Death is a horrible, sudden loss of someone you love. One moment, they're there, available to take your phone calls, laughing with you over that funny TV show, crying with you over that spilled milk and the next moment, they're gone. Nature abhors a vacuum but that's exactly what is created when a loved one dies, a gaping hole of nothing. They aren't there to take your call, to listen to you gripe, to laugh and cry with you. It takes a while for your body to adjust to the absence and you may find yourself picking up the phone or thinking, I have to tell this to her before you remember you can't. And you never will again.
That's what the last nine months have been for me. I've been adjusting to the vacuum in my life. The only problem is that she isn't dead. She's still very much alive. I just said good-bye to her last July. When she turned her back on me, on us. After we told her we couldn't pay
another bill, that we were strapped already paying for three kids and
two houses, she decided that Tyler was a horrible person and refused to
talk to us.
It's difficult to pick up the phone, dial her number, and say "Hello." To check on her and ask how her day is going. It's hard to talk to her because I know she really doesn't care. She only returns the favor when she needs something. That she is filing everything I say away for a rainy day when she can twist it and launch it back at me. I can't talk about West Virginia because then she rails against decades-old wrongs she perceives to have been done to her by family or old friends. I can't talk about her social activities because she rails against people who are a part of said social activities who may have hurt her in some way. I can't talk about my husband because she hates him. He has done nothing but respect her, financially support her, and give her oh-so-many do-overs and still, she hates him. I can't talk about my friends because anything they may have done wrong in the past is brought up for an under-the-magnifying-glass examination.
Basically, it's work talking to her. So, I don't. I read an article a few days ago about why introverts don't like to talk on the phone, that it's because we need to prepare ourselves for conversations. It's not that I don't like to talk to people. I welcome phone calls all day, even when they're a surprise. I may take a deep breath before I answer, but that's because I kind of need to prepare myself for what we may talk about, even if all we need to talk about is the weather. If I know I'm going to see you, I think to myself, Oh! I need to ask him about work and family. And I can't forget to ask how he's feeling. Yes, I plan this stuff out. It's hard talking when your inner monologue tends to drown everyone else out, so I go by a script in my head.
I can't go by a script with her. I start with a script and it gets thrown out the window because of the constant negativity and the possibility that my script may be used against me in the court of public opinion.
I said good-bye to her last summer. When I realized that she has no room for the me that I am now, the me who is a mom, an introvert, a sarcastic nerd, I cried. A lot. When I realized that she has no room for her sweet grandchildren, I yelled and shook my fists at the sky. And I quietly said good-bye to the woman who raised me. Whenever I talk to her or look into her eyes, I see a stranger. I've tried. I really have. But I'm done trying to constantly adjust and dodge and accommodate. I have stood in place for 16 years, trying to be what she wants me to be and I just can't do that. I'm no longer 26-year-old Heather, young, innocent, revolving around her. I'm 42. I'm a grown-ass woman who needs to move on and circle my husband and children.
I see a common theme running through our relationship and the relationships of other mothers/daughters who have this same problem. The mothers always state, "I put everything I had into her. All my dreams and hopes were hers." And when the favor isn't returned, when the grown daughter goes off on her own and doesn't return the same focus to her mother, the relationship, the love, breaks. I'm here to tell you that I love my Miss-Miss, with all my heart. I would do anything for her, but my hopes are my own. My dreams are my own. As are hers. I refuse to live my life through her. Our lives began separate paths the day I gave birth to her. And that's OK. My job is to raise her to be a strong, independent woman, not to cling to me and look to me for permission and acceptance.
Maybe, raising her this way, by doing that, by having this mindset, my death will happen on the day I die. And not before.