Saturday, May 9, 2020

Audrey's Daughter

Long-time readers of this blog know that I've declared my disdain for Mother's Day for many, many years. It took the combination of Alzheimer's disease, the birth of my daughter, and being stuck in the house for 8 weeks for me to finally come around.

I don't hate Mother's Day anymore.

This will be short because I have been emotional about everything lately. Could be hormonal or maybe this tough girl exterior of mine is starting to wear down in middle age. It could also be that being in the house for all of this time without seeing my Mom has made me miss her more than words, so just the thought of spending another tomorrow away from her makes me ache.

I won't promise not to make anyone cry, but I am mindful of mortality and my eyes are on the invisible clock that sits above all of our heads as we go through this life. Because it is invisible, none of us knows how much time is on it...we only know how much time has passed. And even then, we only know a mere window of what that represents with respect to our parents, since there was time that existed before we knew them. The point--I know that there are a lot of people reading this who no longer have a mother in this realm of existence. And given the advanced stage of my mother's illness, I am ever mindful that our time is finite.

Of course, the same is true for me. I have a clock above my head that I can't see, so I don't know what the future will hold. I know that my own daughter is far too young to understand if anything happened that would suddenly cause my clock to stop...

I am my Mother's only daughter. I am her first child, the reason why she became a mother. I am the inheritor of all her quirks. I bear the scars of her mistakes. I carry the crown of her accomplishments, but I don't dare try it myself on because I can't wear it. I am her imperfect copy.

She was hard on me. I used to hate her for being mean, but high expectations and a willingness to express disappointment were how my Mother's generation knew how to make us strong. They didn't give participation trophies because showing up didn't earn them any prizes. You are supposed to show up, she would say. She accepted second/third place or honorable mentions through gritted teeth because she knew her shit was better, but she would show them next time (and she always did).  She expected excellence. She had scores of students who did great work, of which she was very proud, but of me, she expected more.

For years, I assumed that I didn't make her proud because she tended to be more affectionate towards my brothers. Then I realized her affection for me was never expressed in kisses or hugs. It was in exposing me to the theatre. It was in sharing her love of literature and Black women writers. It was in allowing me to wear her clothes because at one point we wore the same size (then I lived down in New Orleans for 3 years and she never let me forget that she could still wear a size 8). It was in sending me an allowance every month when I was in college when she could have used that money on herself. It was in traveling to different parts of the world to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that have taught me to pursue my own happiness and fulfillment (because men...shoot). It was in demonstrating that a mother who didn't wear an apron or bake cookies could be just as loving as a mother who wore high heels and worked out at 5am.

As Zuri's mother, I am much different than Audrey. I apologize when I react to my child in ways that might harm her spirit. I give kisses and hugs. I gave her dance, but if she chooses baseball I guess I will accept that. Of course, I am convinced Zuri will still end up in therapy with issues, or she will find another way to see and accept me for what I am/was. She will have memories of our house being less than pristine, of me yelling at her to do simple things because I said so, and maybe a few memories of me creating some masterpiece on this broken laptop. Hopefully one day she will recall how we traveled the world together because there aren't too many places I want to go where I would leave her behind. I only have Zuri, who came to me later in life, and I know from watching Audrey's fight against the darkness of dementia that there is a clock above our heads...

If your mother is no longer here, honor her in some way. Find something she cherished--an object, a passion, a person, etc., and put it to good use, show some love. If you are not a mother, find a way to share your time with someone else in some meaningful way. If you are a mother, smile and cherish the flawed gestures of love that your child offers you. If you are someone whose hurt is too deep to do anything, then find a way to love yourself in an intentional manner.

Yes, love yourself as much as your mother loved you. Or if need be, love yourself even more. I no longer hate Mother's Day because I clearly see Audrey in me. I see Audrey in Zuri. And seeing Audrey and Zuri means I need to look more lovingly at Ayanna.

Mother's Day will always be another day on the calendar for me. I say that now, but five years in and then 46 years later, along with ten years of Alzheimer's and eight weeks of social distancing...honestly every day is a blessing. Every single day.

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