One day, when I was 23, my mother called and told me she was sick with West Nile Virus. I know, I couldn’t believe it either. My mother never got sick. She never needed help. And she always had all the answers. So when she told me that she was sick, I didn’t know what to do. But certainly she would know, so I asked her if I should come home. She didn’t say yes but she also didn’t say no. Of course, I felt inclined to go. My instinct said go. But I didn’t. Because I was scared and because I convinced myself that she would tell me what to do. So I sorta waited and worried. Not knowing exactly what to do made doing nothing seem appropriate. I didn’t see it then, but I was being invited to decide for myself. But I didn’t open the invitation.
And then she got better and we had dinner. And during it, she told me how surprising and hurtful that my distance during her illness had been. Hearing that killed me. The sting of shame and regret was so strong because deep down I had always known what I wanted to do. Of course, the answer had been so clear. But I got all caught up in a mother daughter dynamic that had been outgrown. During that dinner, I made a different choice. I didn’t get defensive. I opened to a new way of communicating and relating. I had kept my mother one dimensional for so long that suddenly seeing all of her was a bit overwhelming. Yes she was the strong and loving person I had always known but she was also vulnerable and sometimes didn’t want to have to have all the answers. And it wasn’t her job, anymore, to decide for me.
I can’t imagine being so silly now. But I tell the story because it was such a poignant moment in my relationship with my mother. Something fundamental shifted during that conversation. Our relationship broke out of the previous pattern. It became about knowing each other beyond the roles of mother and daughter. And in this past ten years, our bond has grown and deepened and a really unique friendship has emerged. It is a complete kick to be such good friends with my mother. Not only because she has known me since before I arrived here on this planet, but because she is the most hilarious, silly, honest, bold, and brilliant person I know. She is a true force of nature. I am so happy that I finally accepted the invitation to show up and really meet my mother.