Her hair was wild. She looked like a character in a horror show – I was actually glad that it was daylight or I might have been truly frightened.
She does not recognize me anymore. Even if I tell her who I am. It is rare that she can express a full thought on her own. Normally, she just repeats whatever you say back to you – with the same inflection. She can express joy – as she did when I brought my grandson in to visit. He is 16 months old and she immediately started talking in her baby voice and waving her arms at him.
It is almost as though her mind works in waves. If it is the right day, and the right time of day and if you stay long enough, she will say something – or half of something. But how do you ever know if it is the right day? It is heartbreaking.
The largest part of the heartbreak for me is letting go of my lifelong hope that ONE day I could know her and that she could truly know me. We were always on opposite sides of the river. I spent my life looking for a bridge or a place of shallow water for crossing. Even though I can accept that we will never make that crossing, I will always wish for it and mourn the finality of that lost prospect.
Logically, I know that she loved me. All mother’s love their children – they sew, cook, clean, transport, teach, and help their brood in anyway they can. She sacrificed a lot of herself in her lifetime – trying to make a life for all of us. She left her home and family and moved to a foreign country (Montana) where she was lonely and ridiculed. It was a cold place, in more ways than one. Of course, she was depressed and sad and often felt her life was out of her control. She was right to feel that way. Knowing what I know about her life, I do not begrudge her feelings of loneliness, frustration and resentment.
The little girl in me just wishes that it could have been different. She wishes that there could have been more softness and less harshness – more concern and less disregard. She wishes that her memories could produce more feelings of being cherished and less of being a burden.
We don’t choose to be unloved by those who should love us. Shame will keep us in all kinds of prisons if we let it. And it will keep us from those we love and who love us. (Call the Midwife)
In my lifetime, I have learned a lot about feeling unloved, about low self-esteem and about codependence. I have my own personal library of self-help books, several that I refer to regularly. I understand that the little girl who felt so alone and unloved still exists though she is in the attic or dungeon – whichever you prefer. I know there are triggers – a phrase, certain types of days, certain types of people, certain smells, certain fears. Despondency will surface, sometimes without my knowledge and certainly without my bidding. Usually, it takes time to become aware and then it takes more time as I mentally backtrack to find the trigger and convince myself that the feelings aren’t REAL or justified. Frankly, it can be exhausting.
Most of us believe that if we LEARN these things about the little girl, we can be “healed”, she will feel loved and we can move forward unencumbered by her frailty and dismay. Not so. She is like an abandoned water feature in the yard. You can turn off the water that feeds her, but every time it rains, the water will accumulate and puddle between the rocks. If there is too much water and it isn’t drained, the water will grow bacteria and slimey moss will begin to grow. This will attract all manner of insects and crawling water creatures. Better not to abandon the fountain but instead keep the water clean and clear, don’t let it overflow or fall into disrepair. Listen to the trickling water and remember that the fountain doesn’t grow moss, the dirty water does.