My mom and me Nov 1961 (left) My mother before the nastiness of early motherhood (right)

I posted a bit yesterday about a life lesson that I’m all caught up in right now, Some Life Lessons.  It’s been a long time in the making, but this will hopefully be a short follow up.

I just wanted to add another thought, something that I had forgotten over the years.  If you’ve read some of the earlier posts of my blog, you will have gathered that for most of my life I did not have a good relationship with my mother.  She was  distant, cold and definitely unapproachable.  I have come to understand how and why this was so; but that does not help the little girl inside who longed for and needed to be shown the love that I know (now) she must have felt.  I’ll try to be brief and describe a little background.

When I was born, it was 9 months and two days after my parent’s marriage.  All the women of the family were counting the days on their fingers from the day of the marriage and my birth, hence how I know the exact number of days.  That was back in 1961, she was 22 years old and the times were not as relaxed now about getting pregnant before marriage and, well, things were pretty stressful for my mom.  Add on to that the pregnancy was in danger with hemorrhaging and from the second month, my mother was on complete bed rest.  When I was born, I had stuff wrong with me.  The one I’ll talk about because I believe that it shaped my mother, and I can imagine hardened her, gave her a tough skin and eventually, she closed herself off to feeling, experiencing the hard emotions.  I was born with a condition, probably arising from my constant position in the womb, of my head and neck being scrunched down onto my chest.  The doctor told my parents that it would amount to a hunched back as I grew up if not treated.  I became part of an experimental treatment.. and I am even proudly in some medical journal somewhere.  It was prescribed that I would receive muscular therapy.  It was a very painful process of stretching my neck (and probably shoulder/back) muscles.  A nurse had to come to the house and teach my mother what to do.  She was to lay her infant (me) on the edge of the kitchen table, with my head hanging off of it.  She then had to proceed to gently twist my head from side to side.  I was told that this was very painful to me and I can imagine how my mother must have felt having to do this to me.  I can imagine the pain she felt and yet knowing that if her daughter ever had a chance to grow up “normal”, she had to inflict this horrible pain onto her.  I must have been screaming.  My mother was also probably alone in this because my dad was working 2-3 jobs.  Sometimes two, sometimes three.  There were other things, too, like a bright red, pot-marked area on the left side of my face and two clubbed feet, which were two inwardly turned feet and legs.  After I was born, I needed to have casts on my legs up to my hips in the (successful) attempt to straighten out my legs.  So, as you can see, I was born a literal mess.  Oh crud, it wasn’t until I became a mother in my mid forties I could not fully understand the pain and stress my mother went through with me and during my growing years.  To be honest, I was the source of a lot of pain for her during the eight years between my mid twenties to mid thirties.  So that is a little bit of background.

So, my mom hardly if ever showed us any affection.  To make matters a little worse, I was not interested in the typical things that bonded mothers and daughters, like talking about home decorating, cooking and the like.  BUT, one time, a year or so before she passed on, we were talking.  I was in my late thirties and our relationship had recently gotten a lot better.  I was able to communicate with my mother on the level of peers, not as mother daughter, or I should say not as mother, authority figure and blindly obedient daughter.  We communicated honestly and we respected what the other had to say.  It was a time I felt that I could honestly just say what I thought and had no fear of doing that… also, it was a time when my self confidence was on the upsurge, the first one in my whole life.  Well, on day we were talking and she told me that I was special and that I should never forget that.  I seem to remember that not being the only time she said that, but I don’t remember that time very well.  I remember this time.  I remember bodily freezing and fighting my hardest hold back the tears…. not like now.

I just wish that I knew then what I know now.   What pain she suffered just to make me a “normal” kid, girl, woman.  She was much as I am now.  No income of her own, though she worked before having me.  I am so much in debt to her for what she has done for me.  I can understand now how and why you became so cold and seemingly to me, unfeeling; and it’s that understanding that will lead me to be a good mom in my own right.  It was survival.  It was something that I’m sure was not an intentional thing.  I totally get that.  I’m glad now that you just did what you had to do to carry on the business of raising two girls in your tradition.  I understand and that comforts me.  I can’t sit here and wish things were different.  I’m really grateful for the time we had together during the brief years at the end of your life.   I’d want you to know that your actions have now given me the courage and strength to, in turn, do what I now have to do for my son, the grandson that you never got to know on earth.

Thanks so much, MOM.

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