Thursday, July 15, 2010

Childhood memories part 2

My mother very thoughtlessly died when I was nineteen. I say thoughtlessly because I hadn't got to know her and have to rely on other people for my view of her. She was an unmarried mother and had to go out to work to support us so I was brought up largely by my grandmother, with whom we lived.

My memories of my mother are sketchy but according to those who knew her, she was wonderful, marvellous, such a good person. The only thing she did wrong was having me. (I don't mean that she shouldn't have done or that I wished she hadn't but simply that, in those days, having a child out of wedlock was frowned upon.)

It's very hard living with a memory of perfection. I assume she loved me. I'm told she did. 'She wanted you.' 'She loved you very much.' But I don't remember her touch. It's thirty-eight years since I last felt it; why should I? But shouldn't I? Shouldn't my lasting memory of my mother be of her love? I know she loved me. I'm told.

I don't remember sitting curled up with her having a bedtime story. But she worked. Her day was long and ... my memory is poor anyway.

I do recall the ultimate sin: showing off. Two occasions in a life of 18 years when my natural inhibitions slipped and the real me escaped long enough to make people laugh. 'Stop showing off!'

It's taken me - oh - so many years to find out that I'm allowed to, sometimes, 'show off'. That I can make people laugh and it's not wrong.

It's easy though, isn't it, to blame someone else, especially if that person is dead? Rather than looking inwards and ... I don't even know what I'm looking for. Reasons for a cocoon of bricks.

And did I love her? Of course I did: she was my mother. I cried when she died. She provided for me and did all the right things. She gave up life for me; her own aspirations had to be packed away after she'd had a child who had to be explained.

Yes, I loved her. She was wonderful.

But how dare she die so inconveniently?

Will anyone read this far? A babble of self-pity asking for sympathy. My finger is playing over the publish button. Do I really want to publish this? Is it enough that I've written it? Will the knot in my stomach release itself if I don't?

P.S. I should add that, as Kris says, I know my mother did the best she could do under the circumstances. She must have been hurting and damaged herself.


MissKris said...

Yes, I read that far. And yes, I understand. I had the most tangled relationship with a mother imaginable. She died 21 years ago. I can't really remember her touch, either. As I'm sitting here pondering this post, I'll say I never really BLAMED her and my dad for a lot of the mental angst I've had to work my way thru most of my life...but it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact they were only human and were doing the best they could under the circumstances. My upbringing was constantly echoing in my head, "If I ever have children I will never do this...or that...or this" and I never did. I would like to think I've been the 'perfect' parent and grandparent but I know I'm not. I've been GOOD at it - but I've made my mistakes, too. Life's a continual learning experience. By chance, did you ever meet your biological father or know who he was? If you don't want to answer here, please email me if you'd care to talk about it. Very good post, Liz. You know, I have tossed it around in my head I ought to start up a greeting card company that makes cards for dysfunctional relationships. I think it'd be a success, don't you? I mean, to send some of my family members sappy "I love you" and "Great memories" type cards when one brother's been estranged from me for 18 years?! I think not, HA!

Furtheron said...

I read it too...

My Dad died 10 days after my 22nd birthday. My Dad worked long hours in a hard job - he was a shipwright in Chatham Dockyard. He'd lost his job a year or so before he died as they closed the yard down - which actually really hurt my Dad - that place was his life, after the family.

I do have happy memories of my Dad - helped recently by my brother scanning in 100s of old family photos.

However my Dad died only weeks after I'd left college, a couple of months before I bought my first house and 10 months before I got married. He only knew one of his 4 grandchildren.

For years I know that part of my driver driving me on particularly in certain aspects of the house I owned and how far I got in a job etc. was because I wanted to get the approval of my Dad - which I never could because he isn't here to give it. Only really in the last couple of years have I come to terms with that... would he have been proud of me, proud of my kids? Does it really matter? Yes to a degree but I can't change what happened and I have to accept that I'm here and now and have done what I've done and that I can believe if I like that he would have been proud - no one can prove different can they?

katney said...

And even in the best of circumstances it hurts when they go.


Understanding now why part 1 stopped abruptly. this was hard.

Mauigirl said...

I think losing a mother at a young age is very hard. While I will always miss my mother, I had all the time I needed to get to know her and understand her. Losing a mother at 19 when you weren't even a fully formed adult is a whole other thing - and it isn't unusual to have difficult emotions associated with that. You hadn't had the time you needed to become best were still at that in-between stage when she disappeared from your life. I have a friend who lost her mother in a car accident when my friend was only 2 years old. She really doesn't remember her mother at all and it has been very hard for her. Her dad did his best bringing her up (with the help of his mother) but having no mother left a hole in her life. She had a few rough patches but has ended up a happily married woman with two lovely children of her own, so she came through. My father's situation when he was growing up was a bit more like yours - his dad left when my dad was only a year old so his mother was basically a single mother raising him (again with the help of his grandmother). He had issues related to his mother until his dying day - he never could come to terms with some of those issues. Mothers are the most important people in our lives from the moment we're born, which is why their absence is so greatly felt, and any perceived neglect is so wounding.

Rose said...

I'm so sorry that you lost your mother at such a young age, Liz. My mother was not very physically demonstrative, either, though I knew she loved me. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized all the countless little acts she did that showed her love. We have a much closer relationship today than when I was young. I'm sure your mother was doing the best she could under the strict circumstances of those days; it's sad that you weren't able to get to know her better when you were older.

CherryPie said...

It is sad that you didn't have a longer time with your Mum and time to get to know her better.

Death causes many thoughts, reflections and challenges.

You are a beautiful lady and part of that comes from your mother xx