September 29, 2010
Most of you probably read the title of this post and thought I was going to write about the guilt we may feel as parents over the course of our children’s lives when we can’t be there for every event they want us to attend or say no to things we know they might want to do.
But that’s not what I mean by “Mommy guilt.” Instead, it’s the feeling I have today because my mother is coming to visit.
I feel guilty because I have a mother who’s alive and many people I know do not.
I commented on Twitter this morning that my mother was coming for a few days. Author and friend Katie Rosman tweeted back “jealous.” Katie and I actually met because of the moving book she wrote about her own mother’s death five years ago, If You Knew Suzy. I wrote a blogpost about that book; in it I shared personal feelings about having cancer and what my legacy might be for my children.
But there was more.
Katie’s mom is dead. So is my husband’s mother. So are the mothers of many of my friends. And as I go through middle age this will happen more and more. And someday it will happen to me.
Every time I drive the fifteen minutes to the Amtrak station to pick Mom up (when she and my father don’t arrive by car here together) I think about the night I drove to get her at the train station the first time she came to visit after Barbara died.
When I saw my mother step off the train that night last year I almost had to look the other way: it was like looking at the sun.
The sight of her was
that I almost had to look away for a moment.
The guilt over being able to see her step off that train and into my arms again overwhelmed me.
And so, today, when I see her again, I will hold her, kiss her, hug her. I’ll hug her for an extra moment and think to myself: this is for all of you. This is for all of you who have lost your moms and can’t do this simple act anymore. A way I can honor her and you is to appreciate these times we have together because I know there are so many who would give anything to have one of these moments with their mom again.1
- I should say that it’s not true guilt of course, it’s not my fault that my mother is alive while others are not. But especially in the months right after Barbara died I did have feelings that it was unfair, that I was so lucky. I wrote a piece about the difference between guilt and regret, and perhaps I should have re-written this one with different language. But I decided to keep it true to what I wrote at the time, for better or worse. [↩]