A couple of months ago I had an interesting visit. I answered a knock on my door to find my mom's best friend from high school. They've remained friends and I've known her my whole life. "Tell me what's going on with your mom," she said.
I invited her in. She proceeded to tell me that last year when they'd had their class reunion she'd tried to contact my mom. My mom didn't respond and didn't attend the reunion (she's always attended in the past). She also tried to contact my mom a couple of other times. I think my dad called her back once and told her that my mom was busy with family stuff and couldn't talk.
She was worried. She had good reason to be.
My mom is struggling right now. She has emotional and physical health problems, more so than she used to I think. She is also trying to save a family member from an addiction. It's taken its toll. She is less and less social. She spends a lot of time isolated in her room. I don't know that she sees anyone other than family or doctors, except maybe when she's shopping.
I told her friend the story of what was going on. I admitted that things are very difficult for my mom right now. I cried a little as I described the current situation. It's a tough thing to watch and not be able to fix.
Then she said something unexpected. "I wish you could have known your mom." It sounds like something you say to someone whose mom died early or was out of the picture for some other reason. My mom has been in my life the whole time. But I understand what she meant.
She remembers my mom as vibrant, smart, capable, and social. I've read my mom's yearbooks. She was very popular. She was a cheerleader. She was an Art Attendant. She was the editor of the yearbook. So social. So involved.
It's not that way now.
The change has been gradual, occurring over many years. She's definitely not that person anymore. I wish I could have known her, too.
Sometimes I get resentful that I don't have the mom I want. I get frustrated that her life is filled with other people, that we are often a second thought. That since I stayed in my hometown and am not in crisis I am less important than everyone else. I get frustrated that I can't have a conversation with her and feel heard. I am incredibly selfish. I can own that.
I can't imagine how difficult her life is right now. Partly because I haven't spent much time trying. Shame on me.
And while I process all of that I also find myself wondering if someone will say the same thing to my children one day. "I wish you could have known your mom."
I am struggling with my emotional and physical health as well. I tried to avoid her path and yet here I am. Following in her footsteps almost exactly. I don't know how much of it was avoidable.
And I feel bad that my kids don't have the mom they want. That they feel less important than they are. That they often don't feel heard.
I hope that who I can be is enough. And I hope that one day someone does tell them who I was. That they get to hear stories of the me that they don't remember. The one who took them to the park and pushed them in the swings. The one who had picnics in the middle of the living room floor. The one who taught them to read and color and sing. The one who nourished their imaginations. I hope they can remember some of that.
Because I am struggling, too. I am not the mom I want to be.