August 04, 2012


My mother died a week ago. I don't have a whole lot to say about it yet. It was too soon, and she was too young, but as of a month or so ago it became evident that her time was limited. What has struck me at this point in what will undoubtedly be a lengthy (lifetime, I can only imagine at this point) period of "processing" all of this is that I have missed, am missing, will miss further opportunities to learn from her.

When your kids get into their late teens and you can actually begin to imagine them being self-sufficient, there's always somebody to tell you that the work of a parent is never done. It's not necessarily what you want to hear, I have to tell you, because you want your kids to go out and thrive, and also--if you're being honest with yourself--you have the idea that their success will free you up in certain positive ways. Presumably there will be less laundry to do, the leftover pizza in the fridge will still be there when you go looking for it, the car will not grow dents when nobody's looking the way bananas grow spots ... all of that. Okay, maybe all the "yous" in this paragraph should be changed to "I" or "me" ... but I kind of doubt I'm alone in this. I also doubt anybody ever feels that they're done teaching their kids the stuff they need to know.

Anyhow. In the past month, during which time my mother was frequently hospitalized and clearly not going to recover, we had the opportunity many people don't have ... to talk seriously and frankly with each other. I could express regret over all the missed or wasted opportunities to do just that over the past decades, but that would be pointless. Ours is not a demonstrative family, generally, so I'm particularly grateful that we had the time and (awful) incentive we did these past few weeks to express ourselves.

I was also able to see something I never really noticed during the last several years ... the strength she drew from my aunts, uncles, and extended family. Once a long time ago I mentioned to her in passing that being an only child had certain advantages, and my mother told me that as I grew older I'd wish I had brothers and sisters. I can't say that that has happened, particularly, but I could see how much they mattered to her, and she to them. And they've been very kind and supportive to my dad and me, even as we're both getting used to the idea that it's okay to accept that kind of support.

So ... lesson learned, and being learned.