Nov. 10th, 2016

xlovebecomesher: (Far Apart)
My coworker and good friend, Theresa, expressed to me today that she doesn't understand why her daughter and her don't get along.  Her daughter, from what I understand, has put her through hell and back since she was a teenager and now at 31, they have a rocky relationship. She asked me despite me being the same age as her daughter, where did she go wrong as a mom? I couldn't begin to answer for several reasons:

a) I think Theresa is an amazing woman and her daughter should be thankful she has such a wonderful mom (or at the very least, the envious person in me who misses my mom dearly, she should be grateful that her mom is alive).
b) I have no idea what her daughter has gone through to make her so cold towards her mom and I've only met her daughter in passing once so it's not something I can ask.
and
c) I can't relate because my own relationship with my mom was the complete opposite to the point now that my mother has been gone for 3 months, at 31 years old, I'm working on learning who I am without her.

My mom and I were inseperable. My mom raised me pretty much single-handedly from the time I was 5 with minimal help from my dad. I knew I was my mom's world; my mom was my world. Her friends knew wherever she went, I went too. From sitting at my mom's friends' houses late at night reading, coloring, playing my hand-held Little Mermaid game, or if we were at one of my mom's friends who had children my age, I'd be running around playing with them, to late night dinners at restaurants, or weekend trips to Atlantic City, my mom took me everywhere.

If my mom didn't take me somewhere, the nights she wanted to go out with just her friends and I'd have sleepovers with my Bubby, there was always phone calls. Even in the days before cellphones, my mom would always make sure she knew where a payphone was to call me and check in with me. She knew I would worry and sit by the phone if I didn't hear from her when she said she'd call. I remember being six years old and huddling in my grandmother's old brown recliner waiting for the phone to ring. Her friends would laugh at her - "Luba, you know she's at your mother's house, why are you so worried? Why are you calling?" She didn't care; she called no matter what.

The two of us would spend weekends going to lunch with my grandmother, shopping, getting our nails done, spending time together (we played a lot of card games and board games especially Trouble), doing things with friends, watching TV, reading (my mom is the reason I am a romance novel addict). This stayed the same throughout my life.

I don't think I ever truly was rebellious. Did I do stupid things? Sure. What child/teenager doesn't? What child doesn't frustrate their parent?

One time my friend came over and we came up with the bright idea of lighting paper towels and throwing it off my 11th floor balcony just to see what happens. Let's not talk the number of times I've thrown ice cubes off the balcony just to see what happens or pushed all the buttons on the elevator (and I lived in a 14 story building) for the hell of it (I have some funny stories of that). I'd like to forget my one and only foray into vandalism where the same friend of paper towel fame came over and we wrote all over the walls in the stairwell of my apartment building.

My mother was frustrated with me in my lack of understanding of math (I didn't understand percentages until I was an adult) and she would have to call her friend to tutor me because I would drive her to tears when she'd help me with math homework. It would drive her nuts how messy I was with my things all over my room and how many times I've lost things throughout the year. I'm still in mourning for the Dick Tracy umbrella I lost when I was 6!

Rebellious though - not so much. I didn't drink, do drugs, smoke, have sex, party. Things teenagers do to rebel.

The worst I did was skip 5th period every now and then so I could go to other lunch period and hang out with friends that I didn't see during my lunch period. I didn't even dye my hair crazy colors or go all out with piercings (as much as I thought about how cool it would be)!

Which is strange when I could have easily become rebellious. My parents were seperated, my dad was in and out of jail. My aunt even assumed that I would just simply turn out like my dad.

"The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Watch out for her" She informed my mother haughtily.

Don't get me wrong, my mom and I fought. We weren't perfect. We yelled, we screamed. My mom could yell like no other. She would scream at me and I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. Little things could set her off like misplacing her things (we've fought numerous times over how many times I have not put her tweezers back where they belonged). She would then turn to the silent treatment to the point where I would write her letters apologizing for everything and anything, begging her to speak to me again. I think I still have some of those letters.

At the end of the day though, I knew my mom was there for me, loved me, and would give me the world if she could. I would never have let down my mom. Not if I could help it. My mom was my best friend and as she told me despite having her closest friends, I was hers.

In college, I moved to Baltimore, 45 minutes away from home. I loved the freedom that living on campus gave me, the friends I met (including my now husband), the adventures I had. Despite the distance, my mom and I would talk on the phone several times a day even if was just to say "hi, I love you" or "Lilah tov (good night)." I would go home every other weekend or my mom would drive up to Baltimore with her friends just to take me out to lunch or dinner. My friends all knew about my relationship with my mom (some even thought of her as a second mom) and they would tell me they wish they could have the same with their moms. I never understood why they couldn't.

At 28, I found myself suddenly in the role of caregiver for her. My mom, who was always sharp, witty, and could calculate her checkbook to the penny, was losing her memory. She was diagnosed with dementia and five minutes after leaving the doctor's office, forgot completely about the diagnosis. I had to find her a place to live (which ended up in multiple moves), daycare, buying her clothes, food,  transporting her everywhere, making sure she didn't wander off (though luckily she was always easy to find). I lost my identity as being her daughter as I found myself thrust into a situation I had no idea how to handle with very little help.

At 30, I lost my best friend, my mom, the best person I knew. Her dementia had gotten to the point where for the last 8 months of her life she couldn't speak or move and was on a feeding tube. My mom lost her battle with what was officially Parkinson's August 6, 2016.

Since that day, I'm relearning who I am.

So much of my life has been tied into being a daughter and that is big part of how I have defined myself.

And I still define myself as such.

But I'm learning to understand who I am without my mother and my father deported back to Israel. Who am I beyond a daughter?

I'm a wife to one amazing doofus who loves me and my quirks, a cat mom, a special education teacher to 7 hysterical 3-5th graders who sometimes make me want to pull out my hair but I do adore them, a damn good friend (as one of my friends pointed out to me last week), educated, Jewish and proud of it, bilingual (though I find my Hebrew slipping at times without my mom to correct me), a writer (and my mom would be proud of me saying that since she always wanted me to be a writer and supported my fan fiction writing) and something I don't know if I would have ever described myself as but people have been describing me in the past three months but I've learned that I'm a strong person just like my mom raised me to be.

As I reread the above, I know my mom was proud of me and loved me, my mom would love the woman I am, and I know my mom would be proud of the woman that I'm slowly relearning the definition of as I learn to understand the world around me without her physically by my side.

March 2017

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