When I think of myself as a mother I think of myself as a daughter. Mom died 12 years ago today. In the last years of her life we had forged a bond of reciprocal love.
But in many ways, I missed having a mother. I can’t remember a time in my childhood when my mother singled me out to be her daughter in a special and loving way. There were times I felt desperate for her love. To me, her lack of “motherly” love translated to my own unworthiness.
It was strange because Mom specialized in children. We had one foster child after another who required time and attention. My little sister was born and was cherished. As I grew older, the foster children grew younger and my mother’s adoration for each grew stronger. She loved to be needed and so the younger the child the more she felt secure in their affections.
I couldn’t comprehend her fascination with her “adopted” children in juxtaposition to her lack of interest in her grandchildren until I realized that perhaps children were not the most important to her…it was their need of her that mattered.
Mother was elderly when she musingly told me that she wasn’t capable of loving very deeply. Her love was obsession. Her caring was to assure that she would receive adulation in return. And she never truly felt herself beloved.
The thought of that brings tears to my eyes now. Because I know that she did the very best she could do. She coped in the way she knew how. And her way of being in the world never brought her the love she really wanted and needed.
These memories are poignant to me because I realize that my mother was not so unusual. No mother can fill all the needs of her child. We never do it perfectly no matter how functional we are; no matter how mentally and emotionally sound we may be.
So I have many hopes. I hope that my mother knew that I loved her. I hope she knows that her physical beauty, her tenacity and her intelligence are carried forth in at least four generations beyond her.
And I hope that my children are able to work beyond my capacity to give them what they need. I hope they know that a lack in me is not a lack in them. Anytime they feel a hollow spot that should have been filled by a mother, I hope they can fill it with the knowledge that if I had known how to give them what they needed, I would have and would still do anything in my power to make them whole.
I know that my mother loved me as much as she was capable of loving. I give that same assurance to my children: that love is all that I have and it is passed freely to each of them.