Between Mother and Child
As we all celebrated Mother's Day recently and shared our love with those around us, we also reminisced about loved ones, long since passed. My Mother died in 1995 when I was 47 years old. She died of cancer, as so many of our friends and family have. The last six months of her life she wanted to be mostly with me and Bear (my husband). She loved him. So many of you do! She wanted to spend time with me, to share stories, to ask for forgiveness.
You see my Mother and I weren’t the best of friends when I was a child. My parents married soon after the end of WWII. Life in England wasn’t easy. It was difficult to find work. My Dad, finally hired as a clerk in a large insurance company, also went to night school hoping that by learning a foreign language he could earn more money. My mother painted miniatures. Painstakingly, into the wee hours of the morning. Of course she got pregnant right away. Of course I was a demanding baby. Think of the energy I have now and what I must’ve been like then! They lived in the poor part of London. They struggled to pay rent. The war was a dreadful time and their lives didn’t change much afterwards.
My Mother, during those last days we sat together in the warmth of the sun as her life was slowly ebbing, cried and said, “I did love you. But your birth added to the difficulties. I always blamed you. I’m so sorry.” Holding her frail hand in mine, tears streaming down my cheeks, I understood. She had never shared anything with me about those early years.
I grew up, independent, mostly entertaining myself, because my parents were so busy trying to make ends meet. Overhearing them argue about money, and me. We didn’t have family chats by the fireside. Most of the fun times I remember were with my grandparents, whom I adored. Sadly, I often thought, maybe I had been adopted, found in a basket on the doorstep.
I left home as soon as I finished high school. Traveled. Eventually emigrated to America, graduated from college and made a life for myself. I did visit my parents a couple of times. I wrote letters home. But we remained estranged until in the early eighties my parents decided to retire to, of all places, San Diego, where I had made my home.
As an adult, it was easier to get to know them. Over time, we developed a relationship that stood the test of time until Mother became ill. As so many of us do, I felt helpless that I couldn’t help her. My blood type didn’t match hers. I couldn’t even give her that gift. I couldn’t take away the pain. I couldn’t make her well. I couldn’t stop her hair from falling out. But I could love her. Comfort her and most of all, tell her there was nothing to forgive. She gave me life. What a gift.
Five years after her death, I cut and donated my hair to “Locks of Love.” I never grew it back. I never will. I miss her.