Questions for my mother Part 4: Why did you push me away?

Yesterday I was going through some dusty files and found an old letter from my mom sent in 2004. It was a note apologizing for how she had acted the night before on the phone. I don't remember the conversation, but she said that she had no right to 'judge my decisions'. She was coming out to California for a visit and I was only going to be able to spend a few days with her because I had just gotten a new job and had to travel for a training. I had to be at the training, or forfeit the position.

Damnit. If I'd only known then that my time with her would be so limited... I remember leaving my aunt's house to head out of town. My mom was standing on her deck watching me as I got into my pick-up to drive away. There was this sad, ominous  look on her face that is forever imprinted in my mind. Two months later she called with the news that her cancer was back (she'd been clear for 16 years) and metastasized.

The letter is typed on blue paper (I think it's the only thing she ever sent me typed) and signed "Love you enormously, Mom" at the bottom in blue ink. Her words were supportive and loving. I sobbed in the garage for a while after I found it. Guilt. Anger. Sadness.

I long to truly know my mother. Everything changed when I had children myself. I think about her constantly. There are so many things I want to talk to her about. There are so many things I feel like I understand about her now. I wish I could share them with her.

I wonder why she pushed me to be fiercely independent so soon. I know that I was challenging. I can see myself in my own children, and after spending my days with a sensitive, intense, argumentative preschooler, I understand how hard it is. But I grieve the fact that we didn't have a closer relationship when I was young. I wish she had held me tight more often and told me that I was okay.

She did the best she could at the time, and I don't blame her. It is so hard to be a mom.
I always knew she loved me.

I'm just really feeling the loss.

I know...I have to be 'grateful for the time we had together' etc., etc.... but you know what? sometimes I NEED to feel the loss--deep  in my bones and in the hollow of my throat. Sometimes I want to wail like a banshee and then curl up on her lap and let her rub my head. Sometimes I just want my mom.

Thanks for listening...


  1. you have every right to feel the loss of your mom. she was an amazing woman.

    i understand your childhood experience because i had it so severely with my fathers (both step and biological). i mean one of them left the state and never tried to have a relationship with me from 5 years old on. they are both still alive and yet so clueless of the hurt they caused. <-i know your mom wasn't clueless.

    i'm grateful for the time i took in my twenties to really work through that pain and hurt. to know i was never going to get back that time. i was also going to be without some of the fundamentals because of those relationships. it helps to grieve.

  2. p.s. i love that picture of your mom. sitting the sun, relaxed, beautiful.

  3. Oh Colleen... Just want to say I really hear you. I just want my mom too. To be able to be with them as mothers ourselves, as who we are now... I wish we could both have that. xoxo

  4. Thanks Desi & Blake xo. Blake: I had a really hard time with it during my second pregnancy for some reason & started reading a book called *Motherless Mothers--how mother loss shapes the parents we become*. I didn't finish it (might pick it up again now) but it did help me work through some stuff...

  5. Colleen - catching up on your posts today & just read this. It's beautifully put. It took me a long time to learn to not resist moments like the one where you cried in the garage. I used to dread those waves of sadness, but have now come to understand that they need to run their course. It also took me so long to understand that feelings of sadness and despair can co-exist with feelings of gratitude and joy. I used to think this wasn't possible. Life really is complex, and messy, and beautiful and amazing too, right? Thanks for sharing, as always. -L


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