I don't know how to feel or what I feel. I am sad, but not just because of her passing. I am sad for a wasted lifetime of anger, resentment, and hatred.
She'd been in and out of the hospital over the past few years and was getting on, but you know, when it actually happens, it's always a shock. It doesn't matter how much time you have to mull things over, knowing this is bound to happen sooner rather than later. It's still unbelievable when it finally does happen.
This last time, she had been in the hospital for about two weeks, but had been doing quite well. They were just waiting for a bed to open up for her at a longer-term care facility so that she could further recuperate before returning home. She was in the hospital for multiple spinal fractures. Thank you, osteoporosis. Nothing at all related to her eventual demise.
Last Sunday, she was walking the halls in the hospital. Monday, she didn't feel so great. Tuesday came and she began vomiting, and tests showed she had an infection. The infection quickly spread to her blood, and she couldn't fight it.
What's confusing about this situation is that, before last night, I hadn't seen my mother in probably seven years. And now she's gone, and I don't know what to do with my feelings, or should I say, perhaps my lack thereof.
I went to see her at the hospital last night, because I felt it was the right thing to do. But I felt out of place standing there next to her, staring at her, waiting for her chest to rise, and seeing nothing but stillness. I wasn't there for her for a very long time, so what was I doing here now? I felt like a voyeur.
Our relationship was a difficult and strenuous one from the very beginning, and I tried to make it work many times over the years. However, once I had my children, and she began treating my daughter the same way I had been treated by her, I decided I couldn't allow our relationship to continue. I couldn't do it for myself, but I did it for Em. That tells you something about my level of self-esteem, I guess. But, you know, it's not easy saying good-bye to your mother, regardless of how she treats you, regardless of how awful she makes you feel, regardless of the knowledge that she did not love me. There is always some sort of hope, I guess, hope that maybe she will have a change of heart, that she will suddenly be the mother she was supposed to be.
This separation didn't happen without a lot of talking and hoping on my part, but my mother never seemed to be able to make a change in how she dealt with her only daughter and granddaughter. I'll never really know why. Something must have happened to her at some point in her younger years, but when we'd ask her questions about her life as a young girl during World War II, she didn't remember much.
It took me a long time to feel 'fine' about it, but I always missed her, and wished things could have been different. Because, after everything that had happened between us, she was still my mother, and that invisible and sometimes very thin thread is what kept us connected.
I missed not having the mother so many other people talk about having: the kind who smiles when you enter the room, the kind who calls you up just to say "hi", the kind who loves you unconditionally. I didn't want a lot. I just wanted some recognition that I was worthy. But, for whatever reason, she couldn't give me that. And I had to accept it, so I did, as well as I could.
My mother was not those mothers, and I learned to deal with it. And as a result, I had to say good-bye to her because that was the only way I was going to be able to get on with my life and keep on enjoying my life, because really, that's all I had. She had already ripped my soul apart through many years of abuse, and I was having a hard enough time rebuilding it. My physical and emotional distance from her was entirely an act of self-preservation. There is no longer any blame involved. It just is.
When I stood there watching her last night as she lay there, immobile, peaceful at last, I wanted to say "I'm sorry" to her. I am sorry, but not for having done anything wrong. I am simply sorry that things couldn't have been different between us, that somehow we couldn't have managed to transgress the chasm that we had created, just accept one another as we were, and just be. I am sorry she couldn't love me for who I am. I am sorry I could not love her.
And now she is gone forever, and my grieving begins all over again.