2006 was the year that my life changed forever – the year that I became a mother and lost my mother, all within a few month's time. My dreams changed, my plans changed, and my world changed within the blink of an eye.
I was due in October of that year, and I remember being amazed at how nicely my mother treated me. We'd always been far from close – she spent her life trying to control me, and I spent mine being uncontrollable. I know she felt like she was losing me, but the truth was she'd lost me years before.
At 17, I'd decided I'd wasted enough time trying to rebuild a broken relationship and moved out on my own. I'd been cursed at for the last time, hit for the last time, and put down for the last time. I went away to college and didn't come back; after I moved out, I made a concerted effort to avoid being home for more than a week or so at a time. It was easier that way. Years of therapy later, it was 2006 and I was pregnant with my own child, desperately afraid that I'd carry on the legacy of short tempered emotional violence.
That July was one of the hottest on record. We spent July 4th weekend at my grandparents' house, as we did every July 4th, the summer laziness lulling my pregnant self into a sense of security. I walked the gravel road, ate watermelon, and wondered what my child would look like. Then, one night, my mother caught me by surprise. She pulled me aside to talk; she was crying. I don't remember seeing my mother cry often, and I remember wondering who had died.
We began to walk, and the first words she said were, “I'm sorry I was a horrible mother.” I remember wondering what to say – what do you say to an awful statement like that, that deep down inside, you know is true? We went on to talk about her unplanned pregnancy, how she'd given up a chance at college and a career, and how trapped she had felt, living in an RV camper with an infant, wondering how the family was going to make it. We discussed how she'd never known “what to do” with me, how my bipolar disorder affected her life when I was a teen.....things I thought we'd never talk about, we did. There was a desperate need for catharsis in her voice – she needed me to know that she'd tried her best, but still felt like she'd failed.
I walked away from that conversation with the knowledge that my mother, no matter how imperfectly, had loved me. For the first time, I saw her not as someone who was screwing up my life, but as someone who had made mistakes in her own and didn't know how to undo the damage. We started really talking after that day, and became closer than I'd ever expected or imagined.
Zoe was born in September. She was slightly premature, but my mother was there. She sang songs to her, rocked her, and loved her more than I've ever seen someone love another human being. We have videos of them cooing and laughing together – caught up in their own little world. I was hormonal, weepy, and recovering from a C-section, and having my parents there to help me recover was such a blessing. I remember thinking that I'd been given another chance at a normal relationship with my mother.
In December, we still weren't feeling up to traveling. We made plans for my parents to see us December 31st that year – we'd celebrate Christmas and New Years' all at once, and they'd get to see how much Zoe'd grown. My mother never made it there. On December 24th, she was killed suddenly in a car crash. I remember calling my grandmother's house to see if they'd arrived, only to hear a strange voice answer the phone – my great uncle. I told him it was me, wished him a happy holiday, and asked if my parents were there yet. He began to sob, and said “You don't know.”. The rest is a blur – I remember screaming at him to tell me what was wrong, forcing the information out of him, and collapsing in a heap on the floor. My husband found me that way, picked up the pieces, and I began making plans – funeral plans, plans for time off work, plans for being an adult. Somehow, I managed to hold it together. Somehow, I managed to read a poem at my mother's funeral while breastfeeding an infant in a sling. Somehow, I knew that that in depth July apology had been part of a bigger plan.
Sandi - Work at home writer mama to Zoe the monkey girl 9/06 and Luna the zen baby 8/08