I sat across the table from my 87 year old mother in the diner. Two eggs, homefries, a slice of cheese cake and tea for me. Coffee and four big fluffy pancakes swimming in syrup for her. The waitress smiled at us sweetly. I watched my mother try to cut her pancakes with a Parkinson’s hand that no longer works. She won’t ask for help so I offer, sometimes she lets me, other times she wants to do it herself.
I tell her things about my life I know she wants to hear, leaving out so much of it there’s no way she could possibly know who I really am at this point in my life. She doesn’t want to know. I know there are a life time of things about her I’ll never be able to grasp.
We are deeply different from each other. And the truth is, sometimes, just being around her makes me anxious, makes me lose sight of the truth about myself. It’s not intentional, she isn’t even aware of it, doesn’t want to know about it, but she becomes a trigger. Transporting me back to a place of shame, worthlessness, paranoia and self doubt.
As I helped my mother get up from the table, the woman in the booth next to us watched and smiled. A smile similar to the one people give babies. “God bless you” she said, as my mother took my arm and we walked past her.
It felt like a dream. We walked in slow motion, the colors intense and bright, the woman’s big featured face filling my field of vision. A mix of emotions rose up in me. It was as if my subconscious was manifest in the real world. Demanding that I pay attention.
I was annoyed. Why was she blessing us? I was only taking my mother out to breakfast. And I didn’t even pay for it. I was annoyed because I knew what she was thinking, what she was seeing. I’m not taking care of my mother, I wanted to tell her. My sister does that, my brother, her grandchildren, not me. I only see her once in a while and for only a few hours at a time. I don’t do half the things for her a good daughter does. I don’t deserve your blessing.
She was my guilt.
I dropped my mother off at home. We both said “I love you” to each other. And I do love her. We say the right things. I do what I can. Sometimes it’s good enough, it’s always at least a little painful. I’m still working on it. Trying to own my feelings. Knowing I’m not really a bad person and I don’t have to feel guilty. That there’s a reason I feel the way I do.