Mother’s Day Without Mothers

My mother became a mother way too young to know what she was getting into. Irish-Catholic and in the 1950s – getting married and having kids (4 in 5 years) was just what you did when you wanted to get away from home. She told my siblings and I (young adults at the time) that if she had it to do over again she would have done grander things than just had children. This was not said in anger but rather announced as a confident declaration of her brilliance (she was) but our existence had thwarted her success. Certainly a strange thing to tell your children. Still, she believed she was a better mother than her own.

I too think my mothering skills surpass my mother’s. For a start, I wanted my daughter more than anything else in the world. Being a mother will alway be the most remarkable thing in my life and I can’t imagine how she would not have felt the same.  Like her, I also wanted to get away from home and did at 17 after my father moved out and my mother’s depression and neediness threatened to smother me. For the rest of her life she ignored suggestions to seek help, instead stoking her bitter anger and sadness with alcohol.  I stayed far away, living in the midwest and overseas where our contact was limited to often maudlin phone calls.

When M was a year old, I moved back with my new family, into an apartment within minutes of my mother.  She doted on her granddaughter, found her brilliant and beautiful, read to her, praised her, delighted in her.  She embraced being a grandmother and with this glimpse of her unconditional love for my daughter, our own relationship began to blossom. Six months later, she was diagnosed with lung cancer and six months after that, she died. It is as a grandmother I miss her today.

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