In May 2017 I began finding daisies sprinkled throughout our property, daisies we did not plant. They were my mom’s favorite flower. I think she left them for me to remind me of the journey we took together, especially the lessons learned through her cancer and death. I’m sharing them now in the posts labeled “Daisy Chronicles.”
My daughter is angry with me. At least I think she is. We didn’t end the day very well and although I said good night and told her I love her she has the ability to hold a grudge like her mama. It is now the morning and she is asleep but I can feel the tiny ache of separateness that our disagreement caused.
Part of me wants to wake her up so we can resolve it. She is different than me in this way. If I was to wake her up she wouldn’t be mad. She can still be won over with cuddles and one-on-one time dedicated to her favorite things.
Part of me wants to hold on to the reason I was mad. She has been fighting with her brother and we are only two days into the summer. He is to blame, as well. I’m pissed at both of them because they are destroying my dream of an idyllic summer where I’ll write, work a little and they will frolic in our pool. I thought we’d have a series of slow summer days where they would naturally eat the healthy food I stocked in the refrigerator, ignore their electronics for the great outdoors and be patient with my work.
As usual my delusional romanticism has fought reality and lost, leaving me crabby and hard to be around.
I’m probably getting my period too.
Before my mom died it was easier to ignore these petty battles with my children, partly because they were so much younger and the battles so much pettier. We used to move on from these stale-mates quickly. They just didn’t matter because there was endless love, endless time to make up.
When fights like this with my daughter happen now I keep returning to a fight I had with my mother, a year before she died. It was my birthday. We had navigated the world of her cancer for months. Complications from a broken hip had made it especially challenging and she relied on me heavily for her physical and emotional well being. I was drained.
But the day came when the chemo was finally over and she could have her hip replacement done. We were almost at the finish line (I thought) and my birthday arrived.
Gifts have never been particularly important to me. I love them but they don’t define my birthday. What defines my birthday is the attention, especially from my mom. Each year, no matter where I was, my mom would call me at the time of my birth and tell me she loved me. And she always gave me a beautiful card with a special message.
That year she didn’t call. She didn’t get me a card. In fairness to her she had a broken hip so traveling even a short distance to a card store would have been a major ordeal, especially without my help.
I didn’t care. I was so hurt the pain burned inside me. I thought about all I had done for her in the previous months and the fact that she didn’t call and didn’t send my father out for a card, or just write something on a piece of paper. It summoned up a bitterness I didn’t even know was burning inside me.
I stopped speaking to her for a few days. I guess I wanted to hurt her as much as she had hurt me. And it worked. My mother loved me deeply and this tiny fracture in our relationship felt big, especially in the midst of everything else she had going on.
When we finally talked I told her how hurt I was that she didn’t call or give me a card. Through tears she told me that she hadn’t wanted to wake me that morning. She knew how tired I was and that she wanted me to sleep. And she also thought I knew how special picking out my birthday card had been all those years, she couldn’t have someone else do it. She thought I’d understand since she couldn’t go out. She never even thought of sending my father because he was useless when it came to getting good cards.*
She felt terrible. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer she did not cry. When she broke her hip she didn’t cry. As she went through months of chemo treatment with a broken hip, she did not cry. But this made her cry. I made her cry.
Reliving that moment now I feel regret. Regret that I had ignored my own needs for so many months that I took it out on my mom at a time where she was struggling to hang on. Regret that I couldn’t see what was really going on for me or for her. Regret that I would consciously choose to not speak with her for three days when now, five years after her death, I’d give anything to have even one of those days back.
But I can’t get it back. So I use those lost days to fuel my future with my daughter. This petty fight with her will be resolved as soon as she wakes up. She is indignant at my frustration and feels her attitude is justified. I could fight her on it, believing that I have endless time to make up with her, endless time to enjoy a loving relationship with her. But I won’t because I know better.
I certainly hope I have years and years ahead of us but what my past has taught me is that every moment is precious. It is my choice whether I spend time in discord unnecessarily.
If my mom hadn’t left this earth it might have taken me longer to learn that lessen. I’d still give anything to have one of those days with her back but since I’m not getting them, I use them to make better choices now.
I love you mom. Every day. Thank you.
*P.S. After my mom died my dad embraced card purchases with gusto. It is one of his favorite things to do – find the very best card. Of course, his are loud and funny. They play songs and move. They are not the loving, sentimental cards my mom picked out but they are special just the same.