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  • Michelle Lowe-Sterba

Hard To Love

My mom was a young mom. She had all 3 of us kids by the time she was 25. I remember her telling me she use to sew my clothes. I remember her going into labor with my sister and asking if she was going to have a baby in the bathroom. I remember when she brought my sister home because I ran home from school that day. It wasn't a short run. But I was so excited. I remember thinking my mom was the best cook in the whole world. I remember my brother and I getting to go on a "date" with the man who would eventually become our step dad. I do remember a lot of good things about my mom. But for those that know me, you know I have a very tumultuous relationship with my mom.


I want to make it clear that this is not a post to make my mom look bad. It is really about healing and finally just letting things go. My mom was not perfect. In fact, she was very far from perfect. She was hard. Hard to get a long with. Hard to talk to. Hard to be in the same room with at times. Hard to love. There. I said it. Mom was hard to love.


My earliest memory of my mom was her being pregnant, very pregnant and fighting with a neighbor in the middle of the road over something my brother did. It was probably an easy fix, but for mom most things were a fight. She was not a calm fighter. I remember her throwing things at my step dad. She cussed more than any of my friends mom's. Things were just never easy. Even the easy stuff.


I remember always thinking she picked on my brother. I hated it. He could never do anything right is what it felt like. He was just treated differently. Maybe he doesn't see it that way. But I did. My step dad was in the army so mom was left with us kids alone a lot. Maybe she was frustrated by that and took it out on my brother. I don't know. But the day she went to far with him and he left to live with our dad....that day something in me hated her. I was young. I thought it was hate. It really was just anger. I couldn't wait to get away from her. How could she. How could she lay hands on my brother? How could she just give him away? She admitted her self after that. The first of many times she spent time in a hospital for her mental health. The first of many times she would try self harm or killing herself.


I left mom to live with dad the summer after 7th grade. My step dad was being stationed in Germany and no way was I leaving my Dad and being stuck with a mom I was still angry with. However, that choice took my sister from me for 3 years. That sucked. But living with dad let me learn how to relax. What it didn't do though was dissipate the anger. When they came back after 3 years it was still hard.


I had a forced relationship with my mom. You see, if you did not see things exactly like she did the there was a fight. If you invited someone she didn't like to something, it was a fight. If she didn't get her way it was a fight. She skipped my high school graduation. Because, even then I refused to conform to her "rules" about who I invited. If you disagreed with her it meant you didn't love her enough. Everything was always about her.


Every event in my mom's life, every relationship she had, she harbored the negative. Only the negative. It made her a very sad and angry person. In my adult life after the birth of my daughter, I cut my mom off. 5 years I went with out speaking or seeing her. 5 years my daughter did not get to know her. So, one day I just showed up. Having a child who was constantly asking me about my mommy, leaving a long term relationship determined not to make the same mistakes my mom made, so, I showed up. I did not forgive. But I made the decision to try.


Mom tried hard. She showed love. She still had all that negative around her all the time. But I realized she loved her kids. She wasn't perfect but she defiantly loved all three of us. So we forged on. I chose to just stuff all the negative feelings away and let her be a mom and grandma. She was an awesome grandma. And we made up for the lost time.


Mom was always sick. She had so many ailments, I don't even know all of them. But she was a heavy smoker. I would nag at her to stop smoking. She would get annoyed and tell me she would when she was ready. My sister and I would have conversations with her about letting go of all the anger and hate she had for some people because we were convinced the anger would be what killed her. It wasn't.


Mom got really sick. She had emphysema and COPD. On oxygen and continued to secretly smoke. She hurt her back one day and had to go to the hospital. She drove herself. You see, us kids had made so so so so many trips to the hospital with her. We felt like she was constantly going to just be sent home. So, none of us went. This time they kept her. Since she didn't have a ride home they kept her. And, since they kept her she had to have blood work. Blood work showed something that made them do some kind of scan. The phone call came. I was at work. I do not know how I drove the hour to get to her at the hospital. Maybe it was those words. "Your mom has cancer." It was a gut punch.


The gut punches kept coming. Stage 4. Metastasized. Fast growing. Chemo won't work. Radiation won't work. Surgery not an option. The realization my mom is going to die. She is going to die. She is going to die. I am an awful daughter. Every ounce of anger was redirected and rechanneled into, I am taking care of my mom. I am doing it. I did not want help. I was going to do it. I refused to leave.


I very quickly realized I was not doing it alone. It was more work than I could wrap my head around. Not to mention, my sister was feeling it too and needed to be able to help. My Aunt was out rock and our rock star and was there everyday. Serenity Hospice was a god send. Caring for a terminally ill parent is devastating. You see things you should never have to see. You do things you should never have to do. But we did it. I am sure my Aunt felt the same about having to care for her sister. I spent the first nights alone with mom while she was still able to get around assisted. We got to talk. Talk about everything. She was heart broken for a lot of what she had done. She felt she failed as a parent. And she was devastated she wasn't going to have the time to fix any of it. But she did.


There were a lot of tears in those talks. But most importantly for me, there was forgiveness and reassurance for both of us. She did not fail as a parent, she did the best she could. Your best is ALWAYS enough. And lets be honest, she had to forgive me too. I spent my life blaming her for everything. And she knew it. It had to be hard feeling like a failure of a parent for so many years. I made sure she knew she did not fail. She was a great mom and raised 3 awesome kids. She was an awesome grandma and had grandbabies that loved her so very much. Forgiveness and peace. Through all the hard stuff, she had a life she could be proud of. I know deep in my heart she left this earth at peace.



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