Growing up, I didn’t really look like anyone in my family.
Adults would study me and proclaim that I must have come from the Milk Man. When I was mad at my family, for whatever reason, I’d use this as a tool to feel sorry for myself, casting myself as the outsider.There was, however, no denying that I had my mother’s hands. My three sisters had long, beautiful fingers, like our father’s. I, on the other hand (literally), had my mother’s short, stubby fingers. Back then I refused to see the resemblance. I was afraid that if I looked like my mother, then I would act like her too. My mother was part traditional/part tyrannical. At least to my child’s eye. She cooked, she cleaned, she baked chocolate chip cookies. But buried deep in the pocket of her apron there was a sadness, an insecurity and a loneliness so extreme it manifested in many ways. She was easy to anger, hard to please and in need of a lot of attention.
As a little girl I was always trying to please her and be her favorite, even if it meant tattling on one of my sisters. I needed to be deemed the “good” daughter. As a teenager I rebelled. I wanted my mother to know how much she’d disappointed me. As an adult, I craved her time and attention: a lunch out, a day of shopping, a visit to my house for a coffee chat. But my mother flatly exclaimed she preferred to stay home.
Years after I was married, I was able to bury the need for my mother. I focused on my own family, pretending it was enough.
On the very day my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, everything within me changed. It wasn’t about me any more. I didn’t care how she had made me feel once upon a time. I only cared about how she felt, and how to get her through this.
I’d visit, not expecting anything from her other than to be near. I didn’t judge what she said or did because there was so little time. If she mentioned needing something (like money for the outrageously expensive pills which allowed her to digest a meal), I’d willingly offer it.
It felt good just to “do” for her. A couple days before she died, as I was pushing my mother in her wheelchair, I got up the nerve to tell her that I loved her and shared how much I loved spending time with her. This felt very intimate to me, thereby unfamiliar. After all, my standard share was a peck on the cheek and a distracted “love you.”
When my mother sweetly replied, in an unguarded voice which was lightly laced with morphine, “You can see me any time you want,” I realized that I always could have. Maybe she wasn’t there for me in the exact way I had wished, but my mother had always been there.
We put her in hospice that day. As I helped care for her, I held her hands in mine and realized how dear those hands were to me. Today, I look at my own, mirrors of my mother’s, and I thank God for giving me these hands. They are the truest thing I have of hers.Denise Barry is the author of the children’s picture book What Does the Tooth Fairy Do with Our Teeth? and the upcoming Soap On A Rope and Sweeney Mack and the Slurp and Burp Competition. She is also an inspirational writer whose work has been featured on various websites and in the best-selling book Watch Her Thrive: Stories of Hope, Courage and Strength. Denise lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband and two children.
To learn more about Denise visit her website @ www.denisebarry.net
I really resonated with this. So much the same. I completely understand.
Thanks Barbara. I miss my mom. 🙂
Such truth. I get this! Thank you for sharing your story.
Thanks Karen. So glad it resonates with you! 🙂
Thank you so very much for your touching tribute to your late mother. You are a gifted writer and your words moved me deeply. Your mother’s spirit not only lives on through your hands…but also your heart. Bless you, always. xoxo
Linda, thank you so very much. Your beautiful words will keep me warm all day!! Much love to you!