This isn’t as simple as it sounds. Many friends once exclaimed, ‘Do you always do what your mother says? Why do you let her dictate your behavior?’
When I was a young girl, my mother was a guardian/caretaker. Both parents kissed away pain, stayed up all night while I coughed, were kind enough not to shout at me for lingering too long in the sun with exposed fair skin. My mother was a caring woman, an attentive wife who also had space for her own identity. She was a superstar who moved in and out of roles with seeming ease.
In Psychology 101, I first heard that the mother-daughter relationship is supposed to be conflict-oriented.
But I liked my mother. She gave me room to develop my own interests, while instilling in me a code of ethics and values. During my dating high school years, she stayed awake until I was safely inside our house, yet she only left her bed to talk to me if I initiated the action. She told me nothing was so awful that I couldn’t come to her with it.
Psychology instructors said she envied my youth, was jealous of my energy and accomplishments, did not want to relinquish control or face the empty nest of middle years. They said she wanted to live through me yet wanted me to emulate her and not be too educated, too career-oriented, too self-sufficient.
No matter that all of the above did not pertain to me; if I wanted to pass an exam, I had to mimic words spewed from a lectern.
Why are genuine feelings of love regarded with suspicion?
During the 24th year of my parents’ marriage, my 45-year-old father had a heart attack and died. My mother amazed me as she selflessly juggled to keep family circumstances and finances in order: I went to graduate school, my younger sister to college, my older sister and her husband started a business.
She gave me a wedding so lovely, it’s still sharp in my memory.
Her gall bladder was removed, two massive heart attacks, then open-heart surgery. Alone, with independence vital to her self-esteem, she returned to her small apartment (having sold the house), to take care of herself.
My mother recognized the worth of each person’s life, and the brevity of same. She didn’t want to “burden her children with an old lady.” My father’s death left a void too big for another male to even attempt to fill; three decades of celibacy was her own choice.
I love her. She gave me advice when I asked yet didn’t insist that I follow it. She cared for my children yet reminded me that they are my responsibility while I was her child—she was more interested in me. What a fantastic thing for my ego.
She was brave even as her health declined from contaminated blood she received during surgery. “Life, after all is precious,” she uttered without complaint. She represented that to her children and grandchildren.
What did I give in return? I hope my lifestyle gave her pleasure since she set the example: stable marriage; recognition as a writer; job as a college teacher of English Composition; “being there” as a mother; ability in sports, music, art, cooking, sewing.
I like myself. How many others feel this way?
One philosophical statement summed up my mother’s interaction with people: flowers for the living. Give literal or figurative flowers while a person can smell them.
My mother enabled me to have independence. Psychology courses didn’t include me in statistical surveys years ago; they still don’t.
Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s current ‘Girlhood’ exhibit has a large showcase where Lois’ photo represents all teens from the 1950's; her hand-designed clothing and costume sketches are also displayed.
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At any rate, I figured if cryogenics was good enough for Ted, it was worth looking into