The Mothers Who Made Me
Yesterday marked the 100-year anniversary of the birth of one of my grandmothers. My mom’s mom.
At various points throughout the day, I stopped to consider that fact. A century ago a mother I never knew gave birth to a baby girl who would grow up to become someone who would mean the world to me.
Surely this day must be recorded in a history book somewhere. It absolutely must.
Then I started thinking about my other grandmother - another strong, vibrant, nurturing woman who stunned me and broke my heart by proving to be mortal at the age 94. That was 14 years ago as of this coming Tuesday, impossibly long ago, but every time I look at one of the books she gave me (she left me 13 cartons’ worth) or think of one of the life lessons she taught me (mainly about being patient with other people, even when you really, really don’t want to be), I hear the sound of her voice and I remember how wonderful it felt to be hugged by her.
I can't think about my two grandmothers without thinking about my mom: my lovely but complicated mom.
When I was young, I spent a lot of time wishing she were a different kind of mother - a mother who wasn’t so difficult or so angry. Now that I’m a mother myself, I simply marvel that she was able to carry on as well as she did, given the cards she was dealt and the decade in which she was raising her family. No one talked about mental illness back then. And as for family therapy? You have got to be kidding.
It wasn’t until after my mother died - when the grief-tide swept over each of us, threatening to drag each of us under - that my sisters and I realized what a strong woman our mother had been. She had battled with emotions like grief and despair for the previous 30 years and somehow had managed to carry on. We were in awe.
I feel blessed to have had such strong women in my life: two grandmothers who surrounded me with so much love and nurturing that I never had to question, for a moment, the fact that I was loved; and a mother who equipped me with the resilience to deal with life’s sunny days and stormy days (plus every emotional weather extreme you can imagine).
It’s great to be able to fall backwards and land on pillows of love and nurturing. But to survive in this world, you need those rough-and-ready resilience skills, too. Thanks, Grandma R. Thanks, Grandma B. And an extra big hug to you, Mom. I love and miss you all.
Photo Credit: Ann Dougals, 2009.