So, I am on a vacation with my family - a rare treat, indeed. We are relishing the days of no routine: no work to race to, no after school pick ups, no soccer practices to run to, and more. You know the feeling! Waking up with no agenda, we get to the beach/pool when we can. We pack our snacks and our hydrating beverages when we feel like it. We wear nothing more than lycra bathing suits with mere cover ups as we transfer from beach to pool to condo. It is a luxurious feeling.
And then you get THAT call.
Mid way through my vacation, I received a weird email transcribed by Comcast from a voicemail left for me. I have not been checking my phone, but I have been following the Boston Marathon explosions closely because of my history with running. I was going to blog about my feelings of the terrible event of April 15, 2013. But I got the call today, instead.
The doctor nervously asked me if I had heard about my mother yet. Of course not. What is going on? He sadly and stoically pronounced that she had passed away earlier today.
I stood silently and awkwardly in the cabana pool room of vacation wondering what to feel. My heart hurt, but my brain told me to not feel the pain. My mother just died. I felt conflicted. My internal emotional radar was flashing all alerts red, but my rationale ruled - reminding me that my mother and I have not been close since my cancer diagnosis and that any emotions trying to rear their head were to be surfaced and quashed immediately.
If only that easy.
How would I tell my children that their grandma just died?
My mind raced. I know she does not have a will. She did not plan for stuff. Ever. She just went with it and if there was a mess, well, by gosh darn it, someone would clean it up.
My mind continued to race. Of course. My mother would pass while I am in the midst of a vacation with my family. That would be the ultimate way she could get her negative attention.
My mind went on and on and on. My heart ached with the reality that now both of my parents were gone. I was an "orphan" so to speak. My children, swimming happily in the pool, now questioned their own mother's whereabouts - who would she be speaking to on the phone for such an extended duration on their devoted vacation time.
My mother passed away today. The woman she was today was not the woman who was my mother. Despite a tumultuous upbringing with what I now know to be a bipolar woman, I did love my mother. I grieved for the loss of my mother when she was living with me and I was her caretaker, along with caring for my father.
Despite a roller coaster childhood, filled with regular beatings and manipulative mind games, I still loved the woman who birthed me. Are we not supposed to love our mother's unconditionally?
It was only during my own fight for my life - my cancer battle, that I realized that not all mothers are created equal. The mother I longed for, the one who would nurture me and return me to health, along with that of my then unborn child, while we went through horrible bouts of chemotherapy and surgeries and more.....well, she was non-existent.
My mother-in-law stepped up and filled the void, but I would be lying if I said my own mother was one I longed for. I am envious when friends have that nearly sisterly relationship with their moms. However, a year and a half of therapy let me know that it is okay that not all of us have healthy moms - healthy relationships with moms or anything in the remote vicinity.
I was cordial with my mother these past few years. We visited when necessary. The children retained their relationship with her. I kept a safe distance away because the reality of who my mother was to me hurt too much.
I have learned what NOT to be as a mother to MY children. Unconditional love is all they will ever receive from me. Good, bad, indifferent - I am their mother and I will be there for them.
Instead of focusing on the less than stellar memories, I have chosen to focus on the positive. Yes, there are some positives in all of this. Part of who I am today is because of my mother. There are the "Oh, god, did I just say that? I AM my mother!" moments.......and then there are the "Phew, I will never act like that - I am NOT my mother!" moments.
My mother, she struggled with loving herself - so I question her ability to truly and deeply love others. However, I see that she loved my children. I know that deep down inside her core, aside from her mental illness, she did, in fact, love me. She had a very odd, and often times demeaning, way of showing it, but I know she did.
I will start to pick up the pieces and put them away neatly; after all, I am a care taker, I clean up messes, I like organization and stuff all tucked away tightly. I take care of stuff.
I will let the good memories surface, and I will store away the unsightly.
I will hug my children tightly and I will hope that my mother rests in peace on the other side.
Hope M. Pritchard
January 15, 1936-April 17, 2013