LAST SATURDAY EVENING, I got word that the woman who birthed me had passed away. My sister shared the news and even before she admitted it, I could tell she was running through the same series of emotions as I was. Sad. Not a teary, bleary kind of anguish but a resolved, finalized somberness.
The grief of mother-loss really took hold in 1970, when at the age of nine, I became old enough to decipher the mother's message. She had more important things to do than cater to my whims and fears and concerns and questions. When friends were tragically killed in a car wreck, there was no explanation. When thunder rattled the house, there was no reassurance. When the kids at school bullied my siblings and me, there was no protection. For reasons I'll never know, the mother chose to close herself off. She must have been in serious emotional pain, but I don't know.
In 1990, at the age of thirty, it was done. The years of trying to break the mother's brittle shell and get her to love her grand kids, to desire a place in my life ended when she walked out the door and off to party with her friends. I might be slow but I usually catch on sooner or later.
Now, twenty-three years post, there are no tears. I feel a little guilty. Shouldn't I feel something? I don't.
Well, no. I take that back. I feel sad. It's a sadness that comes from realizing that, at least here on this earth, there will never be a mother-daughter relationship between us.
This surprises me because it means that deep down in some faraway part of my being, I really was fostering a ray of hope that my mother would some day love me and want to be a part of my life. That maybe age would clear the fog around her priorities and she'd see how important having a daughter, two daughters and a son, was the richest, most rewarding gift she could ever receive.
But the fog remained until the day she died. She's gone. She's been gone but now she's really gone. It's final.
Maybe I learned more in her absence than I could have in her presence. But I doubt it.