Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What To Do About Mom?

After one hellish trip from Wyoming with her two young children, I am overjoyed to report that my sister, nephew and niece have arrived safely in Maine. They've been here a week, staying with the Grampies (or the Mannies, as my sister calls our Dad and his partner, Tim). So far we've spent a day at the beach, the pond and my sister and I spent a day in the Old Port shopping--sans children. Now that was a rare event indeed. I can't remember when the last time it was my sister and I spent time alone. Really, I can't. It's not as if we live next door to one another, and we only see each other bi-annually (on her dime/time) and before that, well, life happend. My sister and I haven't even lived together since I was fifteen and she was just thirteen. But that's another long story that I won't go into here.

The shopping trip and lunch was great because it has inspired some Yule and birthday gift ideas for her and her family, but mostly it was great because we had a chance to relax into ourselves with each other, laugh at stupid jokes and, it had to be done, talk about Mom. Our 60 year old mother died April 27. There was no funeral or service. Her ashes (or "cremains", if you prefer) were delivered to my house and have been sitting on a bookshelf since the first week of May. My sister and I have many, many complicated feelings about our mother. I can't say for sure how my sister, Sarah, feels, but I know I've been dealing with a tremendous amount of grief (though I do know Sarah feels this as well) and just a profound sense of loss. Combine this loss with issues of abandonment, betrayal, neglect and emotional detachment we have regarding our mother, and then complicate it further with memories of the love, commitment and gifts she gave us on the other and the grief is profound. Just for extra fun, throw into the mix the friends you never expected to reach out to you with overwhelming love and support, then contrast this with the friends you most counted on--to have them totally ignore your feelings, then figure out what to do with both the unexpected love and the unexpected grief of failed friendships on top of losing a parent. All I can say is, it's been an upheaval of emotions this spring/summer, for my sister and me. So obviously, my sister and I had a great deal to discuss. We talked about having a small ceremony on the ocean where we say goodbye and scatter her ashes. We talked about how, where and when. Will the ceremony give us a chance to say the goodbye we didn't have? Will it heal anything? Are we already healed within the arms of our families and friends who care deeply about us and know how hard this has been for us? Do we do something even if it feels inauthentic? And eventually we came around to what, if anything, do we have to do? Neither my sister or I share a spirituality that insists anything has to be done. For now, the best place for our mother's ashes may be on the bookshelf, nestled among books and photos, surrounded by my family's life. Our mother was a bibliophile if ever there was one and maybe she was too ill to always demonstrate her love for her family, but I know she loved us, so being surrounded by us--our memories, maybe that's enough?

So Sarah and I shared all these complicated feelings over Indian food. I highly recommend discussing shared grief over Indian food--it's warm and soothing, doesn't remind us of Mom's cooking and you might luck out like we did and have the entire restuarant to yourselves. No we didn't decide anything in the end about what to do about Mom. (This has been an ongoing theme between us for most of our lives now, this "what to do about Mom"--and did I mention that my sister and I are still in our thirties?) But what we did do is finally get a chance to look directly at each other and admit that we might be just fine with doing nothing. For now, for once, we don't have to do anything about Mom.


  1. It's wonderful that you got time with your sister! I have one close sister and one that for some reason we just can't find common ground.
    Really sorry to hear about your mom. All the feelings can be so over whelming! I went through a lot of the same when my dad died. That sister I don't get along with, he was her stepfather. She hated him and wasn't very kind during the whole ordeal. Oh.... the crazy family stuff, sometimes I think it's better of not to deal with it and just let it be what ever it is! Sounds like you did make a decision about your mom, to just let her be...
    HUGS to you!

  2. Oh I forgot to mention I love your header photo, such a cozy and warm spot... It's wonderful!

  3. Hey Anet--thanks so much. My sister and I have been downright estranged at times, but I'm hopeful we can find some more of that common ground you mentioned. I really, really had a great day out with her and we've be oh-so-enjoying the cousins.

    I'm sorry that you lost your dad and that your relationship with your sister was so rocky during that very difficult time.

    Header--thanks! I'm slowly figuring out how to do things with huge doses of help from my husband, Alex.

  4. Hey Amy,
    I am glad that you and your sis were able to make a connection and am hopeful that some comfort will come to both of you surrounding all of your "stuff" with your mom. I have been glad to have a way to keep up with you via your blog!



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