When I was younger—middle school and high school years—my mother and I fought a lot. We battled on just about every subject; my choice of clothes, the way I wore my hair, how I ate my food, etc. etc. I thought she had it out for me like everything I did was wrong, or she didn’t approve of any of my choices. I was, what you would call, a nerd of some sorts. I got good grades in school, went out with my friends occasionally, and didn’t get in any trouble. No boys were knocking on my door or calling me (they knew my brother and was scared of him). I tried to be, what I liked to call, the “golden child” because my brother was such a hellian back in those days. But he had my mother in his back pocket, meaning, she could and would pull him out of any fire despite the amount of trouble he caused. I, on the other hand, could not get that same treatment. I was, however, my father’s biggest fan. He is a very cut and dry type of guy, does not mince words or hold his tongue, but he was also very supportive of me and recognized my achievements. I felt like my mother did not. I felt like she knew of them but was too consumed with my brother’s affairs to immerse herself in my world. Looking back, I was very disconnected from my mother.
Now, I have a lot of female friends that have contentious relationships with their mothers. I would notice it whenever I’d go visit them how their dynamics were not as strong as what you may see on television between mothers and daughters. This is not to say that all mother/daughter relationships are combative. There are some that have a strong bond where the mother and daughter act almost like friends or sisters. I will say that I did not envy those relationships. I didn’t want to be friends with my mother. I wanted what I think she wanted, which was acknowledgment.
I’ll never forget the day my mother had her stroke. 19 years ago (wow!). That day, she and I had an argument about something, I can’t remember what it was about. I left the house and went walking around the neighborhood with my friend. When I came back home, my sister-in-law was holding my mother and walking her around. I didn’t know what was going on, I was scared. She said my mom had just had a stroke. I had never heard of a stroke and for it to hit my mother I was shocked. I knew that she had high blood pressure, she stressed over everything and was always on the move. I didn’t know how to help her or what to do. So I prayed. I asked God to heal my mother and strengthen her and to keep me by her side. She stayed in a rehabilitation center for what seemed like a month. It weighed heavily on my dad who had to take on a large load and I, at 16, had to pull my weight around the house. My brother had gotten into some trouble and was not around. So, it was me and my mother…showdown.
I didn’t go out with my friends. I stayed at her side day after day, night after night. It seemed like the right thing to do. I would look at her weak, fragile body and say, “that’s not who my mother is”. Her left side was impaired, her mouth was twisted some, and she slurred when she talked. My father encouraged me to leave and go out with my friends, but I didn’t want to. He practically had to force me. It wasn’t until one day when I tried helping my mother out of bed and into her wheelchair that she said something that hurt my heart. “No, I don’t want Drea to help me, I don’t trust her.” I was stunned. Here I was…here…with her…nowhere else. She was all I cared about at that moment and to say she didn’t trust me felt like a punch in the gut.
My attitude changed. I was hard and cold to my mother. Granted, we always fought and she would inevitably win but I felt the game had changed now that I was in the driver seat. I felt more like the parent and more in control and that’s how I was going to play it. I wasn’t cruel to her nor did I do anything spiteful or disrespectful towards her, but she had to listen to me now. She had to acknowledge me as I was acknowledging her.
It took a few years and losing my brother to realize the relationship I have with my mother. After time passed and I was getting older, I realized the fight that I was keeping up with my mother was useless. She needed to be taken care of. I wanted and needed my mother in so many ways. There were things I could share with her that I couldn’t share with my father. When my brother passed, my mother leaned on me more. She confided in me one Mother’s Day (of all days, LOL) and told me that she always trusted my judgment and that she never had to worry about me. She felt she had to show more to my brother because he needed more at the time but didn’t realize the damage she was causing within her and I’s relationship.
I realized that mother/daughter relationships are different than mother/son and even father/daughter and father/son relationships. Her son, her first-born, was someone that fed off of his mother’s love…he needed it and she had all the love in the world to give him. My strength and being able to handle any and everything that was thrown at me came from being able to not be so attached but to look from the outside and pull from the strength and love that my mother exerted. I was too naïve and blind then to realize I was being acknowledged in another way and not written or canceled out as I thought so previously. My mother and I talk every day, mostly about nothing, but we talk. I don’t hold secrets from her. I cry to her sometimes because I know she still wants that feeling of being a mother no matter how old I am. And being her only child now, I have to respect and honor that. Our bond is solid and regardless of the ill feelings we had before have been squelched and she’s my #1 lady.