When I was young, I used to tell my mother, with great gusto and frequency, that “we’re the same person.” I fully believed it then. I was in awe of her and wanted to be not just her walking, talking mini-me, but her. Not like her. Not sharing her interests. Her.
The mother-daughter relationship has a long history, full of ups and downs and full of Freudian interpretations. Sometimes we want to be the living embodiment of our mother (like me) and sometimes we vow that we’ll never let ourselves turn into her.
Yet today, on Mother’s Day, none of that seems to matter at all. All the hang-ups are pushed aside or hung in the closet, the door shut and locked. And just like my childhood yearning, I still want to be just like my mother.
OK, in the name of honesty, I may have even said it (yes, that same “we’re-the-same-person” speech, which now is met with a look of concern for my psychological well-being from said mother) again a month or so ago. But I couldn’t help but ponder that age-old question: Don’t all daughters, in the end, want to be just like their mothers? Or at least grow up to make them proud?
MORE JUICE AFTER THE JUMP…
Like any typical daughter, I only have my mother to blame for my admiration of her. She began all that closeness business the day I was born. As she recalls, the nurse put me in her arms, my mother spoke to me and I stared straight into her eyes. Now, I’ll admit: Had this been my daughter, I might have been just a bit freaked out, as if it was some sort of Rosemary’s Baby-type thing.
But not my mother. That’s not the kind of woman she is; nothing seems to scare her. Not the time the doctors gave her the news of my disability. Not when I was wheeled to the operating room for my first surgery when I was 10 weeks old.
And especially not during the hundreds of times I’d be stuck in a hospital bed, the whining increasing as I got older, oddly. There she’d be, sitting by my bed the entire day, sometimes reading to me, sometimes holding my hand; when I was feeling better, we’d take a trip to the cafeteria for an ice-cold lemonade and walk around the hospital.
She’d also be the last person I’d see before the scary lights of the operating room, and the first person I’d see when I woke up many hours later in the recovery room.
The verdict: She was always there. Frankly, I don’t know what I would have done without her,
So when she had to have minor surgery last month, I exclaimed, “Finally! This is my chance to take care of you.” I thought it best not to use the word “us” in this situation.
My mother just looked at me with her classic look of “Oh no, here we go.” She told me she didn’t need me to take care of her, but she’d been saying that for years. It never stopped me before, and it certainly wasn’t going to stop me now.
I knew I’d have big shoes to fill, of course (remember, she does wear a size 12). When the day arrived, though, I was ready. We checked in and the nurse asked if I wanted to come back to the pre-op area with my mother. I could tell my mother didn’t want me to come.
“Of course I’m coming,” I smiled as I lead my mother to a small hospital bed.
“Are you OK?” I asked after she settled in. “You have nothing to worry about.”
I pulled the blankets up closer to her shoulders.
“Melissa, I’m fine. Stop it,” she replied as she turned on the TV.
The TV? Was she serious?
“Why don’t you turn the TV off and we can talk?” I suggested, trying to ease her fears. She wouldn’t admit she had any fears, but I knew she did. What a brave woman.
I think she was a little embarrassed; I was one of the only people who came back with their loved ones who were also having surgery that day.
I didn’t care. At all.
Two hours later, I returned to that same spot. The doctors said everything went well and that they’d be bringing her out of recovery soon. So I sat in that same spot, wanting to make sure that I was the first thing she saw through the fog and haze of her post-surgery eyes, just as she had done for the last 27 surgeries.
And I was.
Isn’t that what all mothers really want to give us? That sense of strength to climb that mountain, the sense of grace to face life head-on and the lifelong assurance that everything will be OK.
I took care of her the entire weekend, making she rested (which in itself was like trying to explain the universe to a toddler), making sure she had plenty of fluids and pulled the blankets up to her shoulders when she finally did fall asleep.
I thought I was the one giving my mother a gift. But, really, I was wrong. For the first time, she needed me. For the first time, I could be there for us. Ooops, I mean her.