Step by step

I have spent a little time going through cabinets and cleaning some things out. I have been focused on clearing out the medical stuff, the record of her poor health over the years. I joked with Greg that it seemed she had enough materials to start her own clinic—a collection of thermometers, bags of bandages, blood sugar meter (she didn’t have diabetes), blood pressure tester, etc.

Among other things I also found calendars going back more than a decade. A quick perusal through them showed weekly, sometimes daily, visits to doctors, mostly of her taking family and friends to medical appointments. There were many weeks with multiple appointments with different people.

This was a constant source of friction between us–her willingness to be at the beck and call of others. Often with no thank you, and sometimes with scorn. I was frustrated, even as a child, that she spent so much time carting others around town, reading and translating documents, making phones calls, etc., for people who would not bother to learn English well enough to manage their own independent lives. I accused her of creating and perpetuating dependence. I criticized her for her seemingly pathological need to feel useful, needed.

It wasn’t until adulthood that she and I had a candid discussion about all this. I realized that what I felt was a second abandonment–first, my father for his untimely death, and second for her time spent caring for others while I was left at other people’s homes. I felt all the time she was tending to the needs of others was time not spent tending to me.  Later in life she, too, had realized that lost time. She admitted that it would be her biggest regret, one she would take to her grave. I had long since forgiven her. She had done her best, and thought she could do it all. But she (one of us) could. You can be in only one place at a time, and you must choose.

Forgiving my mother is one thing. Forgiving those who frankly took advantage and even abused her largess (and compounded the wound by rejecting her) is another matter. This will be my work for the rest of my own life.

Now the 2013 calendar hangs in the kitchen, with empty days stretching out.

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