Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Fruits of Loss

In her book Motherless Daughters (which I haven't read in years, but I think I have this right), Hope Edelman concludes that women who grow up without mothers tend either to become somewhat fragile and dependent, always hungering for that steadying presence or, freed from the usual boundaries imposed by female socialization, to become fairly independent and resourceful. I like to think, of course, that I fit the latter category.

When my children were in the range of eight-to-ten and carpools had become a necessity of life, I once asked a good friend if she ever thought, as her kids rode off in the back seat of someone else's car, that she might never see them again. "Never," was her response. "I always do," I said. It's a hard thing, but not a bad thing, to be aware of the the moment. Mindfulness. Sometimes it emerges, unbidden, from the long and ever-presentness of absence.

My daughter commented once, only a few years ago, on how we always say "I love you" when we separate. A walk to the drugstore, a flight to the west coast. She knows, I think, that I want to be sure that she heard it, if something happens. I never told her that. I never wanted to impose the damage of loss on her. She carries it lightly, but she does, I think, carry it.

Last night, achy and tired and unable to swallow, I headed up for bed early in the evening. She came up and stretched out next to me and we talked for more than an hour, rehashing the problems one of her friends is facing. Eventually I drifted off, done in by pain and sleeping meds. But not before I remembered that my mother never, ever, got to stretch out on a bed and explore the issues of young adulthood with her daughter.

I am so very fortunate. Not just in the doing. But in the knowing.


Cynthia said...

My daughter and I never part without me saying I love you. I can't help thinking, every time, that it's possible that this could be the last time. My hope is that if she knows nothing else about her family, about me, she will know that she is loved.

Lisa :-] said...

Tragedy teaches beautiful lessons we might learn no other way...

Carol said...

Your pain and wisdom both shine through loudly in this post. Thanks for the bittersweet reminder.

Vicky said...

Robin, this is a beautiful entry. You and your daughter have a wonderful, loving relationship. My mother is still living, but I never stretched out on the bed beside her, just to talk. I am so happy for you that you have such a connection with your child.

There are those of us who may not have lost our mothers, but who also never had the relationship to lose. And I'm thus not sure where I fit. But you make me smile when I see what is possible, and what we can give our children.

emmapeelDallas said...

I smiled reading this. My kids and I always say, "I love you", too, whether we're saying goodbye on the phone or getting on an airplane. And as for stretching out on the bed, and talking into the night...that's a wonderful thing, and we still do that, and I hope we always will.


Kathryn said...

Your daughter is fortunate too. Thank you for reminding me that letting my family know they are loved and cherished is so important. I'm sorry that your mindfulness came at such high cost.

Bedazzzled1 said...

I feel exactly as you do. I am fortunate that both of my kids are free with their "I love yous" and hugs...just as I am. Even before they go to bed, they give hubby and me hugs and say they love us.

I think it is wonderful your daughter has such a healthy relationship with you and is comfortable stretching out beside you to ponder the ways and wonders of the world.

Beautiful entry.

RunningFree said...

Tragedy seems to bring the essence of; "fragility of life" to the forefront of our minds leaving us more "prepared" for the worst; i lost my mom 12 years ago & have a daughter whom I too, am very affectionate with & remind her just how much I love her everytime she leaves. I've wondered myself, if she does sense the "empty space" of her maternal grandmother.

Being a motherless mom can & does offer many positive opportunities for deeper appreciation of those around us. And deeper connections with our kids than we might not have had otherwise.
With the dependant-fragile or independant-resourceful characteristic as a motherless woman thing, I'd have to say im somewhere in between. Fiercely independant in most ways & weakily-fragile in others; like in some friendships for ie. I have a friend whos 17 yrs. older though very young-spirited, & cant help but view her as a mother figure @ times... & she admits to me being like a daughter to her too.

great, right? not really--the roller-coaster emotions that I struggle with when Im with her have actually caused conflict in our friendship; I think we're both scared & confused & as of yesterday it looks like its 'over' Im left not only missing my mom even more, but grieving the loss of a good friend & what could've been.

yeah, 12 yrs. later & Im fragile-& no one will ever be able to replace my loving mom.