I posted this Instagram three years ago. These were words I never wanted my Mother to see, and I foolishly thought posting it on Social Media was “safe” because my Mom had no idea what that meant. I knew she would never see it, so I to let my words flow freely. Mother’s Day has never been easy for me. The anxiety intensifies as the day draws closer. I see cards, flowers and balloons appearing in the store and I just stay away, the pit in my stomach tightening. In May of 2014, the night before Mother’s Day I decided to tell the truth. For years I’d been scared to people that my Mother had a mental illness. It was the middle of the night, and I was filled with sorrow over yet another Mother’s Day. I somehow found some courage, and spilled my heart. Hot tears streamed down my face, and I wrote…
“This is my Mom. She hasn’t a clue in the world what Instagram is. Mother’s Day is fractured for a lot of us. Every year I figure out what I’ve always known…there’s no Hallmark card for me send that won’t put a lump in my throat. So I stopped trying to pretty it all up, and stopped trying to pretend that a bouquet of flowers sent at the last minute would make me feel less guilty. Why say all this on social media…because it’s real, raw, and it’s our story. Mental illness stole her ability to mother me a long time ago. But here she sits next to me, the Mom God chose especially for me. She hasn’t been “by my side” for all of those pivotal Mother Daughter moments. But she did the best she could with what she had and I’ve not one day in 50 years doubted her love for me. Even in absence she teaches me compassion, understanding and the tenacity of grit, when you get knocked down over and over. She’s gotten back up Every Time. Nope, we’re no Hallmark moment…we’re just two Moms sitting on the steps, knowing that what matters today is that we got to do just that. Put our arms around each other and say “thank you for being my Mom.” And how I do love you so”
It felt safe to write those words, and I felt partially healed as though a part of me had been stitched back together. Until the visit…My Mom fell and broke her hip in 2015. I was visiting her on Valentine’s Day, enjoying a relaxing afternoon. I had surprised her with chocolates, cards and flowers. We started flipping through the photos on my phone, so she could catch up on the lives of her grandchildren. As I was scrolling, the Instagram screenshot popped up. Mom was intrigued. “Hey, there’s the picture of me in the green hat. I have always loved that picture. What are those words? What does it say there?”
I held my breath, the room silently spinning…she was never supposed to see that post. I didn’t want her to know how hard Mother’s Day was for me…my hands trembled and I didn’t know what to do. “Mom, please, I don’t want to read that to you.” I just blurted out the truth, hoping she would just accept it. “No, I’m really curious, please read it to me.” She was in a wheelchair, so I got down on my knees. I took her wrinkled frail hand in mine. We briefly looked at each other, and I swallowed hard. “Mom, I never wanted you to know these words, because I don’t want to hurt you.” She assured me she was ok, as if she sensed this moment needed to happen. So I read her the post. I had to stop a few times, I couldn’t stop the sobs. I felt numb, and I looked at her briefly. She was squeezing her eyes tight, and my hand hard. I choked out the last few words…“And how I do love you so…”
We wrapped our arms around each other and cried. I was 51 years old and I felt like it was the first time my Mom and I cracked the facade. We had exchanged the unspoken. She wasn’t able to be there for me all of those years. She knew it and I knew it. But we’d never said it. It felt like our hearts had broken into pieces in that room, and we sat quietly in that brokenness and just held each other. I was afraid to look up, I felt so guilty.
Why couldn’t I have just kept it to myself? Now she would know, the pain, the difficulty of all of those years. The questions were racing through my mind…and she took my hand.
“Daughter, thank you. Thank you so much for writing that. You have no idea how long I have waited to hear something like that. I love you so much, and I know it must have been hard, and it was hard for me too. It was hard for me too… But you have shared so much love with me today.”
I was astounded, and I hugged her again. I couldn’t believe she was thanking me. I thought I had pierced her heart, and instead we were crying happy tears, broken tears and holding tighter than ever before.
The truth. The truth swallowed us up the room and we sat for awhile, looking at a few more pictures in comfortable silence. Mom’s hip eventually healed and left the rehab center. She now enjoys life immensely in a new apartment, near Pike Place Market. Mother’s Day is still hard sometimes, and that’s OK. This is my Mom. And she’s the strongest person I know. I love her.