Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jog!
Thursday, March 01, 2012
I was in FL for a week visiting my 80 year old super Mom! I also had a wonderful and relaxing trip away from home and recent bad news about my health. We spent tons of time in and around the water and beach. We ate well (Mom's been a vegetarian for 20 years) and healthfully. She treated me as a goddess and honored guest.
No one believes we are related because my mom lies UP about her weight. She's 5'2" and weighs under 100 pounds. Like my tall, slender daughter, she's also hyper metabolic and burns calories like paper. Mom's done a triathlon, does hot yoga and swims competitively in Master's meets. She holds a couple of national records. Small but mighty. I went to see her because I missed her but also for a very special reason... to celebrate her accomplishment of which I am most proud.
I am built more like my Daddy who was two hundred and too many pounds. Although I have inherited his sweetness, his RA, fibro, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, & CIDP, I am intellectually far more like my extroverted, stubborn, often brilliant, funny, curiosity driven mom. I lack her fiery Irish temper and fortunately also lack the predisposition to alcoholism and drug addiction.
My mom and I weren't always close. She was drinking heavily by the time I was old enough to be aware of things like that. She was angry - a brilliant woman who married too early (at 19), had her first child at 20, and who had a sick husband by age 24. She didn't get to start to realize her dreams until she'd had 4 kids and the oldest was in high school. She worked all of her adult life until she went to college when my older brother was 15 and I was 12. To go back to school, she had to fight my Dad who was busy starting his own very successful printing company. She also needed help at home, which fell to me. I'd been cooking and helping out since her hysterectomy when I was 9...Daddy made the mistake of telling her I was a better cook than she, so she quit. But for her to go back to college with a traditional husband a 4 kids required a servant. My brothers, sister and I referred to me as "the family slave".
That kind of responsibility created who I am and I love who I am, but at ages 10-18, no one wants to carry a whole family on their back for a drunken, ungrateful witch. I did it for love of my siblings and their welfare but to say I harbored some anger toward my Mom would be an understatement. Especially since she was also a constant embarrassment, drunk and spouting militant feminism while enslaving her oldest GIRL child. But I always did love her. I was proud when she graduated magna cum laude, top of her class. But the drinking...she was mean, angry, impossible to please and I was in her direct line of fire. I should have received the Marie Antoinette award: I stuck my neck out countless times to deflect her anger from the younger siblings.
When I went to college, I abandoned my younger siblings to her. It was a hard choice but I figured I neede to save myself and avoid incarceration for murdering my mom. However, the price was gruesome: my little sister withdrew into a shell and my little brother became a drug addict. I know it wasn't my fault but since I had coparented them, I felt responsible and was angrier than ever with my mom.
Fast forward...I graduated college and married; I became a high powered career professional. I tolerated Mom. Little brother became lost in cocaine and Mom's fiery temper caused incidents that should have landed her in jail or the insane asylum - except for daddy's protection. She and little brother had a fierce argument about his drug abuse and he told her to butt out - that she needed to look in the mirror before jumping on him - that she was a drunk and that really wasn't too different from being a druggie.
The next day, my mom went to her first AA meeting. She never faltered, never fell and used her indomitable will to stay sober. At age 50, my mom did something that few people can do - she changed. By changing her behaviors, she proved to me that she was sorry for the past. By changing her behavior, she made amends. Over the years, I fell in love with her. Even better, I learned to respect her. We became friends, close friends, best friends. Even through the terrible years when her beloved husband and my precious father disappeared piece by piece from strokes that impaired him, then destroyed him, Mom stayed sober. All of us stood by him and when the cost of caring for him was too high for my mother, we children united, placing him in a home to avoid losing both of them.
Last week I was in Florida to see my mom. We created more wonderful memories on the beach, in the ocean, sleeping in her king sized bed and whispering family stories until we fell asleep. But the best time we had, the real reason I was there was for Wednesday night. On Wednesday night, I stood in front of a big room of people and paid tribute to my mom. I spoke about her brilliant mind, her kind heart, her indomitable will and about her ability to change herself, our relationship, our family and the future of our family. I thanked her for being a perfect example that change - major change is possible. I told her that I loved her with all of my heart, and with some tears involuntarily leaking down my cheeks, I hugged my mom tight, kissed her and gave her the token that she had earned by being a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for 30, yes, 30 years.
Change, great change, is possible. It may not be fast or easy but my mom proved it's possible to conquer the most fearful demon and reclaim the life we are meant to have. That's what we're all doing here at Spark People. We're creating changes, both small and monumental. Mom's one day of sobriety was a baby step but her 10,958 days of change altered many, many lives, gifting her with healthy relationships with her children, grand children, and great grand children and giving us the mother we always wanted and needed. So, what do you commit to change? What will you use to springboard your success? You can do it and I know you will do it!