My mom died.
I do not like euphemisms, much. ‘passed away’ is too passive. ‘lost her’ indicates negligence on my family’s part. ‘left us’ suggests that she wanted to. ‘lost her battle with cancer’? Please. It was a battle like Germany invading France through Belgium was a battle. There wasn’t a lot of time for resistance in Belgium. And then it was over.
Then came grief.
First I should explain that my mother and I had an adversarial relationship. She wanted to know every little working of my mind and soul and I did not want her to, so I became a very private person. So, too, with my brother. My father? He’s always been an introvert.
But because I didn’t let my mom in, she invented a lot of things about me that she thought were true. She believed I would come home from a day of teaching, don evening wear, and go out to a gala or maybe the symphony. That I wrote Regency romances because of Jane Austen. That I had a use for The Oxford Companion to English Literature. In her mind, I was perfect.
Now, grief. When she died, I kept on being private, as did my dad and my brother. We could not comfort each other because there was a Mom-sized hole between us. We still can’t communicate effectively, six years later. We can’t breach that hole. We have done our grieving and healing as individuals tied together by love, but not understanding. I try a lot to understand them, but I can’t. Nor do they understand me, particularly. A lot of that is because I am not the person my mother imagined. And they see me through that Mom-shaped hole, even if the evidence of my life indicates I am not the person she thought I was.
I wish I had a chance to set the record straight with her. I wish I could have a chance to offer her the truth. Teaching in a classroom exhausted me to the point where I’d sit on the couch and fall asleep before dinner. I haven’t worn taffeta or attended any kind of gala since I graduated hugh school. I like rock and roll. I wrote (write? I am thinking of trying another) Regency because they lacked inconvenient undergarments. I read pulp fiction and YA Lit. Generally, The Canon bores me.
I think I miss her most when I have to ask her a question. Because I was too private and independent, I didn’t ask as much as I might have: How much mustard in the mac and cheese? How do I get ink stains out? Where to buy a good coffee table? Was that really David Bowie at Halfmoon Bay? Little things, but things that are important to communication, to really hearing and really being heard.
I used to think she’d be dissappointed if she really knew who I was. Now, I think she’d be surprised, but I don’t think she’d be disappointed.