With my hand in my coat pocket, I fingered the ball of toddler socks I’d collected from the car earlier in the day and forgotten. Though younger, Bixie teaches Miles bad habits and now both of them have shoes and socks off before I even back out of the driveway. Sometimes I put them back on but most often I don’t, so the back of our mini van is full of tiny socks. I’m not complaining though, not today anyway, because that ball of dirty socks brought me great comfort as I watched my mother asleep in a hospital bed and breathing hard with a mask on her face. She woke and asked The Sister and I if we loved her before she drifted off again and before we could answer. Had she stayed awake I would have told her that I was just watching her and playing with socks, thinking about how much I loved her, loved her more than ever.
When I was younger she would tell me that she loved me and I would say in return, “I love you more!” Not possible she’d say and I’d argue with her that it was possible. “No. One day, God willing, you’ll understand, Sarah.”
I can remember coming home one night around 5am to find her in a chair in the darkest corner of our living room, and as I crept closer to see if she was awake, she flipped the light on beside her, scaring the shit out of me. I’m not sure I’d ever seen her so angry but why? I was over the age of 18. An adult! And I could do what I wanted! She doesn’t trust me, she doesn’t respect me, I told myself. Because I didn’t understand.
I never knew my mother to take a nap until I was in my 20’s though I knew her to suffer from horrific migraines and fatigue. She always trudged on and when asked why she didn’t go rest, she’d say that she couldn’t do that to us, The Sister and I. “You can’t see me like that.” It was Pa that finally explained to me that Mom’s parents had been alcoholics until their last days and then he explained what that was, an alcoholic. He went on to explain that they frequently spent days in their room, passed out in their bed, waking only to drink more, and leaving Mom on her own. All of this explained, I thought I understood why she didn’t ever take a nap but I didn’t, not really.
It seems to me that for as long as I can remember Mom has tried to shame us, The Sister and I, saying that we were for each other and why couldn’t we be better to one another. We bickered as children, like any siblings, but its never really stopped. Now 37 and 32 years of age, we go weeks, sometimes months even without seeing one another or speaking, and Mom has never hesitated to tell us that it breaks her heart. Until about a year and a half ago, I wrote her off as having a flair for the dramatic.
Which she does.
But about a year and a half ago is when I had my second child, a little girl, a little sister for a big brother. For each other. For always. And now I lay in bed at night thinking how awful it would be if, through no fault of my own, they grew up to not like one another, seek each other out, lean on one another. How dreadful! What a failure I would feel like, my life’s work, motherhood, all for naught. Yes, my heart would be broken. And what will I do when they go out into this big world. No matter how much I trust and respect them, how will I let them go. To school. To sleepovers. To parties. To all night who knows whats?! The fear is so overwhelming sometimes and they’re still years away from preschool! How will I survive that night one of them doesn’t come home until morning without warning or explanation, telling me only that it is none of my business what they do because they’re adults. It doesn’t matter, it won’t matter, for you are mine, always my child. I even understand the napping, though its just one example. Its the sacrifice, to go without. Logically Mom knew that her taking care of herself by way of some rest was nothing like her parents’ benders, but emotionally she could never shake that she had needed her mother and her father, and they weren’t available.
So, yes, Mom. Should you wake again and wonder, I do love you. I can not say that I love you more than you love me; that’s not possible, you were right. But I do love you more than I have ever loved you, because I know you more than I have ever known you.