Contrary to how that title sounds, this is not a disheartening post. It’s diet disheartening. One of the second biggest adjustments I’ve been making following my step-father’s death is filling in that emptiness for my mom. I think the most common thing I hear when people speak to me, whether it be family members or church members, is, “Take care of your mom.” To which my mind automatically responds, “No pressure, right?” Being a daughter trying to decrease the gaping hole of a husband is difficult and, quite frankly, damn near impossible. I can occupy a room in the house, which eliminates a fraction of the silence. I can govern the bill payments, which eradicates a minimum amount of responsibility. But in the end, I’m not a husband so I’ll never be enough of what my mom has lost.
Now, I know I said that this wouldn’t be an overly disheartening post so let me get to the less “heart-achy” part. Accepting that I’m not going to be able to fill certain roles is liberating. When I try to do and be everything, I only end up questioning myself and my efforts. When my mom has her moments of acute grief, in which I can read the loss in the expressions of her face or the busyness of her hands, I start pondering, “Okay, what can I do? What can I say?” And most often the answer is, “nothing that helps.” At times, I can only be there. I have to allow her to heal the way she heals, and only step into that moment when she grants me permission. I can’t be everything and everyone that she needs. If she needs counseling, I’m not the person for it. I took one Death and Dying class like 6 years ago, and very few psychology classes so there’s only so much I can say or do. If she needs a listening ear, I’m not going to be the person she goes to as a default. She’ll want someone closer in age and who can better relate to the loss, such as our church member whose husband passed last year from cancer. If she wants someone to pray with, she may choose me out of convenience, but chances are she’s going to go to someone who is more spiritually mature than I am. And I hold nothing against her or myself for any of these things. I also know that she does not hold anything against me. She understands that I am not enough. And you know what? That’s okay.
I was having a conversation with my mom just last week about my sister and her spouse. She’ll never see this post so she’ll forgive me for telling her business. Her and her husband only knew each other three months prior to marriage and forewent pre-marital counseling. I would advise you all to do NEITHER of those. Marriages work best when there is pre-marital class attendance (spiritual or other) and if you know someone at least 25 months prior to the hitch. Well, now they are experiencing some turmoil, especially since they just had a baby. Everything came to a head when last week I get a call from my sister saying that her and the children are coming to stay at the house for the weekend. This call signals to me that there has been a marital disagreement. Welp, thirty minutes into them being at the house she knocks on my bedroom door with the newborn in her arms, tears streaming down her face, asking me can I keep the baby while she gets her things out of the driveway. Her husband has gotten so beside himself that he basically decides to kick her out of the house, newborn baby and all, and has dumped every one of her belongings in the driveway. My mom comes home to this new revelation of the crisis, and she’s trying to figure out what to do to remedy the situation. She’s calling the husband, comforting my sister, and cleaning the spare room, almost all at once. After looking at her rip and run for an hour I finally pulled her to the side and said, “Ma. You are not a marriage counselor. You can only do so much as a mother and a wife. And even still, you are transitioning into widowhood. You are NOT a marriage counselor.” I said these things because we all struggle to fill roles that are over and above our pay-grades and our heads. As a result, if things don’t work out, we fault ourselves. Sometimes, we have to let things go and hand them over to people better suited for the job. While my sister and her family are important to me, my mother is more important so I don’t want to see her feel overwhelmed. Thus, I warned her to know her limitations and work within those lines. If they need counseling, they need a counselor. Debra ain’t one.
On a positive note, my sister and her husband patched things up, packed things up, and moved all her things back out by Sunday night. Oddly enough, following that debacle, I wondered if perhaps my mom needed more than me around to be satisfied, to heal better. And I really began to down myself because I thought, and still think, that she did. And I’ve come to a place where I understand that this is not my problem. I can only stretch myself so wide and spread myself so thin before I’m doing more than I can handle. We all have to look at things in a manner of, “What can I do before this begins to become unhealthy?” There’s nothing wrong with that. We are not super heroes. We are daughters, sons, mothers, husbands, siblings, teachers, mentors, etc. We are all something and yet, we are all not something, if that makes sense. At some point we’ll find that we are not enough. And this does not mean that we are crappy people. It means that we are human. Anyone who criticizes you for falling short in an area that isn’t your expertise is just being unfair to you. Whatever you are enough in, refine and fine-tune until you are the best you can be at it. I’m enough as a daughter. And I’m going to be the best daughter I can possibly be. Soon enough, I’ll be a career woman and a provider so I’ll transition to being a provider for my mom. And I’ll be enough of that as well. And whatever I’m not enough in? I’ll do my best and accept when it is time to hand it off to someone better suited.