Saturday, June 25, 2016

Beating the Air

The text message I received triggered my outburst of  angry words and frustrated ramblings, then defeated sobs. All this because a friend simply asked "How's your mom doing?"

No, I am not a drama queen by nature nor do I indulge in tantrums on a regular basis. Being the overthinker, and part-time junior psychologist that I am, I think I understand what happened now. This was about an unknown storm that had been brewing inside of me that apparently needed to escape.

I do tend to hold things in and I've known for years that I am a delayed reaction person. Right or wrong, it's just how I deal with my stuff.

My life has been in transition for a few months. I'd been caregiver to my mother-in-law for several years, but she recently moved into a nursing home. It was something we hoped would never happen, but her medical problems made it necessary.  It was very difficult and sad.

I am very close to my Mom-in-law. For thirty years, she has called me the daughter she never had. It's very endearing!

She frequently told the medical staff at different places that I was her daughter. I would usually correct gently, to avoid confusion about our family relationships.
Many of them just assumed I was her daughter anyway.
No. Her son is my husband. We all have the same last name and he is not my brother.

Let  me get back to the terrible offense of my friend asking me how my mom was doing. She's not the only one who has phrased it that way, even though all my close friends know that my own mother died years ago. (Actually it was eighteen years ago this April 18th. It just so happens that I had my mini-crisis sometime between that date and Mother's Day.)

I texted my girlfriend back about Mom-in-law's health status. Then I blurted out to my husband "She asked me how my mom is doing! Well, since she's in heaven I assume she's doing very well!
Your Mom and  mine are two different people! Can't people understand that?
Just because my mother died does not mean that she never existed!! You know I love your mom dearly. She is one of my heroes, but no one can ever replace my mom!"

Oh, I was on a roll!  Don't stop me now...

"It's like everyone has forgotten that I had a mother!  I haven't forgotten! I think of her almost every day!!  And so much has happened that I want to tell her."
Then the sobs started. "And there's no one around anymore who knew her. No one to share my memories of her with..."

My tearful rant was like beating the air. Who or what was I angry at? No one had actually done anything offensive. On the contrary, my dear mother-in-law and my friends who inquired about her had been showing me love! And the fact is, I'd been missing both of my wonderful moms, in different ways.

But I guess grief  just doesn't fit in a neat and tidy box or on a schedule. Neither do our emotions. They can be so confusing and complicated. And exaggerated.

It just wasn't true that no one was left who remembered Mom.

I posted a photo of her on Facebook on the Friday before Mother's Day and left it up for several days. The responses I got were gifts- timely and so precious to me!
A few relatives, a couple of my childhood friends and some other dear people shared their sweet memories of my mother, and what she had meant to them.
I had posted the picture just because I wanted to honor her. I didn't have any particular expectations.

But I've learned that it's the unexpected triggers of turmoil that can be most difficult, and it's the surprise gifts from caring souls that can be the most healing.