Like a cartoon character, I carried the good angel and the little demon on either shoulder throughout my life. The demon wasn’t evil, just my Self trying to break free. The angel was my mother, eliciting guilt and resentment long past her 96 years on earth.
To say that my mother was a poor parent would be a lie. She tried her best to be a respectable mother and met that goal, giving me wonderful experiences that contributed to my success in life. Raising children in the 1950s-‘60’s could not have been easy when your own childhood was marked by the Great Depression and World War II with its loss of loved ones. My parents were markedly older than my friends’ parents, leaving them with the values of the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, unprepared for the social revolution that would challenge their children.
As the oldest daughter, I carried the torch through these tumultuous times and the guilt in resisting my mother’s edicts. Finally freed of dress codes in college, I donned jeans, although my mother thought I should wear dresses to parties. Finding myself pregnant in college, I married the father of my child. Thankfully, I married the perfect son-in-law and remain married 48 years later. But the shame of getting pregnant never left. I was, therefore, mystified when I discovered many years later that my maternal grandmother had been pregnant when she married my grandfather. Mom said they often laughed about it. They didn’t laugh about me.
I never shed the guilt of taking on employment while raising children, although part time. Mom never understood my need to do something beyond the home. The Self is not to be denied, though, so I found some fulfilling roles.
Mom spent her final three years living in our home. She remained mentally sharp, a generous mother, and a favored grandmother. We were heartbroken when she passed away peacefully in her granddaughter’s arms in a hospice group home.
It has been eight years. I drove by the group home last week and noted, as always, the window of her room. I also noted that for the first time, I felt no mourning and no guilt, only wonderful memories.
We are both at peace.