Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On being motherless

My mother died when I was 14. It's been almost 21 years since I've seen her. I am not completely motherless (is anyone really?) but I have now spent two thirds of my life without a mom. It's not something that one "gets over". You know what it's like? It's like having a large gaping wound. It heals over, you can cover it up but you still have a massive scar. It's like losing a limb.

As horrible as it is to lose my mom at such a young age, I am thankful (hmm not quite the right word but I'll leave it) that she didn't die when I was younger. I was fairly self sufficient, I got myself to school, did my homework, made meals on my own. I can't even imagine what it would have been like had she died while I was still in elementary school. My personhood was in progress. I knew the importance of finishing school. I knew how to treat others. There were other things though that I had not learned. I never learned to drive, or make a roast beef or fold fitted sheets. I call my sister for many of these queries. A couple of weeks ago I found out the "secret" ingredient in Shepherd's pie (flour!). Googling how to videos helps too. Stupid questions that your mom would answer easily without scoffing at you for asking such a thing.

When I was pregnant with Alex, I had many questions, some that had no answer. Was I early, on time or late? I asked my dad but his reply was "I dunno, all I know is that I was on the night shift". That statement right there pretty much sums up our relationship. When I asked my sister what I was like as a baby her reply was "you cried a lot". She was six and a half, so it's hard to say how accurate that is. I'm sure from her perspective as an only child for 6 years, I was quite noisy. I have no baby book telling me of my milestones, of when I got my first tooth. Alex is missing a grandmother that would have adored him. I would have had someone to call in the middle of the night when Alex had been crying for four hours straight.

I once complained to my sister that Alex was such a picky eater. She laughed at me and said "YOU are surprised that YOU have a kid who is a picky eater!". I hadn't thought of it that way. Yes, I was an incredibly picky eater. It's that darn nature versus nurture again. Anyway, when she said that I felt horribly guilty for all the meals I refused. My mom, probably desperate for me to eat anything would make separate meals for me. I'm sorry mom. I'm sorry I was bad at doing my homework (I only got marginally better at deadlines). I'm sorry I was a shitty moody teenager when you died. I wasn't a person yet. I didn't know any better.

So now, I can make roast beef (thanks to Nigella Lawson), I can bathe my baby (I was terrified to give Alex a bath) thanks to my sister. I still don't know how to fold fitted sheets (I'm sure I can find something on YouTube) but does it really matter? I get by, by pretending I'm an adult.