I was laying with Lane tonight, trying to get her to fall asleep. I was stroking her soft blond hair and singing her favorite Disney movie songs to try to lull her to sleep. And as I lay there, I thought of my mom.
I thought about how she died, nearly ten years ago. I thought about how she was only 47. I thought about how, if I live as long as she did, that means I still have 15 more glorious years of life left, to play and cuddle and love and laugh and cry and squeeze every bit of joy out of every moment that I can.
I thought about what it would mean if I died when I am 47. Lane will be 19, Jake would be 16. I was 22 when my mom died, and I wasn’t nearly ready for it. Of course, I had no warning. She just died. No real rhyme or reason, just slipped away quietly in the middle of the night. And I wasn’t ready. I wanted more time with her. I needed more time with her. I had only been an adult for a couple years at that point, really, and our adult relationship was really blossoming. My brother was only 15 when she died, and I know he needed more time too, way more than I did. Our dad sort of dropped the parenting ball after mom died, (not that he was great at carrying it before she died) and my brother was left to flounder. In retrospect, I knew that would happen. I knew it, but I wanted to believe it wouldn’t. I wanted to believe my dad would rise to the challenge and be the parent that my brother needed through his formative years of high school. But, it didn’t happen. Part of my denial was self-serving — to admit my dad would shirk his parental duties would obligate me to move back home, to drop out of the graduate school program I’d just started when mom died, and make sure my brother became the man I knew he was capable of being.
Not to imply he’s turned out poorly. Now, he’s 24, and he’s doing OK. Career- and education-wise he’s a bit of a ship without a sail. He knows he wants more for himself, but he’s not sure what and not sure how. I feel like he harbors a lot of anger. But he laughs a lot, and smiles a lot, and has healthy (from what I can tell) relationships with decent girls. He has artistic pursuits that bring him contentment. I love him to death and no matter what, I’m really proud of him. But I think with better, stronger, and/or more present adult guidance after mom died, maybe he’d have his bachelor’s degree by now. Maybe he wouldn’t ache inside quite so much. Maybe he’d have more direction. I don’t know. I just want him to be happy, and I know for a long time he really wasn’t… and I probably could have helped make that happen but I was too involved in my own world, 300 miles away.
Anyway, that was a tangent I didn’t really mean to go on but I just feel like spouting some emotion for a bit, even if it’s a bit incoherent.
I guess it all comes back to that I feel like a lot of how I define myself sort of goes back to losing my mom when I was still pretty young. I read a book a few years ago called Motherless Daughters which helped validate those feelings. (If you have also lost your mom, especially early in life – through death or abandonment – this is an excellent read. I can’t recommend it enough.) I do wonder how much of who I am today would have been the same even if she were alive, and how much was shaped through the lack of her presence and the process of grief of losing her. It’s a riddle I know I’ll never have the answer for… but it really doesn’t matter. I am who I am (or, “I yam who I yam” if you’re a one-eyed sailor with a spinach affinity).
And I guess more than anything, I want more than the cards my mother was dealt. I want to meet my grandchildren. I want to live long enough to use my retirement savings. I want to get old enough to have lots of wrinkles. I want to celebrate all those metallic wedding anniversaries (my parents only made it to their 23rd). But if I do go early like my mom did, I want to have been a good enough mother that Lane and Jake will miss me terribly.