I can't fall into the sentimentality of Mother's Day, and envy those who can. Being a mother is tough work, and some women are better at it than others. Most love unconditionally, some don't. We love our children as best we can in our own flawed, imperfect way. I didnt like my mother, and if we had met in other circumstances, I would have made a quick exit, asking, Who was that dreadful woman?. But I loved her. She was my mother after all.
I struggled all my life with hostile feelings towards her. We were never close. She was remote, mean, mostly disinterested, undemonstrative and sometimes physically abusive. Late in life she developed Alzheimers and I spent 5 years looking after her - watching her terrible decline. In that period I learned to like, respect and love my mother. It was a healing time. She bore her illness with dignity and courage, and I began to see the positive qualities she had given me in life. Until then, anger had blinded me to them. I realised that she too, had struggled to find her place on this earth, had been born at a turbulent time - in 1913 prior to the First World War, and later would directly experience another. As a woman she had never fulfilled her own potential - like the rest of her family, she was musically gifted and I can still hear her singing, and playing the piano.
It was only while looking after her that I discovered she had been physically and sexually abused as a child. Only days before she died, when she was refusing food and drink, and had forgotten how to speak, she pulled me to her and kissed me. To most daughters this would have been expected - but I could not remember the last time my mother had ever held me, or kissed me. Slowly and with great effort she mouthed, 'You have been a good girl. Thank you.' I cannot explain how much that moment has meant to me.
She was 95 when she died. I miss the woman I had discovered and had learned to love without recrimination. She gave me more than I had cared to acknowledge and, like all of us, had expressed her love in her own imperfect way, which I did not appreciate at the time. In our healing time together, I thanked her for what she had given me, even if she may not have understood. She was a courageous woman, and in her own way, within her limitations, did the best she could. Thanks mum. I miss you.