When Cara was pregnant somebody said “having a baby will make you think about your parents”. I dont recall who that was, but it was so spot on and surprising to me (since Im a know it all I cant allow anyone to think that they could tell me something I dont already know), but I didnt know that. I know it now and Ill be sure to tell someone else as if I made it up myself at some point. Cara being pregnant did make me think a lot about my parents.
When you are preparing to raise another human being, your thoughts naturally go to that place where you have the list. I dont know if you have the list, but I and every person i have ever mentioned it to does, and it is a catalog of your upbringing, a collection of good and bad things you believe your parents did in raising you. Let me start right off by saying that the list is mostly bullshit, I mean if your dad hit you with a tire iron or your mom gave you away to a psycho psychologist to raise then you probably have a legitimate beef, but for the most part its a selfish retelling of history to explain why its not my fault that I’m not happy all the time. It makes sense that the list is full of little things our folks didn’t do right because the list was created by us starting in our teenage years and teenagers are selfish assholes. We tell the story long enough to forget that we created it when we were young, dumb, and full of. . .er. . . hormones, we were also, as teenagers must be as they discover their place in the world, self-centered sociopaths who saw our parents as nothing more than vehicles to make US happy.
So as Cara grew bigger and bigger with the baby I began to think about my folks and I realized that not only was my own list mostly bullshit, but that even the few things I did still have energy about were things that had passed decades ago and that no matter how hard I tried I was never going to be able to go back and change. Whatever hole I still felt in my psyche was never going to be filled in a way that would satisfy me because I am only alive and active right now and no amount of self-pity, anger, or resentment could change that. I also realized that memory is a pretty treacherous thing and our egos like to tell stories that excuse us from any responsibility for our life. We don’t just do it with our parents either, I was unhappily married for 14 years and spent most of that time believing that if only my Ex would change into the person I expected her to be then I could be happy. In hindsight it was ridiculous and unfair to both her and me, but in a strange way it was easier to be miserable for years than to take responsibility for my life.
I suppose you could say that I “forgave” my parents by the time Luna was born, but really they hadn’t done anything to require forgiveness. They did the best they could with no family around and 6(!) kids to raise, I think they did a pretty good job too, but I might be biased. . . . I was able to take all the things I liked about my childhood and determined to bring those to Luna.
My mom was very excited to have granddaughter number 3 the way that only someone who had raised 5 boys (holy shit) can be. She doted on Luna like she did all her grandkids.
She passed away this January in her sleep, she had just begun to deal with pancreatic cancer, diabetes, and some blood clot issues, so while it was a tremendous surprise I had already been coming to terms with her possible mortality for months already. In fact I have been amazed at how much more upset I was when we first found out about her tumor and the long road she would have been starting of chemo/radiation thann I was when she passed away. In a way I think I was more sad and upset for the thought of her dealing with all that fighting cancer entails than about the news that she quietly died in her own bed surrounded by her ridiculous bichon doggies. Frankly if the choice is to go the way my mom did, as early as it was, or to be slowly dehumanized and disassembled in a hospital then Im choosing the way my mom went.
If anything, the hardest thing for me has been not having the grieving I expected to. I really thought I would be a mess, in fact I had some guilt over the lack of devastation I felt. I was and am sad and have been extra spikey and short fused lately, but I honestly expected to be more destroyed by what is one of the most feared things we ca go through. I suppose meditating, a loving partner, and having a toddler who requires non-stop love and attention make that less possible.
One thing that my moms death has brought home is that the List needs to go. It always did, but even that irrational childish part of me which created it in the first place knows that with her passing that there is no one out there to “fix it for me”, if I want to be happy and responsible for my own feelings then its up to me to live that life right now. It always was, but now I realize it.
I miss my mom a lot, I grieve for the fact that Luna wont remember much of her, wont get to experience my moms amazing ability to act like the crabbiest person i the world in a such a way that no one ever believed it. She was hilarious, she was sweet, she was fierce and If Im very lucky and
skilled maybe I can pass a little of her magic onto my daughter, Barb would have liked that.
*mom was famous for getting grumpy at holiday time and threatened to cancel the turkey every year. Even years after my sister took over the cooking, mom would still “cancel” thanksgiving, we would laugh and she would (unsuccesfully) suppress a smile.