Today I called my mother - mothers, plural. The second mother, my aunt, is the one who put me through finishing school; because of her I was able to finish becoming a full-fledged human being. Without her I would never have learned I have wings, let alone that I can fly. The first mother is the woman who bore me and raised me to the best of her ability -until two weeks after my seventeenth birthday. She did not notice the effects of my downing the entire contents of the medicine cabinet, and when I was well enough to tell her what I had done, she told me of the day she took two friends down to the river with her, intent on ending her life. She changed her mind, and the three returned to school. The greatest impression left upon my mother that day was the fact that her two friends came back muddy from the journey while she remained unmarred and pristine in her white clothing. Then she asked me to promise not to do it again, she got up from my bed, and left the room.
I moved out the next day.
Now don’t fret. This is not sad story. But every tale has something called a back-story and this is mine. Today, decades into the future, I know that I’m the woman I am today because of my mother. Struggle has made me strong and forgiveness has made me flexible. And I know that there is nothing another human being can see, feel, think, witness, or do that will cause me to see them as anything less than what they are: a human being struggling just like me, just like all of us.
It’s true that I limped away from a childhood so painful I almost didn’t survive it, and I didn’t truly begin recovery until I was deep into adulthood. The key: one day my therapist said to me I have another client very like you; she can’t forgive her mother for the childhood she endured, and she refuses to be happy until her mother apologizes to her. She is still waiting for that apology, my therapist said, and her mother has been dead ten years. That’s all it took for me to make a promise to myself.
Do I tell the rest of this, the most interesting and impossible part of the story? I suppose will. Here’s what I know. My mother, drunk or sober, sees herself as caring and charming. And she is. She is also, and without warning, drunk or “sober,” as mean as a tangle of rattlesnakes doused in gasoline. We all know it. But that’s not the interesting part. I know things. It’s not just a finding out about a surprise birthday party kind of knowing. I know when a house is haunted. I know when a departed loved needs to send a message of hope or apology. And I know the past life karma of my current life relationships, not all of them, just the important ones. I knew what it was with my mother, but I didn’t know how to fix it.
I went to a reader of past lives and she made very clear to me just how many lifetimes this soul I know as my mother and I have traded blows. Let’s just say that Tom and Jerry got nothing on us. Once I learned this, I promised myself that if it was the very last thing I did in this life, I would clear the energy between us; karma clean from this point forward. I was willing and happy to take it on, all of it; my mother needed to do nothing. After all, if she could have been a better person, she would have, because nothing, but NOTHING, stops my mother once she’s made up her mind.
Fast forward to May 2008. My mother was hospitalized with a host of emergent problems, including a tape loop of seizures triggered by a body that could no longer handle the ravages of alcohol. I was the one who went to her straight away, just got in the car and drove. I know how be with doctors and in hospitals. I know how to face disease and death and not be knocked over. I had already negotiated a workable and loving relationship with her, but I did not want to miss my mother’s passing. All things become possible at the end. When there is no reason to hold on, all things are forgivable. But who knew what I could expect.
My mother was given strong drugs to detox, for if she had any chance of surviving it would be as alcohol-free zone, and for the second time in my life, she was clear and cogent. More. She was a delight. Everyone felt it. This was a woman I had never known, the girl my aunt grew up with, and my uncles. For 27 whole hours, I had for the very first time a mother who saw me, heard me, understood me, appreciated me, and enjoyed me. I had a mother who lovingly told me every good thing about myself. I drank it in without thirst, without longing, without loss, and without time; for 27 hours, it was as if this woman had been my mother always.
To this day, I believe there is a planet full of people who underestimate the truly awesome power of a parent’s love.
Her body began to lose the battle and, stewed in the toxic juices of the dying, the mother who raised me reappeared. The end is always unpredictable. She came within hours of her death. By all accounts, the doctors, the nurses, the hospice staff, by all accounts my mother’s recovery was miraculous. One in a million. She went right back to the old life, of course, or as one of my sisters said, “You think she would have learned something from almost dying, but Noooo!”
No matter. The past died for me, even though my mother didn’t. Maybe that was all that was supposed to happen. Tomorrow - it’s today, now - is my birthday. It’s already started. And I am set to welcome in the next decade of life. Who knows what I will learn there.