Mourning for Christmas

18 12 2013

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Ho oh ho! Celebrate! It’s the big day next week! Let’s laugh and play…
Not so easy for those who have lost someone this year, or recently, or who have someone like my dad, who passed away on Christmas Eve, this making every year an ache of longing for him and his cruel/funny approach to the holiday. My uncle the priest said at my dad’s funeral, “he was a fairly good Catholic”, which caused my mother, his sister, to fly into a rage.
Oh families are fun. I miss the strum und drang sometimes…

I just read a review in the New York Review of Booksof Julian Barnes new book, Levels of Life, which might be a helpful gift for those like me who deal with loss over the holidays. He writes about his grief at the loss of his wife, but never directly. In several stories, he lets us know the depth of his grief obliquely. The quote that struck me the most, and reminded me of the time my daughter turned away from me in anguish, never to speak to me again, was this one. He was asked how he felt after his wife died (stupid question, often asked). His reply, recalling a ballooning accident he’s mentioned in the book:

So how do you feel? As if you had dropped from a height of several hundred feet, conscious all the time, have landed feet first in a rose bed with an impact that has driven you in up to your knees, and whose shock has caused your internal organs to rupture and burst forth from your body.

I don’t think you can get a better description of overwhelming grief than that…

It’s one thing when a person dies. The grief, while acute, softens over time. I miss my father every day, but I miss him as he was when he was 60. He’d be 87 now, give or take. Would he be the same? I get to remember him as he was, a man interested in the world, passionate about his interests, talented, funny, always fascinating. But I’m selfishly glad I didn’t have to see him diminish over time, become not himself.

My daughter is another issue. I grieve her in my heart every day she doesn’t speak to me. She has transitioned to be my son and I’ve been excluded. I want to support him as he becomes himself, but I am not permitted to. It is untold cruelty to me. Initially I blamed myself, felt I must have done something wrong. I questioned every interaction I could remember with my firstborn. Overall, I know I wasn’t perfect, but I think in general I was average as a parent. Most parents don’t have to cope with this level of abandonment.
Now I’m merely heart-broken, and every holiday makes it worse. I still feel that knee deep in the ground, internal organ spilling feeling whenever he crosses my mind.

Someone once told me a very true thing – the only thing you can control in life is your reaction to the events that surround you. I’ve tried to react in helpful ways, spoken out and supported trans causes, dealt with those involved, cut myself off from those my son accuses. And yet…

I asked my ex for my son’s phone number. Just to leave a message, try to cross the breach. He has chosen to ignore this request. Probably on my son’s direction. It breaks my heart. And fills me with rage.

How do I react to silence?

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Mothers and daughters and mothers and daughters on and on and on

6 05 2012

ImageSo here comes another Mother’s Day, and with it the maelstrom of feelings that are associated with this Hallmarky “holiday”. I have a hate-hate relationship with Mother’s Day. When I was a kid, it was a day when I would try to connect with my mother, unsuccessfully. I always did something minimal for Mother’s Day – as an unemployed poor person for most of my mother-daughter relationship, I resorted to “Spritual Bouquets” (home made cards offering prayers for the person) or something equally forgettable. I don’t remember Mother’s Day particularly well. I suppose we went out to eat. Or something. It all seemed rather bleah.

And then I became a Mother. And after nights and nights of solo parenting while my ex was working or deployed or otherwise occupado, he never did a thing for me for Mother’s Day. “You’re not my mother,” he’d say. Yeah, true. But I’d organize the kids to do something for him for Father’s Day or do something special. Instead I reminded him to call HIS mother. It hurt, a lot. I wanted praise for a job well done, or at least a recognition that my mothering of the kids made life easier for him to father them. But maybe it didn’t. Mothers days passed. I didn’t really care.

Then my mother, ever the competitive one, superseded my father’s glorious passing on Christmas Eve to die on Mother’s Day. It was a blatant attempt to win in the sympathy contest. It worked. So Mother’s Day became even more rife.

I used to be proud of my parenting. I stayed at home for a few years (we were lucky enough to do this), and I thought I’d done a good job. In amongst the child rearing, while my mum was still around, I fought her influence on me. We were never close, and this I regret. As I’ve said elsewhere, Karma sucks, and now the pride I took in parenting is shadowed by the ongoing break existing between my daughter and I.  It’s still deep and dark and murky and I can’t see a way past it. I dread coming to the realization that I may never see her again. And that this may be what she wants. Yowza.

I sense my mother had her difficulties with her mother, too. She was one of the youngest of a large clan and her mother was ferocious. I imagine little foolishness was tolerated. My mum moved away from her mother and stayed away. We saw her mother now and again, but I didn’t get the feeling that they were bosom buddies or anything. Our family never said they loved each other – I’m sure my mother’s family would have thought that was just a terribly odd thing to say.

Maybe that’s the way daughters and mothers exist, but I am not sure about that. Today I saw a mother and daughter out for lunch together, laughing and enjoying being together, and my heart broke – for the lost opportunities with my mum, now long gone, for the years passing away from my daughter.

This Mother’s Day is also my daughter’s birthday. Plus it will be about 5 years since we’ve talked. Have I mentioned my hate-hate relationship with the day? So this Mother’s Day, I get to relive my mother and my daughter, my cold and now lost marriage, and all that crap. I suspect I’ll have to hit the beach and throw some rocks.

On the good side, I have two lovely sons. Thank god. And a friend who knows how important it is to get some positive stroking on this sharp, painful day. I love them all dearly.

So, all the rest of you – go talk to your mothers. Yeah, they’re insufferably boring and intrude into your life and say things that hurt and mess with your head. They probably wear horrible clothes and are shockingly clued out. But trust me, even if you think you hate them, you’re gonna miss them when they’re gone. See them while you can.

Miss you, mum. Hope you are somewhere beautiful. Love you.





Wishing from afar…

6 08 2010

My daughter and I are estranged.  We have been for the last four years. The reasons why aren’t important; in fact I really don’t know the reasons why.  I’ve been offered some hints over the years – perhaps too much information during the time of my breakup with my ex, perhaps something else.  Through the various grapevines, she tells me that it isn’t me. But then sometimes it is me.  Sometimes I’ve done something wrong, but I am left to guess at what it was.

It’s been impossibly hard , and heartbreaking. I can’t help but think of other families I know, where parents were terribly abusive, and yet children still speak to their parents. I know this wasn’t the case here, and I remain baffled. I remember being angry at my mother on several occasions, often not talking to her for weeks, but if she called me, I always spoke to her.  I loved the woman, no matter how difficult our relationship was at times. How could I hate her or treat her so hurtfully?

Last night my ex, who still speaks with my daughter, texted me to tell me that she had finished the last course for her BA. He ended his text with a cheery little smiley. How sweet. How destroying. I don’t even know for sure what her BA is in. I hear it’s a double major. I have to send my congratulations  to her through him, not knowing how or if it will be delivered. I am hungry to hear of her, devastated to hear of her.

As the years pass, I find I miss her more and more, not less and less. I read books and I think about how she might enjoy them also – but I don’t know, for sure, since she has grown and changed so much in the past four years. I wonder about her hopes and dreams.  I fret about her a little, knowing that she has had some challenges to overcome. I know she is dealing with them admirably – at least I think so. My ex is an imperfect translator  – we’ve always communicated with our kids differently, and I find it frustrating to hear what he thinks she is about, without having the chance for a coffee or tea or whatever it is she is drinking these days and a good long chat of my own.

I get differing advice about how to deal with this.  Some people, therapists, mainly, tell me to let it go.  There’s nothing I can do to repair the situation if she won’t even see me, let alone speak to me. I should move on.

How does one do this with one’s first-born, only daughter? The child I spent years with, dreamed of, held to my breast? It is intolerable.

Others say I should confront her. So I tried that, a year ago. Let’s just say it didn’t go well, but I’d like to add I think I was more damaged by the encounter than she was. After all, she had her father to comfort her.  I had no one.

I know this happens to so many other parents.  I know of at least three other parents who are in my same situation, and one who may end up in it if his ex has her way. To my knowledge, none of these people have done things that deserve such estrangement – no abuse, no cruelty, no neglect. Just love, and perhaps a difficult life situation. One that had to be dealt with. Unfortunately.

What I don’t understand is how these kids can be so openly hurtful to the parents that raised them.  What went wrong in the raising that they feel they can inflict such callous cruelty? Do they even realize how horrible this is for we parents left out in the cold? Why don’t they care? What piece is missing?

I’m lucky.  I have two sons who love me even in my imperfect state.  It makes me feel a bit better – perhaps I really am not the horrible person my daughter seems to think I am. But, after this length of time, I’d really really like to hear from her what this is all about.  She can go away and never speak to me again after that if she chooses, but I’m tired of being left hanging. It’s unfair, painful, and cruel.

I’ve remained living in central Canada to be within easy reach should she ever wish to contact me. I’ve given phone numbers and emails and contact stuff to everyone around her, made it easy for her to find me. And still she does not.  I even moved to a town which I knew she’d visit, hoping for some sort of contact, however brief. When she is in town I am told to stay away from family gatherings lest I upset her.

I don’t know how much longer I can do this. How long does a mother wait? Forever, of course. But I’m getting angry now, angry at being held hostage to her behaviour.

I’m moving again, probably next summer, farther away.  Once I do that, I realize I will probably be seriously severing any hopes of seeing my daughter for years. But perhaps it’s time for me to stop trying to fix this. I can’t have my heart broken every time she comes to town and refuses to see me. It is destroying my soul.








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