As I delve more into blogging each day, sharing my perspectives, I’m challenged with the notion that I am a disappointed daughter. My mother may never see this, not because she has passed on, but because she is living in a nursing home since 2010, at the young age of 74.
Mom’s health has always been poor; I remember as a kid in the early 1960s, how she had bottles of prescription meds for sleeping, for waking up, and probably “mama’s little helpers” for all I know. She was very much the hypochondriac! At age 40, she contracted lupus, which slowly took her health away. By 2009, Mom, still living by herself (divorced my dad at age 39), started showing signs of dementia. Because she was on Medi-Cal as a result of the divorce, she was taking so many medications from different doctors that her health was failing on every level. I was disappointed by Mom’s manipulation as well as the doctors for not taking better care of her.
My mother is the daughter of educators but she married young and lived the typical “housewife and mother” lifestyle, raising three kids (one daughter, two sons); and consequently never finished her college degree. Disappointing…she was one math class away from a B.S.
She took great care of us but she was obsessed with vacuuming and putting on her hair and make-up all day long. She did not like to cook, so my Dad would cook after coming home from working all day. By the time I was 16 and learning to drive, Mom decided she wanted to re-learn how to drive. By the time I started college at 18, she decided to work on her degree. A little friendly competition there, Mom?
My husband and I live 500 miles away from most of our families who still live in San Diego. We get to San Diego two-three times a year. Visiting Mom in the nursing home, or at a family gathering, results in her telling me how happy she is to see me, while telling me 10 times in 5 minutes how pretty my blouse is.
I feel my Mom’s poor health and distance robbed me of a good relationship with her—no fault of anyone, really. But…it disappoints me.
Mom did teach me valuable life lessons. The innate educator in her compelled her to teach me how to read at age four, spell such words as “constitution” (I can barely type it!), and made me sound out words phonetically—all good skills! By the way, Mom had an IQ of at least 165 (but acted like the proverbial “absent-minded professor” with little common sense). In high school, Mom insisted I take Latin (!) as my language requirement, and she could still remember hers and could still conjugate verbs (“amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant”)! In college while still living at home for a bit, we would debate philosophy and religion and she would help me write my term papers!
For recreation, Mom always insisted we go somewhere every Saturday or Sunday, whether it was to church, the beach (we lived in San Diego), the zoo, Sea World, or trips to the snow in the Cuyamaca Mountains. Every summer we camped for two weeks in Sequoia and/or Yosemite National Parks. This instilled a strong leisure ethic in me that exists to this day and has been passed down to my daughters.
Mom also bred and showed collies, which took us all over Southern California, then to the Pacific Northwest while we lived in Oregon for two years. Ever had hairy, panting, drooling dogs sit next to you in the backseat of the car on road trips? Yay. Our collies did well, many reaching championship status. With 10-12 dogs in the backyard (never came in the house, too hairy, and Mom vacuumed enough as it was), my brother and I had the pleasure of not walking the dogs daily, but riding our bikes holding the dogs’ leashes so the dogs could trot next to us! Needless to say, we were all in great shape!
When my first daughter was born, Mom drove up to Northern California every SIX weeks for a week to be with her. She was and is obsessed with babies and toddlers. As the kids grew, Mom spent hours looking for just the right birthday and Christmas gifts, which of course, needed a lengthy explanation. As a grandmother, she played with my daughters, read to them and bought them clothes. Mom taught my oldest daughter to read and play music on a recorder. My daughter went on the play clarinet. Mom was indeed a talented musician, playing recorder, viola and French horn.
Dear Mom, if you ever read this, please know that I love you despite my own perceived disappointments. Mothers and daughters may have ambivalent relationships, but you instilled the love of leisure and the love of education in me and from these my disappointment turns to everlasting gratitude.