My life revolved around my sports when I was growing up. I played soccer all year round, and basketball and softball in between. There was one teammate in particular who I spent a lot of time with back then. We attended the same school and were on all the same teams. It was often tough for my dad to jockey both myself and my younger sisters' schedules, so I got to know her family quite well. And, I often longed for what she had with her mother. They shopped, they dined out, they did "girl stuff", but more than anything they enjoyed one another's company.
But, she wasn't the only one who seemed to "have it all" in my mind's eye back then. Many of my team mates' moms were on the sidelines every Sunday for our weekly games. They weren't too busy fulfilling other life obligations to be in attendance for their daughters. And, they were present at the “game of all games." Sadly enough, my mom wasn’t there to see my team clench the state title in Columbus, OH that summer when I was in the eighth grade. Maybe she was at work? Or, there might have just been other things more important in her life to attend to. Whatever the case may be, as a nearly 40-year-old mother-of-two, to this day all I know is my mother was not there to celebrate one of my life’s greatest victories. My dad was there…he was a coach. My little sister was there…I don’t think she had had much of a choice. “Keeta” was there…my biggest supporter, and my confidant…because she wanted to be in attendance to support me. But, mom wasn’t there. And, her absence has lived in the pit of my gut my entire life.
Our relationship was severed when she left. And, it took me many years to trust her again. My mother was a wonderful woman that had babies too young. She floated through the first ten years of her adult life unsure of the direction God had planned for her. And, then she spent the second half of it gaining back what she had lost. When she was in her early thirties, she dropped more than 100 pounds, gained a little bit of confidence, and decided it was time to take on a new life, free of the chains she felt within the grips of our household. Granted, our home wasn’t the most peaceful of places. But as a kid, it’s all I knew. And, when she left, a part of me died inside. She left me to be the sister, the daughter, the wife, the homemaker, all in one fair swoop, at the ripe age of 12…and I was angry.
In the last few years of her life, we were blessed with the opportunity to make up for lost time. Even though we never truly had the mother-daughter bond I longed for, we had the chance to mend some of our brokenness. My 19-year-old sister had a young baby boy to care for, and we all three collaborated together to do what families do – we loved and supported each other through it. And, in the midst of that, I grew to “know” my mother in a whole new “adult” way. Seeing her nurture my baby nephew was comforting to my soul (a soul that still longed for her loving embrace). She poured out such unconditional love on that child that I don't believe she was ever able to provide to her own…the kind of embrace you receive that makes you feel completely protected and “home," no matter how old you are.
I never truly let her back in, though. My heart wanted her friendship in a way that pained me as her adult child, but my mind just couldn't get past the abandoned child from years prior. Then, one day me, my heart and my mind ran out of time.
She left us for good in February of 2005. And, we left this world with her.
I became a mom later that year, and reality hit me like a brick. Losing her at the age of 48 to complications from a brain hemorrhage (only a few weeks before finding out I was pregnant with my first) impacted me as a new mother in ways I never knew existed.
Now, ten years after first being introduced to motherhood, I can attest that it gets easier with time in many ways, but my heart is still tested to the core. I’ve done a whole lot of soul searching and healing. My faith has grown ten-fold as I’ve watched my husband and my boys and I mold and shape our own little family-of-four into that blessing I always longed for. And, I know for a fact that she’s proud.
The road traveled into a more mature and confident mother has not been without heartache and total frustration. There are many nights I’ve gone to bed just completely horrified with how I’ve conducted myself in the midst of my boys, let alone my God. I’ve grappled with what I could have done or said differently in certain circumstances. My words of angst and irritation towards them often play out repeatedly in my mind. Ten years ago it was guilt because the joy was sucked from my soul. Now, it’s guilt because I’m not showing them joy through my actions and words. “Mommy guilt” never ceases, but now-a-days it ebbs and flows in more manageable doses.
I often think about her and wonder what kind of advice she would give me today. Would we have grown closer with the birth of my boys…she always wanted Chris and I to start a family. Would my boys enjoy time with their “MeeMaw” on her off-days during the week? Where would she take them, and what would they do? What kind of “little secrets” would they share? I would give anything to see her face light up and hear her contagious laugh at the sight of my two silly boys being who they are – her daughter’s rotten, beautiful offspring.
I’m a wife. I’m a mother. I’m a daughter. I’m truly blessed.