A letter to my mother
I had the juiciest piece of gossip to tell you today. Guess what? I didn’t go so far as punching in your number, but I did have the conversation with you in my head. No one liked to hear gossip more than you, and no one passed it along faster than you. Sometimes this was a source of pleasure–when you were passing it to me, or when we were laughing or pretending to be horrified by something someone else did. Other times, when it was my secret, and I had stressed to you that it was indeed a secret that you passed on, I didn’t enjoy it as much.
Earlier this evening when my grandson, Lachlan, couldn’t get his butt far enough back in the lounge chairs you loved so much, to teeter into a prone position, I thought of how impatient you were with me when I couldn’t do it either. ” Just lie back,” you would say, and I would. Still I found myself in an upright position. And you’d get mad, as if I were doing or not doing something to thwart you.
When my first husband called, the day after you died, and reminisced about how there had never been any recriminations for either of us after she found us in flagrante delicto almost 50 years ago, I said, that wasn’t exactly true. ” She may have loved you unconditionally, but there had been plenty of conditions on her love for me.”
One sister in law wishes her adoptive mother had been you. I understand that. You two had a wonderful close, and loving relationship. The other sister-in-law had a more day-to-day relationship with you and loved you at arms length. You called this selfish. I called it smart.
I spent years in expensive therapy, believing that I needed you more than either of my husbands (at that point). My lovely and wise therapist would routinely say, “You don’t need your mother.” I think now that he may have seen maturity in me that I wasn’t able to claim for myself. When I finally stood up to you in my late 50s and realized that I did not indeed need you, my therapy was mostly complete.
But in this, your final year I needed you again as if my life depended on your loving me. I got jealous of the sister-in-law closest to you and of your friends, particularly of the one you described as your adoptive daughter. I wanted to be needed. I wanted to be important. It took most of the year to realize that I was important, that I was needed, and that our love for each other, while never unconditional, was a powerful force in both our lives.
Margaret Davies Orem died June 29-30 at 92. My brothers and I had dinner with her the night she died. She died looking forward to whatever might be next.