The Good, the Bad, My Momma
In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they're still beautiful~~~Alice Walker
In a few weeks, it will be the second anniversary of my mother’s passing. This is practically inconceivable to me. The concept hits me in different ways on a given day. My mom and I had a tough relationship. I was in my late forties when I lost her. We hadn’t lived under the same roof since I was 16 or in the same city or state since I was 21. During the subsequent 28 years, we had long stretches of not speaking for many varied and painful reasons. So, naturally, her absence lays upon my skin, upon my heart, upon my mind, and upon my spirit in a vastly different way than it does for my brother or my aunt.
My brother is very similar to my mom. They have the same outlook on life, a, “I want it now”, “Waiting is for suckers, “Get the better of them before they get the better of you” outlook. I, on the other hand, am the Pollyanna of the family. My brother is experiencing my mother’s loss in a truly visceral way because he is ill with MS and confined to a nursing home. Our mom, who cleaned and cared for him like a newborn as his body gave way, was his anchor to his old self, his true self, a weak, but determined buttress against what his body is destined to turn into. With her gone, he doesn’t have much in the way of defense against the ravages. Our aunt does what she can, but nothing is like the touch and love of your mother.
My aunt’s loss is similar to my brother’s. My mom was her big sis, her best friend, her helpmate, and her touchstone. They were the Porter Girls (This also included my Aunt Denise---their baby sister---who passed away five years ago). Where one was, the other was right there beside her. My mom’s loss for my Aunt Deb is foundational. Not only was she there from the beginning, but, except for a stint in Cali---she was there throughout. I imagine it must feel like the loss of a limb or your sense of touch.
My brother is 4 years older than me and as different as a lion is to a gazelle, so I’ve never experienced the pleasure or pain of that kind of sibling connection. I know that my aunt struggles every day to come to terms with her loss and find joy. I do not. I say good morning to my favorite picture of my mom every morning as I get ready to work out. I talk to her if a movie we watched together during hospice comes on or a political program strikes me as something that she would have appreciated. I think of her when I go to a particularly glamourous place or when someone hurts my feelings and imagine how she would have shut them down. Or when something really flashy-good happens, I think about how she would have crowed and bragged about it.
The subconscious is a beast. Even when you think you have things under control, it’s lying in wait, manipulating you in ways you can’t imagine. At the start of October, a deep sense of foreboding and disorientation took hold of me. I couldn't shake it until I realized my body and mind were priming themselves for October 27th. The journey of losing my mother didn’t begin once I landed in Michigan, uncertain what to expect after a 14-hour flight, or even when hospice came to set up. It began on October 25th, on the bus reading a text from my aunt on the way to work which read in part, “Get over it. Get your ass here as soon as you can.” I walked into my employer's office and said I had to leave. She sent me home to pack and not knowing if I would return I tossed or gave away most of what I had accumulated in my 2 half years in South Korea and then I flew back to the states on the 27th.
I had a month and a half with my mom before she passed and then after cleaning out her house, tossing or giving away all she had accumulated in her life, I returned to my life in Sacheon. For the past two years, I’ve gone about my business as best I could, officially an orphan---if a 51-year-old can be an orphan. The first anniversary of my mom’s passing was as I expected, and I was braced for it, but this year, the second year, I wasn't prepared for the unsettling, for the distress and loneliness as my body and mind prepared me to lose my mother. My mother died on December 19th, but I flew out to take care of her on October 27th and that’s when the loss of a lifetime truly began.
My brother and I don’t talk, so I don’t know how often he thinks about our mom. My Aunt Deb thinks of her every day, practically minute by minute. As for me, as for the day-to-day, I know it’s not socially acceptable to admit, but I don’t think of her. The fact is I have always missed my mother. Long before she kicked me out officially, she let go of my hand when she married her abusive boyfriend when I was 10. She let go of my hand in a myriad of ways leaving me to find my own way. And I did. I have, so much so that the actual real loss of her feels inescapably different than it would have if she had held me a little closer, choose me a few more times over herself.
A part of the deep pain of losing someone is the lost opportunity to change, to make amends, to grow together. In full honesty, I have a lot of anger toward my mom. A lot of anger that even she would say was mostly justified while at the same time declaring she did her best. I struggle with whether I believe this is true, but what I know in my bones is that as I mourn my mother, as I continue arguments with her in my head, I am profoundly grateful for the time we had during hospice. It was hard, and disorienting, both loving and harmful words were shared, but I had the chance to demonstrate not just with words but with action, the literal laying on of hands, how much I love my mother.
There is anger. There is hurt. There is disappointment. And there is love. There was and always has been love. I don’t believe in revisionist history, so the love nestles against the anger, but it also outstrips it, muscles in down, takes up more space. I have been lucky to have wonderful strong women in my life—Aunt Deb, Aunt Max, Momma Phyliss, and Momma Carol to name a few---who have held me up, supported me, pushed me forward. But you only get one true mother and there is no mother like the Marvelous Ms. Sharon Diane. And I am grateful, despite everything that went before that she was my mother.
Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back in 2022—Whaaat?
We’ll ring in the new year together and plan how to take it by storm.
In the meantime, be kind to one another, keep on traveling with a feminist eye, and keep on being Feminist AF!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!