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Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I wonder if it’s time for me to start thinking more about the meaning of my mother’s passing. I haven’t dwelt on it, I have to say. I’m not sure what, if anything, I’m repressing: grief, anger, relief? Mostly I’ve been fine. However, in the last few days, I’ve started feeling a little oppressed by all the things in our house that belonged to my mother, even though I love some of them. The one day we tried out her bed in our bedroom (where we already have two of her dressers, a bookshelf, two lamps and two pictures), Megan looked around and said, “Wow, it’s like all Grandma in here.” The bed is now in the dining room, awaiting a new home.

I find myself thinking mostly of the painful memories these days, replaying long-ago conversations I wish had gone differently. I also find myself sleeping a bit more than usual, which could be a way of coping with suppressed emotions or just normal winter behavior (as opposed to waking up at 5 to go to the gym, which is arguably not that normal). In any case, today was the first day I cracked the book Tom gave me for Christmas: Losing Your Parents, Finding Your Self. I also looked up the schedule of the grief support groups in the hospice newsletter. The one for daughters seemed inviting.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who is finishing Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, a book I enjoyed reading a number of years ago when it first came out. My friend, however, was feeling impatient with Lamott, especially since the last book she had read was the autobiography of a woman who had suffered extreme political repression and real deprivation. My friend felt that in comparison to the other woman, Lamott’s psychic suffering just seemed whiny and self-absorbed. I worry about being that way myself when I focus on the unfinished business I have with my mother, a woman who did many things right as a parent. Given how many mothers are negligent or abusive, I don’t want to pretend I got the short straw. I didn’t. On the other hand, I don’t want to deny the mixture of feelings I have toward her or pretend our relationship was perfect. It wasn’t.

I suppose this is a first step, acknowledging the messiness. But like the headboard in the dining room, I don’t quite know where to put some of my feelings. They are just there, a bit in the way as I sweep up the dining room or serve the dinner.


Anonymous Phil J. said...

Eileen: If it's any comfort to you, I don't feel that you've been dwelling on the problematical areas of your relationship with your mother to the exclusion "the good stuff." Your posts have seemed to me like the work of a thoughtful person coming to terms with some genuinely difficult stuff. One doesn't do this work all at once; I'm sure you know that. You also know about the famous "stages of grief"; if you accept that model for the moment, then anger at the deceased is certainly to be expected.

What finally helped me to turn the corner on the deaths of both of my parents (in 1982 and 2001) was my belief that as their child I carry in me many things that come directly from them. Once I started looking for those traits (some genetically transmitted, some learned at one or the other's knee), I began to see them as ways to keep them always with me. Some of the traits aren't so wonderful, to be sure, and I'm not proud of them. But some of the ways I am like my parents are things I'm happy to carry as tributes to them.

The bedstead, while a direct "gift" from your mother, isn't the kind of thing I'm thinking of, either; I'm thinking about what strikes you as funny that tickled your mom too, and the ways you deal with Luke and Megan that come directly from her (that's a guess, but maybe you know what I mean).

So give yourself time to do this work; it's important, and it eventually gets easier.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

Thanks, Phil.

7:09 AM  

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