Becoming a different Mom

So fellow travelers,  in the mysterious way creative minds have of tapping into one another the CGBF* page featured a post by wHicked awesome writer Lisa Dingle.  It hit all kinds of nails on the head for me;  so many I half expected the garden shed I have long wished for might have appeared in my back yard. No such luck but the profound insights are more than a fair trade for storage space.

Lisa has been writing about her experience of grief after the recent death of her more-like-a-father-than-father-in-law. The Old Yankee Man, as she calls him, had by virtue of her wonderful stories become a fixture in our creative flow. We will miss him and feel a small portion of her family’s sorrow. Her writing has been honest, soulful and humorous, even when dealing with anger and frustration. Always there is a turn towards the light of hope and a touch of magic.

Her post today literally blew my mind wide open. It is a brilliant description of the bewildering sensation of having life go on around us after a profound loss.  Suddenly I was acutely aware I have been grieving, although not for someone who has died. For the first time I saw clearly just how big an emotional impact this year of change has had on me. For months I have had the sensation of going through the daily routines, everything as it always has been but something intangible feels different. At times the feeling has been so disorienting I was unable to do more than function at a basic level.  Go to work, get necessary groceries, make dinner, do some laundry, feed and walk the dog. I would go to bed early because sleep felt normal.  Except I would wake up at odd hours, unable to settle back into sleep because some litany of worries rattled like a hamster wheel in the cage of my brain. This is not me. Ok, I admit my daughters do claim I worry too much and yes perhaps at times this is true when in action, but I am not usually an all night worrier.  I am a t’ai chi, zentangle, breathe and find peace kind of night owl.

In a few weeks, our younger daughter will be graduating from high school and in two and a half months she will leave home for college.  She’s going a bit farther than her classmates. She’s attending Temple University in Tokyo, Japan. She’s excited and yes a little nervous; I’m excited and yes more than a little nervous. I’d be far more nervous if this was her first experience of Tokyo, but we traveled there in the spring of 2010 to visit her older sister who was studying at TUJ for a semester. She’s seen, and obviously been drawn to the vast urban energy of the largest city in the world. I also understand the long distance travel experience. I graduated from Seoul Foreign High School in Korea and traveled the opposite direction to come to Syracuse University for my BS in film and media arts.  I know the crushing loneliness of being so far from home.  She will have a guaranteed round trip ticket to come home for her first Christmas/Winter Break.  In case of emergency, I can be there in twenty four hours; I already have one full price round trip airfare reserved in a savings account.  I admit I am a little worried that she does not have any interest in learning to cook; thank heaven for ramen noodles.

Two months ago, she had a minor accident, a literal fender bender which somehow resulted in my 2007 Toyota Rav4 catching on fire. Our vehicle and everything in it was completely destroyed. My daughter was standing outside the vehicle when it started to smoke, so other than the trauma of helplessly watching Mom’s car burn, she was safe.  It was both terrifying and unreal. I am glad I did not witness it; my husband dashed to the scene to help her when she called just minutes after leaving home for work. I have never been so grateful to hug my crying child.  “It’s just stuff. Stuff can be replaced,” I assured her “What matters is you are safe, no one else was hurt and everything will be ok.”

And everything is ok, but nothing is the same.  That fire not only took my car,  it marked the moment I was forced to let go of the Mom I had been.  I had to acknowledge my daughter is “behind the wheel” of her life now. Odd as it may seem, my anxiety about my daughter going so far away decreased. Somehow I know she will be ok. Yet every day since then I have been waking up with a feeling something is missing and I do not mean my cherished vehicle (I did love driving my Rav4)  I did not understand this feeling until I read Lisa’s post about grief.

I have no desire to hold onto the past.  I’ve said before I believe my role as a Mom is to raise my daughters to be strong, independent women knowing when the time comes for them to leave home my heart will ache but it will also sing with joy as they claim their own dreams. It is this belief which perhaps clouded my awareness of what I have been grieving, blinded by the thought this is how it “should” be. Having recognized and acknowledged this loss now I am free to celebrate the Mom I will become. The Mom who can offer help when asked or a comforting shoulder to cry on. The Mom who sends care packages into the future and cheers encouraging words.  The Mom who watches with a heart full of joy as a beautiful young woman starts living her dreams, on her terms. I would not have it any other way.


Emma and her friend headed for senior ball

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.


 *Note: The Creative Group At Bedlam Farm is a creative community of encouragement, where creatives of many different kinds, from writers to painters to fiber artists, photographers and weavers, among others, gather to share their work, offer positive feedback, and encourage one another.

Deborah H Rahalski

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