It’s my mother’s birthday today. She would have been 67.
In the seven and a half years since her death, I have missed her sometimes, but not as much as I think I ought to miss her. I think of friends with fresher grief than mine, and I wish there was something I could do to ease their pain.
I was one of the first people out of all my friends to have a parent die, and so not a lot of people knew what to do with me. No one who hasn’t been there can imagine how your life changes when a parent dies. Everything is different. In hindsight, I hope I have been a comfort to friends whose parents have died since, and helped them with the transition and the strangeness of it all.
Because she and I had a difficult relationship, I can now look at it with a lot more clarity and objectivity than I could when she was here in the world deciding who I was on my behalf.
Bo and I talk about her sometimes, and that’s really useful since he is maybe the most self-aware male I know. Also, as my sibling, he grew up in the same family culture and has insights on events and attitudes that I sometimes don’t get.
She wanted complete control of my body and his finances. I think a lot of that was because she spent the last eighteen years of her life as a semi-invalid. She wanted to live her life and she had to spend most of her time lying down. Now that I have friends with chronic illnesses that cause them pain, I can have sympathy for her. But when I was growing up, it was just a massive obstacle for my brother and me: No parties, constant monitoring, and, at least for me, a tendency to tell me what a disappointment I was when I was really vulnerable (IE, sit down on my bed when I couldn’t find my glasses so I was blind and couldn’t move, and tell me how I had too much fun in Port Hardy and was a massive whore). It was untrue, and it hurt.
These days, Bo and I mostly just live our lives, but our dad, because of our mom’s need to make every decision, still lives a curious half-life. He sails, he visits us, he has a girlfriend. But it’s like part of him is still waiting for instructions from our mom. Part of him is wherever she is, and that is the happiest part of him. That makes me sad.
I try to take the good parts and leave the bad. I know I can thank her for my aesthetic sense, and my ability to cook, and my love of reading and knowledge. Other things, I get because I learned how NOT to do it. I try not to be controlling, manipulative or judgmental (that last one is hard.) I try to let things go. I let the people I love speak for themselves. I don’t assume.
I’m glad she was my mom. But I’m even gladder that I have the intellect to realize that she did some things wrong.