Many years ago, in a poem, I briefly mentioned that my relationship with my mother, towards the end of our closeness, was like a deer letting go of her fawn.
Through my entire youth, I cherished my mother; my Anyu. She was my best friend, my sister, my angel and confidante. She was my soulmate. For many years, I dreaded the day that she would leave me for whatever reason.
Over the years my mother would break my heart in so many ways, perhaps subconsciously pushing me away, hoping that when her time on this planet was up, I wouldn’t love her so much, so the pain wouldn’t be so deep.
My mother would often mention her regret of not crying at her mother’s funeral. Was the pain of loss so deeply embedded in her that she didn’t want me to go through similar? She had many faults, one of which was not fully understanding the complexities of emotion.
Well into my adult years, she confessed that she didn’t know how to show me love because it wasn’t shown to her as a child, but in my mind, she showed me love in a thousand different ways. We might not have hugged, but she surrounded me with rules that blanketed me in a feeling of security. She might not have read me bedtime stories, but she always bought me books so that I could read as much as I want.
My mother could never answer all the questions I asked as a toddler, frequently, her answer was “I don’t know”, but she always took me to museums and art centres and made sure I grew up with culture, and despite us being poor, she prepared me for a world of richness that I may never experience in this lifetime, but if it happened by some miracle, I’d be ready for it.
Before her character changed in later life, my mother taught me value. “If you want to steal, by all means do so,” she would say, “but if you do, make sure it’s something that you’re willing to lower the value of your name to, because you’re name will only be as valuable as the item you take.” For this reason, I’ve never stolen anything in my life.
She taught me responsibility. The talk she gave me when I came to that age of maturity was condensed down to a two minute lecture: “You’re at that age where you can get pregnant. You have my permission to do anything you wish, just know one thing, if you get pregnant, it’s YOUR responsibility, I raised you, but I’m NOT going to raise your child.” I was 16 when she told me this, and deciding I wasn’t ready for it, I chose to remain single and never got pregnant.
Mum might not have showed me love the way mothers are supposed to, but by mother nature’s standards, I couldn’t have asked for a better mother. When I was young, she was the grizzly bear guarding her cub, heaven help anyone that came near me. The older I got, she guarded me less and gave me more freedom. When I came of age, she did, or tried to, do the hardest thing any mother could do; emotionally, physically, subconsciously, she pushed me away.
She prepared me well for the ‘big scary world’, she knew I would survive in it, and thanks to her, I knew I could. I do cherish my freedom and independence. I love that I don’t have to hang off the arm of a partner to get through life.
But my attachment to my mother was so strong, that it tore me up inside every time she pushed me further away. Even in my 20s, feeling like the lost child with every verbal bite that she lashed out at me. I was one of those daughters that had vowed to care for my mother when she needed me, after all, she had brought me into this world, she saved my life as a baby and she cared for me for so long that I felt it was my turn to return the favour, but just like me, my mother was fiercely independent and didn’t want caring for. She’d had a taste of her own freedom, and she relished in it.
Then before we had time to explore this new level of relationship, two independent women learning to just be friends for the sake of friendship, I was pushed even further away, this time by cancer. And even though mum, in her own way, got to say goodbye, I never got the chance.
So once again, I am like the lost child, tormented in the never ending search for my mother, always seeing her in my dreams, and for most of the year, she’s always just out of earshot or touch, I can see her, I just can’t reach her.
Away from my dreams, in the real world, the grizzly bear in me growls at the world and keeps everyone at a distance, not letting love in and guards her furkids, her cubs fiercely, daring to threaten anyone who comes close, but if one were to look, really look into her soul, they’ll see the thorn embedded deep inside, the thorn that grows bigger with every passing year that she is away from her mother bear.