My mother and I have not always seen eye to eye. I think that started before I was even born, since I was the “surprise” baby who showed up when my parents thought they were done having kids.
Mom told me she was very upset when she found out she was expecting and spent the next eight months in a state of irritation, but when she saw my beautiful, angelic face at birth she fell deeply in love with me and the irritation left.
However, I think the tone for our relationship was already set. We spent the next 20-30 years at odds with each other. We were very different people. Mom was outgoing, confident and beautiful. I was painfully shy, devoid of self-esteem and never thought I was pretty. She couldn’t understand me and I didn’t understand her.
When I was 18, my sister, who was 27 at the time, had a stroke. She lived through it, but as a result, become a totally different person. She was severely disabled and could no longer care for herself. Everyone who knew her was devastated, and as a result of the trauma, the dynamics in my family changed.
My mother and sister were close friends, but after the stroke, that relationship was no longer possible. Since I had no other sisters, only two older brothers, my mother and I were left staring at each other over our personality differences - mother and daughter thrown together in the midst of disaster.
But over the years, the gap between my mother and me grew more and more narrow. I had three daughters of my own, and as they grew up and matured, I did, too. I began to see things in a different light. I began to understand her more. And in Mom’s advancing years, she began to mellow out. She seemed to understand me more and to accept me for who I was, regardless of our differences.
These days, my mom and I are very close. I believe she knows me better than anyone else on this earth. She is my biggest fan, always in my corner regardless of the circumstances, and I am in hers. We encourage and pray for each other, cry and laugh together. We have become good friends while still maintaining the necessary roles of mother-daughter.
But those roles are starting to flip now, such as last year when she fell and hit her head and broke a heel. She ended up having surgery to relieve the pressure of bleeding in her brain and was hospitalized for several weeks. During that traumatic experience, the mother instinct in me rose up and I became her advocate with the doctors, nurses, rehab facilities and nursing homes. I worried about her night and day.
Mom fully recovered from that accident and went on to celebrate her 80th birthday at a dinner party with family and friends on Lake Travis. In March, she turns 81. Although she is still spry and agile and clear-minded, still writing a weekly column for the local newspaper, time cannot be reversed. I know I don’t have much left with her. Even if she lives another 10 or 20 years, it will never be enough. It took so long for us to get where we are, years of differences and misunderstandings, and it hardly seems fair. I’m grateful the gap between us finally closed, but now, I can’t imagine this world without her.