mother used to be.
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