A week or so ago, my mom stopped by. She does this every so often, usually without warning which drives me a little crazy. I might be doing the most mundane activity – even scrubbing toilets – but I detest being interrupted, especially by unexpected guests. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a big deal, but I keep dreading the day she barges in on my boyfriend and me engaging in some nefarious lunch-time activity. I’m not sure she’d survive what she’d see.
But I digress.
She stopped by, wanting to say hi, to tell me she loves me, and to apologize for “drinking like a fish” when she was pregnant with me. It’s what everyone did, but now she’s convinced that she’s responsible for my alcoholism, or at least for making me susceptible to it.
She’s been like this a lot lately, remorseful and apologetic during her visits. Something in her life has prompted introspection. She seems to be taking more responsibility for the person she’s been, and the things she’s said and done. In fact, she reminds me a lot of myself when I first became sober; when I first became willing to look at the role I’ve played in the unhappiness of my life, and in causing harm to others.
And I’m wary, of course. I’ve known more pain from my relationship with my mother than any other person, even more than the man who molested me in grade school. And it’s not that she intended harm, but she had this way of turning even good things foul. After our son died, her idea of “emotional support” was so difficult to bear I nearly cut her out of my life.
But she’s gained some insight and perspective, as I did almost six years ago. In her eyes, I see horror at things she’s done. I see the desperation for forgiveness, the desire to make amends. I can’t change the past. Neither can she. But I can choose to accept her for who she is and who she’s been; someone who is hurting and full of regret, and whose healing – at least in part – hinges upon me seeing past her mistakes. Or perhaps more accurately, realizing that mistakes are all they were. I must reflect on my pain as evidence of her suffering and confusion, and say to her, “it’s okay. I understand.”
I think, ultimately, this is the greatest gift we can offer one another. And if it’s not, it’s at least a damn good place to start.