Mortal Mothers

“Mortality / Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep.” – John Keats

I was faced today, as in days past, with my mothers mortality.

Last year she was diagnosed with colon cancer. They "got it all" and as early as possible. She has been clear since then.

This past winter she underwent surgery for a hernia that was caused by the colon cancer surgery (not uncommon). She was in an incredible amount of pain from the surgery and it took her some time to recover. During her hernia surgery pre-operative work, it was discovered she had parathyroid tumors.

Today she had surgery to have the tumors removed. It was supposed to be an easy surgery, as in one day, outpatient. Admitted in the morning, home in the evening.

That did not turn out to be the case.

While in recovery and being brought of anesthesia she suffered a collapsed lung. She was immediately put back under, a cardiac and respiratory team was brought in and chest tube was inserted.

She was later diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Apparently, presumably, she had an unknown bleb on her lung. During surgery, it burst, filled her lung with fluid, which caused her lung to collapse.

My mother is going to be 64 years old in a few weeks. She has a family history of COPD and emphysema. She smoked cigarettes for over fifty years (yes, 50). She started smoking at nine years old on the streets of Brooklyn, New York.

My mother, the smoker, is the nucleus of our family.  Her surgery was a big deal.  My sister was with her at the hospital today. I was at work manning the phones and calling all family members. Her surgery and status had to be relayed far and wide. Neighbors, friends, family were all anxious to hear how she was doing.

I made the calls. I sounded all smarty and clinical and controlled.

I wasn’t. Not really.

My dad, home alone, also chronically ill, called me at one point and was sobbing and crying. My mother is his world. He would die without her. Even though he has abused her and her children for over 40 years, he cannot bear the thought of losing her. Frankly, I have always asked Gods I don’t believe in to take him first and at least give her some part of her life without the miserable SOB. But I digress.

Have you ever heard your own father cry?

It is not a pleasant experience.  60 something year old sobbing man, slurring words, unable to form thoughts, terrified that his wife of 45 years may be at the brink of death.

My role in the family during these types of events is to hold it together, to get the facts, make the calls, relay information. I spoke to my brother several times, my older sister even more frequently, my godmother in Long Island, on the calls went.

I was supposed to go visit Mom tonight but plans changed and I am glad they did. I don’t have the boys tonight. I was able to come home and be alone and yeah, collapse.  That is my modus operandi.  Be calm and controlled and resourceful and collapse in solitude.

Oddly (or not), I sit here thinking about my mom – and then my daughter.

Will my mother ever get to hold her first born grand daughter again?

Will she die before that ever happens? Will it ever happen? Does my daughter have any desire to know the only other person in her natural family that held her in her arms?

I have forgiven my mother for abandoning me all those years ago. I really have. My mother is a product of her times (the 50s) that believed it was best to abandon a pregnant daughter and her baby. My mother was not strong enough to fight her Irish-Catholic upbringing. I know she regrets it. She has apologized to me many times. She knows what she did to me. She knows how she failed me and the lifelong trauma she contributed to.

She, like me, is a strong woman.

But is she strong enough to fight COPD long enough to give her a chance to see my daughter again?

Would my daughter even care?

I must state again that I have kept my family and my daughter separate. My daughter has never expressed any interest in them (she has little in me for that matter) so I have never offered information, emails, or the like. My mother asks about her regularly, loves to see her pictures, but even those conversations are stilted.

That is my doing.

I feel I have to navigate tough emotional waters where my daughter and my family are concerned.

My mother has never asked to communciate with my daughter. But I must say, I am confident that is also my doing. I have made it quite clear that she is "hands off". When my niece, a few years younger than my daughter, attempted to friend her on myspace, I ripped my niece not one, but two new assholes.  My nieces have not attempted to contact their cousin since.

I protect her from them and them from her. Yes, them from her. I don’t want my mother or my siblings or anyone to get excited at the prospect of her and then be shot down. I don’t want them to feel what I feel. I know adoption trauma, I know adoptees. They don’t. I don’t want them to be hurt by her and then think badly of her. I am protecting all concerned.

Or so I like to think.

Yet I wonder if I am doing everyone a disservice here? Am I controlling things too much? Has my daughter wondered why no one in her natural family, beyond me, hasn’t contacted her? Does she realize that I am the cause of that? Does she appreciate that or is she wondering if she is some family secret (couldn’t be farther from the truth)?

Am I doing the right thing?

More importantly, for today, will my mommy be okay?

14 Thoughts.

  1. Suz,
    I know you are not a prayerful person, but I hope you will not mind that I will keep your mom in my prayers. This time is very hard and I wish I could offer more than my sympathy. I will be praying.

  2. Suz, So sorry to hear this.
    I will also keep her in my prayers.
    This old smoker knows what this COPD is all about.She should have been handled as a risk, I hope she was. Your Mom is still a young woman and she will get through this. She has had enough pain.
    What else in this lucky month of May for you my dear?

  3. I’m really sorry to hear this, Suz, and will keep your Mom in my prayers. Those prayers will include one that she holds your daughter again. Hugs to you, dear.

  4. I hope you don’t mind if I also keep your mother — and you and your daughter and your whole family for that matter — in my prayers.
    Oh, Suz, I’m so very sorry for everything that you have to deal with. I wish I could hug it all away for you.

  5. Suz, my heart goes out to you and your family. I will be thinking of your mom today and of your daughter and of course of YOU. Love to you!!!

  6. You and your mom will be in my thoughts, Suz.
    I too hope she has a chance to hug your daughter again.
    Many hugs to you. I know what a hard road you’re on waiting for news one way or the other.

  7. This post brought me to my knees… for so many reasons.
    I lost my mother almost four years ago. Completely unexpected. Even though we were not close, in fact often at odds, losing my mom rocked my world.
    I have seen my dad cry, several times. Man, that’s a heartbreaker. I never saw my mother cry. She never apologized for her major part in my losing my son or how she hurt me afterward. I honor your mom for giving you that.
    I too ran interference (make that run, I still do) between my son and my family. At first my parents wouldn’t meet him, then they did and began to participate in his life, although they never truly embraced him. He doesn’t reach out, yet feels rejected. And I protect my family from his moods, bad decisions and abusive behavior.
    I hate this shit.
    But the most important thing right now is that your mommy be OK and stay with you for a long time to come. And meet her granddaughter. Me too, don’t pray. Just know that I am pulling for her and holding you both in my heart.

  8. Apart from stating the obvious; you have a lot on your plate — I wish you the best of luck! — I am also going to offer a small piece of advice. I know. It is none of my business, but I can’t not… I’m the naturally interfering kind!
    Do not ‘protect’ your daughter from your family or your family from your daughter. Nobody is nice all the time. Your nieces deserve to know her true colours. And your daughter deserves to know theirs. You need to trust them all to accept and live with both the good and the bad sides of each individual. If they wish to have contact, on Myspace or other places, you have to relinquish control and let them strike their own balance. You are not responsible for your daughter’s reactions; not anymore. If you ever were.
    You are clearly a well educated and wise woman, so I’m not going to keep preaching — it’s really not my place to do that, but I’m going to recommend a book you may or may not have heard of: Dances with Anger by Harriet Lerner. The book was given me by someone who thought I was too angry for HER good… it’s a good book, but it hasn’t changed me one bit. However, it has helped me understand that I am not responsible for others’ reactions or feelings. Not that I should actively walk all over their feelings, but I should know when those feelings and reactions really do have something to do with me and my input is necessary.
    I’ve said too much already. Sorry. Just don’t like seeing someone get crushed under the burden of being responsible on others’ behalf.

  9. Charlotte – No worries. I understand and appreciated your intent and comment. I also ALWAYS take book recommends. I am an avid reader.

  10. Maybe you’re protecting your daughter by policing the contact. That’s just my feeling that because she isnt ready to connect with you – she wouldnt possibly be interested in the rest of your family.Because they are connected to you.
    Im sorry to hear about your Mom and I totally commiserate with the bittersweet, love,pain and stress all at once that dealing with parents is like.
    When you begin to see your parents as people and you understand where they come from it helps.But then, it makes you sad.
    I hope sometime soon you’ll have more days of joy than trauma and sadness.

  11. Dear Suz,
    I am truly sorry to hear about your Mum.
    Wish I knew the answer to what your daughter would feel about this situation. But I know that I missed knowing or meeting my maternal grandmother by a few months (she died 5 days after my 18th Birthday) and that really saddens me. I always had these fantasies of meeting my mother first and then we’d both go to see her mother and I would meet my Grandmother *sigh*.
    In regards to the yourdaughter-yourfamily situation… In my situation… and I am clearly VERY different to your daughter… I have viewed my mother’s similiar behavior as extremely controlling and it has caused big problems in our relationship a number of times. The HUGE DIFFERENCE however, is that I have directly demonstrated my interest in getting to know her family, whereas as you say, your daughter has barely demonstrated an interest in your let alone your family.
    Lots of love xoxo.

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