My mother and sister came to visit our little place on the lake. I hadn’t seen them in 22 years. They had never met my children. I could go on for days as to why. It is a story ripe for a novel, fecund with drama.
It’s also getting a little old. I have processed it into mush.
The gist is this: The father who raised me was nearly as “special” as the father who conceived me, the one my mother was so desperate to leave that she did so with just her car, her five children, and a few bucks in her pocket.
While in college, I urged the family to seek some collective help to sort through our struggles. The father was not amused. He disowned me, without my mother’s knowledge.
For 22 years, I thought she never wanted to see me again and she thought I never wanted to see her again.
It’s as unthinkable as it sounds.
My sister named the estrangement “Rosenbaum.” All week, we would say things like, “Was that before Rosenbaum?” or “About 3 years after Rosenbaum,…”. A few times: “Because of Rosenbaum,…” That one precipitated the most raw discussions.
Yes, in case you are wondering, I know, there are indeed phones we could have picked up to resolve this mess — except, I received a call from the father ever few years reminding me that I was still unwelcome. Unbeknownst to me, these calls were unbeknownst to my mother.
We have only just sorted through all the details since the father’s death two years ago.
Here’s the thing. Occasionally time stands still, even though it seems like the rest of the world is revolving around the sun. When my mom and sister showed up at the airport gate, it was as if we had just seen each other a few months prior. There were no histrionics, nothing even remotely worthy of Oprah. We hugged and kissed, pulled their luggage from the carousels and walked out arm in arm.
My mom and I share a sense of humor, it seems, often times uttering identical phrases at the same exact moment, phrases we had not used in my youth. Her smile is my smile. Her laugh is my laugh, only more seasoned. She’s a hoot. She shouldn’t be. Life has not always been kind to her. But she is.
She also shares many of my political beliefs, though she says that’s not possible because we vote on opposite parties. Semantics.
My little sister and I share a love for all things crafty. She spent much of the week making unbelievably gorgeous jewelry for me and the kids. I spent that same time crocheting a blanket for my mom — that she will receive by spring — maybe. Summer at the latest.
Surreal? Yes. Awkward? That too at times. Inconceivable? Not really.
My children were immediately smitten with their Grandma. They were so calm and peaceful throughout the week, like they sensed that the apartment had become more homey.
Now, Rosenbaum is just a funny name (with my apologies to people who hold the name as their own). It happened. It was. Then we all grew up. We became ourselves. We might become more ourselves in later years, but time will have to handle that.
My mom — my mom whom nobody would blame were she to curl up in a corner and let herself whither — she is living her life, laying blame nowhere, accepting responsibility, mourning what has passed, and moving towards fullness.
That’s the part that sends me into periodic bursts of histrionics: the pride I have in her. My mom. My hero.
May I be that to my children — only in a far less dramatic way, for goodness sake.