The relationship I have with my own mother is fraught sometimes. She can be quite selfish, often frustrating, thoughtless and critical (but then so can I sometimes). Things have never become so bad that we have cut ties completely (although we came close with her silence and lack of support for two months after I told her my first marriage was over) unlike our unsigned correspondent this week. Just because they gave birth to you doesn’t mean they won’t let you down. Sometimes blood just isn’t thicker than water. Lara, Unsigned Editor
Today is my mum’s 60th birthday. But I won’t be seeing her to share this special day with her. I will not call her with birthday wishes as I doubt they would be received with much pleasure. In fact my voice may unearth feelings that have lain dormant for years. Five years in fact – which was the last time I saw her.
After a minor disagreement following years of disappointment on either side, she chose not to be part of my life. She just stepped away from the ties that bind and decided that her daughter and grandchildren were not worth overcoming bridges for. For five years. And counting.
I am mindful that there are two sides to every story so I won’t list a barrage of what-she-dids and what-she-saids. Suffice to say as the years passed I could sense the dissatisfaction between us; words were crossed, a silence followed – then lingered.
Initially there was an immense sense of relief as I stopped the phone calls that used to fill me with weekly dread, and her first absence from a family event passed without the usual drama. But this peace was short-lived and soon replaced with a guilt that wracked every fibre of me as I wondered was she safe (a single woman living and working in the city) each time I heard a woman had been attacked or murdered in the area where she lived. Briefly appeasing my shame with bi-annual Christmas and birthday cards, I staggered – motherless – through a couple of years. But when I received a command to desist with these offerings I was stunned. She was truly cutting me loose.
Soul-searching finds me acknowledging the times I can be a dogmatic drama queen, but as I look at her grandchildren developing from the wobbly-toothed toddlers they were when she last saw them, to the intelligent, funny and hard-working schoolgirls they are today, I am bewildered.
What would it take for me to abandon my own daughters? For that is how it feels. That she has taken a long, hard look at her adult child and preferred life without her in it. It is irrelevant that I am a grown woman; the rejection sucker-punched me into shame and disgrace. And it continues to do so every Mother’s Day, my birthday and her birthday. These emotions may have lain dormant, to the observer, behind walls of fury and indignation. But to this day – there it is – the simple fact that my mother didn’t and doesn’t love me enough.
Recently she chose to make contact with my sibling who responded by opening literal and metaphorical doors to her. Repeat rejection. I could pick up the phone but the fear of a snub keeps me at my distance. To survive 60 years on this earth is a feat in itself and I think of her and miss her, every damn day. So we sent birthday cards: to mum, to nana.
And tonight I hugged my girls a little tighter.
Happy Birthday Mum.