My Mother’s Birthday

IMG_6404My mother was born 100 years ago today.  She has been dead for 43 years.  I can remember the way she laughed.  I remember the way she pronounced some words – she had that Pittsburgh, PA dialect – I can spot it anywhere.  Unfortunately, I can remember the way she coughed.  She was a heavy smoker, Pall Malls, unfiltered.  Constantly.  She died of cancer at the age of 57.

I was a last child, the youngest of five.  Separated by 7 years from my closest sibling.  I think my parents were much too tired to have another child.  They were obsessed with my older brother’s behavior, I felt that I was just a bother to them.  I learned to fly under the radar.  For all the trouble I got into when I was a teen, they knew only a small fraction of it.  I never shared anything with them unless I was forced to.

The sad part about this is that I am now 62 years old and my natural inclination is still to try to fly under the radar.  I still don’t want to bother anyone.  I keep to myself.  I was a horrible mother, I didn’t know how to be close to my children.  Thank God THEY think I was fine, even good, as a mother, but I don’t remember it that way.  I wish I could go back in time and just kiss and hug and spoil them.  I love them all so very much.  The good thing is, they know that.

And today is my beautiful first granddaughter’s 14th birthday.  She is beginning to show those first signs of a troubled teenager.  But I can always find a way to find the cloud in the silver lining.  She is a beautiful, smart, funny, charming girl.  She was excited that I am knitting her a birthday present.  And my daughter who is not their mother is taking she and her sister to California for a week to celebrate the birthday and spring break.  Nice.

Maybe we can get better through the generations.  I am certain I was a better mother than my mother was.  My daughter maybe not so much.  But their children have had their aunt, their mother’s twin sister, to care for them, and SHE is a good mother.

Happy St. Joseph’s Day.


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3 Responses to My Mother’s Birthday

  1. Syd says:

    The tragedy of alcoholism ended with me. My wife and I decided years ago that we did not want children because we knew the potential of passing on alcoholism and depression. So I’m glad to have it be the end of the line for me. I am glad that you love your children and grandchildren. It seems to be working out good for you with them. Family is so important.

  2. Annette says:

    Oh Mary, I hear you about your feelings on mothering. I wanted to be such a good mom. I did do a good job for the most part, but I made many mistakes that were tied to my own hurts and my own inability or lack of knowledge to do it any other way. We do the best we know how to do and teach our children lots about forgiveness so later they know how to forgive us! A restored relationship is almost more precious than one that has always just flowed along untouched by turmoil. imo. lol

  3. lulu says:

    Wow…thanks for this. I was also the youngest in my family with a big gap between me and my siblings. My brother (10 years older than me) was a drug addict, my sister (7 years older) was handicapped. I was unexpected and although my parents loved me, I always got the feeling that they were a little too tired of raising kids to pay a lot of attention to me. With all the drama associated with my brother and the vague sadness associated with my sister, I too learned to fly under the radar–never sharing problems with my parents. My job was to not disappoint them no matter what. (Interestingly my mother was also a smoker–she died of emphysema at age 65.)

    As a parent, I also feel like I kept a certain emotional distance from my children…that just breaks my heart. My drinking didn’t really ramp up until my oldest was in high school, and I quit when my youngest was a senior in high school, but that still leaves about 7 years when my 3 kids had a mother who was not only emotionally distant but usually drunk every night as well. Ugh. It pains me to remember it.

    I really don’t think that I was a better mother than my mother was, but what’s done is done. My children are grown but I try hard to be available (emotionally and physically) for them now, and I really do think they know how much I love them. I can’t undo my mistakes, but I’m working hard to make living amends in this area, and hopefully someday I can be a good grandma.

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