Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Later Regrets

It struck me today as I felt this baby drop kick my bladder. This year you will have been gone for 8 years. I'd like to say that I don't miss you, but if I were honest, I'd say I've been missing you my whole life.
I don't think of you very much anymore. While I know that there were some good times in there, they are tainted by the memory of your words, of your careless disregard. But sometimes......
I catch a glimpse of you in the way my son absentmindedly plucks at his pillow; or in the way that my daughter smiles to herself at some happy thought. Sometimes I find a picture of you and it's always the same. No matter your hair color, your clothes, your age. It's that same half smile and no eye contact. The same face I remember through most of my life. Unreadable. Unreachable.
I was organizing photos when I came across a picture of you holding my daughter in the hospital. Even then, you held yourself apart. I wonder what you were so afraid of? What was it in that tiny pink blanket that made you so reserved you couldn't just let go with your own grandchild?
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised at your reservation. You couldn't let yourself love your own daughter, how could you love someone that came from her?
Oh I know you occasionally said the words, usually after a lecture on what I'd done wrong or how I was dressed wrong or shouldn't I lose weight?, but it was always so..... robotic.
And I wonder if I'm giving you too much credit when I feel like you knew what you were doing. Like you knew how much you were hurting me and didn't care. Or worse, enjoyed it.
But then I think of those 'family' vacations. You know the ones. All those times you took my older siblings and my younger siblings on vacation but never me. I was 'too young' and when you found out that I knew my younger siblings were going, you knew I was 'busy'.
Because suddenly I was.
Did it shock you when at 16 I stopped talking to you? Were you surprised that I refused to come to your home anymore? Did you even notice?
I noticed that it took 6 months before you even called me to see what was going on. And then all you asked me about was gloves. That was also the year you got me underwear for Christmas. Underwear that was 4 sizes too big.
I smiled.
But we did start talking again. It may have taken 3 years and me making that first move, but we did.
I had hoped that my pregnancy would have softened things between us.
I was a fool.
You were just as manipulative as ever.
Except now you were drunk, on Prozac and manipulative.
You caused a major blow out between my brother and I because of your very cruel lie.
Still. I wanted so badly for it to work.
I wanted so badly to have a mother that I willingly subjected myself to your criticism. I never really measured up and yes, I felt it.
And then you died.
And I never got to tell you all the things that I want so desperately to tell you now.
In those first months following your death, I think I was in shock.
In my mind you were the mother I had always wanted and not the person you really were. I grieved for you. But really, I think, I was grieving for what I wanted you to be.
Many times over the years I have thought that I'd forgiven you.
Now I'm not sure that I ever will. I don't know if I can. Maybe I have to be OK with that. I don't hate you. Most of the time, I don't hate you. I'm not really sure why you were the way you were. I'm not sure what I did in my birth to make you resent me so much. But at least now I know that it was your issue. That there isn't something broken in me. Whatever was broken? It was about you.
I was fortunate to have my father and stepmother.
Because now I know that I can love and be loved. I'm not that monster you made me feel like.
You once told me that I was turning out just like you. I think you meant it as a compliment and it was probably the nicest thing you had ever said to me.
But it scared the hell out of me.
I remember looking at my daughter and thinking "hell no."
I have made it my purpose to not be you.
I tell my kids every day that I love them. I make eye contact. I hold them, I kiss them, I tuck them in at night and come running when they have nightmares. I care for them when they are sick.
And I protect them.
Sometimes I wonder how things would be had you lived.
Oh, I know how you would be. The same. Incapable of ever being wrong, or ever feeling compassion for your own offspring.
What I wonder is......
What would I have done?
Would I have continued to allow you to damage me and my daughter?
Or would I have finally had the courage to give you the big kiss off and leave you to your later regrets?
I'd like to think you were capable of regret. At least then, you'd still be human.
Of course, I'm stronger now. It's easier to walk away from something you've always wanted but can never have when you have something so amazing to go home too. Having Joe and my kids..... I almost feel sorry for you because you never had that. But then, I remember that you could have had it all.
I wonder why you didn't want it.