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Making sense of mama

While reading a book on "Honoring Grief," I was prompted to think of my relationship with my now dead mother.
The images that come to mind include:
Mom, staring off, into space. Sometimes eating/chomping on crackers or sipping coffee.
Her eyes far away.
She barely acknowledges or notices me.
I don't even recall her 'looking' into my eyes.
Barely a hug or a kiss. But that didn't stop me from trying to PHYSICALLY FORCE her to kiss me. Hug me. I would grab her around the neck, and try to make her kiss me.
All she did, instead of seeing the need within, the child that NEEDED her physical touch, was push me away, pull my arms from around the back of her neck.
Angry. Yelling at me. "Angela!!!!!!!! Stop that!!!!!"
I think about it, and it left me wounded. Deeply wounded.
I knew very well that I didn't really blame her for getting mad, but why couldn't she see how desperate I was for her attention.
No one realized I needed that attention. And so, I never got it.

She was the 'typical' 1960s/1970s mother, I guess.
No nonsense. No real affection. No fuss.
She cooked, she cleaned, she provided car rides. She put clothes on me.
And I think, I guess, I learned about life from others--grandparents, cousins, friends, a few aunts and uncles.
Mom seemed far away, most times.
Dad was usually quiet and distant.
Only later, after the fights and screaming matches, and the batting of heads with both of them, only after years away, after college, after a few boyfriends, after a few therapy sessions and plenty of panic attacks and anxiety did I get to 'know' my parents.
My mom was always a mystery.
She was always something to try to grasp.
I later started matching missing pieces.
Alcoholic father. Drank himself--to death. Age 49.
Easy-going mother, but tough.
Lost a son, age 4 months, in 1966. He died on operating table at hospital to fix a skull that wasn't growing correctly. And mom never trusted doctors or medicine again.
Then a year and a half later, she gave birth to me.
She also lived with her in-laws, just one level below in our two-family house. The stress of having in-laws, who were anything but easy going, took its toll.
My grandmother, below, saved me. She was my second mother, a true friend. She loved me and trusted me and admired me. And I would do anything for her. I enjoyed being with her, hearing her stories, and learning from her.
But my mother and she struggled. It wasn't evident until after grandma's death that I understood the strain--and it left my mother feeling more powerless in her own home.
My mom was a very private person. She hid all of her pictures, cards, letters and thoughts. She tucked them away in drawers. And she never showed anyone. God forbid, discussed feelings and emotions.
She never did.
Likely, she was afraid she would be doubly hurt if she tried to talk. As I learned, her father demanded that at the dinner table, that all five of his children and wife stay quiet! No eating and talking.
So, no one talked during dinner. And no one learned about the other.
No one shared stories, memories, thoughts, ideas, concerns, joys.
So it was a very lonely existence. But ironically, she was very close to her siblings. And even was a surrogate mother to her youngest brother, Glenn.
And when Glenn died at age 60, just shy of his 61st birthday, mom said "I'll never get over that."
And she didn't. She immediately got sick. Beat cancer, and then it came back two years later with a vengeance.
And I knew she would succumb. We all knew.
But we did have hope. Maybe she could be spared.
But her past was in her cells, and her past, which she denied and refused to ever face, ate her alive.
The past was her cancer. And it destroyed her.
But I had 50 years with my mother. And I appreciated and loved her very much.
She was generous and kind and good. She was considerate and thoughtful.
She didn't talk much, but she cared.
She was no nonsense, but she would walk across fire to protect her loved ones.
She was a wonderful mother.
And for that, because she basically forced me to stand on my own two feet, I'm OK now. She's physically gone from this earth, but she taught me that her love is just a memory or thought away. I don't have to grab her by the neck. I don't have to physically connect with her eyes. I don't have to seek her approval for every decision.
I just have to think of her and know, she wants the best for me.
And she loved me.

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