Mary (Marie) Garr
I recently read an article in the March 2014 Woman’s Day magazine. Titled Lasting Lessons, it was written by author Mary Hogan. Lasting Lessons was about Mary’s relationship with her mom, and the lessons she learned on her mom’s deathbed. The article brought me to tears; not unusual for me, especially when it comes to reading about parent/grown child relationships.
In this case, perhaps my tears stemmed from the fact that unlike the author, I wasn’t able to say my good-byes to my mom before she died. She was living in a nursing home in Tawas, Michigan, around 3 ½ hours from where I live – and one evening she simply passed away in her sleep.
Or perhaps the tears came because like Ms, Hogan, I didn’t have an easy, breezy relationship with my mother. The author felt the burden of her mom’s neediness after her sister died from cancer. She also felt extremely guilty, because she kept her promise to her sister not to tell their mom that the cancer had spread. Suddenly, her sister died – Ms. Hogan confessed to her mom what she had known, and her mom felt betrayed.
For me, the youngest child of five, born when my mom was 42 (definitely an “oops” baby), I often felt the huge generation gap between my mom and I. As a child, I was very close to her, but when I ran headlong into my teen years, the distance grew. My mom was already 55 years old! What did she know about teenagers of the seventies? Not much, it seemed to me. She was over-protective, laid the guilt trip on me all the time, didn’t want to hear my opinion about anything (and believe me, I had an opinion about everything!)
We muddled through our relationship, and I alternated between feeling loving towards her and being angry at her and her old-fashioned ways. Our relationship was filled with misunderstandings.
By the time my daughter was born, when I was 33, my mom was 75 years old, and suffered from a myriad of age-related conditions: heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes. Though she would live another 11 years, those years were filled with hospital stays, doctor visits, a move to an assisted living facility and ultimately, her final move to a nursing home.
When she moved to the assisted living facility from her apartment, she became depressed, and suffered from mild dementia. Any chance I had at creating a better relationship by truly communicating with her was lost. Of course, I visited her at the nursing home, but at that point, there just wasn’t much to say; just trivial conversations.
Then one day she was gone.
Now that I’m well into my fifties, I long to have that time back. I wish I could go back and say all the things I should have said when she was alive. After she died, I remembered all the good things about her:
How she was the family historian, and seemed to know everything about every long-lost relative. She loved going to family weddings and funerals alike, just to show that “Aunt Marie” cared. She gave unconditional love to her grandchildren. She was friendly, talkative, and made friends everywhere she went. She could never remember the punch line to a joke.
She loved to polka at weddings with one of her best buddies, my Aunt Esther. I can still picture them dancing at weddings.
Nowadays, people will tell me I’m like her. I’m happy about that. But I sure can’t polka like she did.
I love you, mom. And I miss you.
- Mary (Marie) Garr