Extending Grace

So I’m packing, getting ready to go to the beach with my Storyline ladies and I get a phone call. You know, the kind where just from seeing the caller ID you know is going to be bad.

It was one of my mom’s sisters calling. I know her about as well as I know my mom, which is not really at all. My aunt tells me that she has some bad news and that my mom had a heart attack yesterday. The latest news was that she has had to have two stints put in and will be evaluated to see if she needs a third.

I have thought about receiving a phone call like this, whether for my mom or for my dad, and I have tried to imagine what it would feel like. But nothing prepares you for the reality. My husband told me years ago, that I should really think about the relationship I have (or don’t have) with my dad, because someday my dad won’t be around anymore and he (my husband) doesn’t want me to have any regrets. I explained to my husband that it is too late to not have regrets, but I cannot make my dad want to be a dad to me. To continue accepting the little bones that he would occasionally throw my way was far more hurtful than just putting up some boundaries. Really, the boundaries weren’t for him, they were for me. If he wanted to pursue a relationship with me, he could, but I was no longer going to pursue him. I had been spending an awful lot of time trying to make him love me, and my husband and kids would watch me be disappointed and hurt, over and over. So finally, I set the boundaries in place. His behavior did not change. It was mine that changed. And it was freeing.

With my mom it was different. I didn’t know her while I was growing up, so I created this magical, fairytale mom in my head of who she was. The funny thing is about doing that though, is when I finally met her, she was not the impossibly perfect person that I had  created. She was who she actually was. Aside from a plethora of fairly serious health problems, my mom had been a victim nearly her whole life. She was (and is) a woman who had her children stolen away from her. She doesn’t know how to be anything else, even though those events took place 42 years ago. She has not moved out of that space of raging, grieving, childless mother, and there is a part of me that understands that, after all, I am a mom. Imagining the devastation of not knowing where your kids were or if there were okay is very painful. However, there got to be a point, ten years after my dad took off with us, that she did know where we were. She knew, but she couldn’t replace the stolen years, and so she continued to be bitter and live in the past, instead of stepping into the present.

Her bitterness surrounds her still to this day and it has been a stumbling block for our relationship, because I don’t really want a fixer-upper in my life. That sounds harsh, but if she needs to rehash history or if she needs to trash my dad or grandparents every other time we talk, it is just not going to work with me. I don’t feel the need to protect my dad, he’s earned her feelings. But there is nothing for me there, living in the misery of her past, with what should have been, could have been and what wasn’t.  I have worked hard to overcome my childhood and rise above the circumstances I lived in, I don’t feel the need to swirl in misery that I not only didn’t have any control over, but I didn’t live through. Setting those boundaries was difficult though. The desire to have a mom weighs heavy in my heart against the desire to have peace and stability.

Now with today’s news, I am faced with what I have known all along, and that is the fact that my parents will both die one day, never really having parented me. I have never told my mom I love her, because although I love the idea of having a mom, I don’t know her to love her.  I stopped telling my dad that I loved him years ago, when I realized that he really didn’t love me. He loves the idea of having a daughter, but he can’t follow through with the time,  responsibility or care that goes into parenting. I’ve moved passed the age where I am willing to pretend, for everyone else’s sake, and say words that don’t mean anything, because really, no one has been overly concerned with how I feel, so why not be true to myself?

That did not stop me from crying for all 62 minutes that it took me to get to the beach today. Yes, I cried. Like a baby. If my friend Castor reads this post, he’ll be shocked. He just told someone yesterday that I was like a four star general, never getting overly emotional. It’s just that even though I may as well have hatched from an egg, it does not quench the desire for real parents. It does not stop the fact that I have mom who is laying in a Las Vegas hospital with life threatening health problems that I not only feel no sense of belonging to, but I don’t know how I am supposed to deal with this whole situation emotionally.

I  texted my friend Rachael, who was supposed to come to the beach, but couldn’t make the trip. She has some similar, although different parent issues, so I hoped she would understand. Her response was amazing. She said, “Allow yourself to feel whatever you feel or whatever you don’t feel. It’s ok to be affected by this and it’s ok not too be! But extend the same grace to her as you would a stranger. And extend that same grace to yourself! Then drink wine! Lots and lots of wine!”

I loved this, and I love how God planted the right person in my mind who would say just the words my heart needed. I especially needed the part about extending grace to myself. It was exactly what I needed to hear. That I have permission to feel exactly the way I feel, which is confused, hurt, angry, sad and scared, all rolled into one, with each emotion taking center stage at different times.  I am going to just roll with that for now and see how it goes. Oh. And I think I’ll follow her advice on the wine too.

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