A Letter to My Mother

You think I don’t understand, but I do.

An older photo of a mother and her infant daughter.
Photo by Author

You think I’m impatient, maybe petty or mean, and that I push too hard.

You think I don’t approve of your choices, of your path, of where and what you need to find happiness.

You think I don’t understand that while I’m still trying to squeeze in one more task that you just don’t have anything left to give.

But you’re wrong.

You don’t see the ugly tears I cry alone in my car after I leave with a curt goodbye, because to draw it out would break my heart even further.

You don’t hear my desperate prayers for patience and guidance and understanding, to be a better daughter, to be a better comfort and help to you.

Yes, it’s true, I find myself getting annoyed sometimes because I’ve got so much to do and I’m moving too fast for you to keep up.

Then, I remember the mother who slowed down when my toddler legs couldn’t keep up, the same mother that knew later in life when to push and when to pull back while raising a stubborn child.

I remember the mother who let me make my own decisions, good or bad (and there were a lot of bad ones), and taught me that I was responsible for my own happiness… or despair, and stood by to support me through whatever came next.

I remember the mother who once held me for three days straight and rocked me and sang me old Broadway songs until my pain subsided. And I’m ashamed.

Somewhere, I became focused on what had to be done instead of why I was doing it. I bottled up my feelings and poured them into the tasks at hand.

I’m impatient because I know I have to go back to my own life, and yet never feel like I’ve done quite enough to prepare you for whatever might come next.

I push because in my mind you’re still a larger-than-life superhero that can do anything, be anything, and make anything happen when it comes to those you love. And I want to do and be the same for you.

I remind myself of all the times over the course of my life when you stood by silently, just loving me and supporting me, while I made brave new strides, some that left you unsure and worried, just like I am now.

And I admit to myself, tearfully, that I keep saying “one more thing” or doing one more task because when I’m actually done, I have to go home without you and trust that you’ll be okay without me.

So, Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t explain better, or temper my words with patience and understanding. I’m sorry I didn’t hug you longer or just stop and enjoy our last few moments together before I had to leave. While you’ve always been so good at being that person with a ready hug or heartfelt talk, I show my love differently.

See, my love is in every box unpacked when you said you wanted to quit, because I want to be sure you have what you need and can reach even the tippy-top shelf with my help. My love is in every some-assembly-required side table, because I’d rather have splinters and blood blisters than you have to struggle with tasks that are a little easier for me. My love is in every snarky demand that your landlord fix the broken thing that I won’t be there to tend to and ensure you are safe in your new home. My love is infinite, even miles away, even silent with these words I want to say stuck inside my head.

When I push too hard to get you settled in quickly, it means I love you. When I remind you a thousand times to ask about that broken drain in your new master shower, it means I support you. When I come across as pushy or demanding, it means this is how I fight for you, the same way you always did for me. When I reach out in a dozen texts or ten phone calls a day, it means I miss you and want to remind you that you still need me.

In case you didn’t see through all my rough edges and wearisome nagging, here is what it means — I will always be here for you when you need me and I will always need you. I will always miss you, whether I’ve been gone an hour or months pass between our visits. I will support your decisions and respect your reasons, whether I agree with them or not, because no matter how I show it or say it, I love you, Mom.

Woman, mother, lover, writer. I was once a journalist, and freelance writer, but now I am retired early and writing for myself.

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