The Club

Yesterday I came upon an HBO documentary, The (Dead Mothers) Club, and I’ve already watched it 3 times.

Like Rosie O’Donnell says in this clip, it’s certainly not a club you want to belong to, and yet there is absolutely something about being with other women who’ve lost their mothers.  The immediate understanding.  The cavernous void.  The wall of mother’s day cards you will never again need.  The hole.  What strikes me most about this film is that it doesn’t matter if the mother was loving or cruel, warm or distant, fun-loving or on-task.  The loss remains.  There’s a point in the movie where comedienne Molly Shannon (who lost her mother at age 4) craves the mother-presence so purely that she takes piano lessons, which she could care less about, just to be in the presence of her teacher’s soft silk blouses and easy femininity.  When she talked, I could feel the silk in her fingers.

Watching this movie for the 3rd time, I got to thinking about other losses.  Fathers.  Sisters.  A best friend.  What do we make of it, and of ourselves, when it’s over?

This past weekend I was in Florida with my oldest friends.  There were 8 of us; 4 have already lost mothers.

Baby me with mom 1966This film made me glad that I had my mother as long as I did.  I was a grown up after all, at 36, when she died.  But at the time I was also finding my way as a (step)mother myself and she was my daily call.  What am I doing wrong?  Help!  How does this work?  Who do I need to be and how do I get there?  My mother died in the midst of so many questions.  I remember sitting by her bed, dead myself on the outside while screaming on the inside, “You can’t leave me!”  And while I never shared these thoughts with her, the truth was that I was also exhausted by her.  Exhausted by her long illness and uninformed decisions; by her addictions; by her unwillingness to seek help; by her chronic illness; by her standing by her difficult husband, by her surrender to death and, therefore, to mothering me.  How selfish.  And how true.  While I loved her hard, she left this world before we knew who we could, or would, be together.  Two lives together from the start, forever unfinished.


Tell me, tell us, about your mother.


20 thoughts on “The Club

  1. independentclause

    I just drove through [city redacted] and I cried for two reasons. One was that I had been here with my mother, maybe 14 years ago, and the other was that I was used to telling my mom about all the places I went. I’d talk about where I ate and what I saw. Yeah.

    1. Teri Post author

      I hear you, Indy. I used to do the same thing, with my mother and then with Aunt Mary. This will sound dramatic, but now I’ll be somewhere awesome (like Italy! Germany! France! for god’s sake) and it feels so weird that there’s nobody to call afterward.

  2. lisahgolden

    Having just moved back to my hometown, I’m only just now getting to know my mother as an adult. The most remarkable thing to happen so far was when I had to tell her that my relationship with —- had ended and I didn’t know what I was going to do. She hugged me and said “Don’t worry about what people think. I just want you to be safe and happy.” That was a first.

    1. Teri Post author

      Getting to know your mother as an adult. That’s exactly what I mean. At 36, I was just getting ready to turn that corner where I would want to know who she really was as a person —- separate from just being my mom. There’s nobody left to answer any questions.

    1. Teri Post author

      I remember hearing Joan Didion talk about losing her mother …. when Joan was in her 60’s. And still not ready.

  3. LauraMaylene

    Oh wow, I don’t know how I haven’t heard of this documentary. I need to watch it ASAP.

    My mother’s name was June and she was born in May. She rode horses and loved music and animals and the countryside and taking the long way home.

    1. Teri Post author

      Laura, especially since I’ve just read your piece in The Sun, I thought of you immediately. You have to have to have to watch this film.

  4. amyg

    My mother and me look so much alike that some mornings when I first look in the mirror she is the person I see looking back at me.

    1. Teri Post author

      I especially see my mother when I see myself tired — early mornings, late evenings, my drivers license photo.

  5. donnaeve

    Your piece gave me that damn lump in my throat.

    I still have my mother, but I can see/hear the changes in her nowadays, that slip in the thought process, the anxiousness caused by fear of not being heard, or heard correctly. She’s going to be 78 – young by today’s standards, so I hope to have her many more years – but we never know.

    Of course there are the petty little grievances of long ago. There is her inability to stop embellishing anything she decides to talk about. Her jealousy. Her pettiness. Her “legend in her own mind,” attitude my husband and I joke about…but, despite all that, I know how much she loves me, and so I brush aside all her quirks and queerness and enjoy the time when I’m with her. I think of the fact that by my age, her own mother had already been gone 23 years.

    April 5th, 1968 was the day. It snowed. We had traveled from NC to Maine to attend and she’d acted strange the entire trip. I didn’t know this woman who wailed, then fell on top of me during the service. Passed out cold. It scared me, but later on, when I found her crying in a tiny room in the church, I went up to her and let her “pet” me. (something I hated that she did – that dragging of a hand down the back of my head) And then she stood up, took my hand, and we went to stand with the rest of the family. She didn’t let go of my hand for a long time.

    1. Teri Post author

      I miss my mother’s hands. A friend of mine has similar-looking hands and sometimes I can’t take my eyes off them.

      1. Averil Dean

        My mother’s hands are one of the things most symbolic of her character: cool, soothing in times of fever, and always open. She’s the most generous and loyal person I have ever known.

    2. donnaeve

      I have a thing about hands anyway. This “thing” is so weird, I’m not sure what it means. Averil, you reminded me of my mother when I was sick. She knew just the right things to do. No telling how many times she’s put her hand on my forehead while I was throwing up.

  6. Catherine

    I still have my mother but haven’t given her enough time in years – I just don’t go to Australia often and for long enough! But my mother lost her mother when she was 26 and I know how deeply it scarred her.

    So LOVELY to meet you in Venice can you believe we actually did it?! Xxcat

    1. Teri Post author

      Just getting together for some lunch and some wine …. in Venice. Loved every minute, Cat. Thanks for coming to town for the day. 🙂 We will do it again.

  7. joplingirl

    I see why you watched it three times. I was crying so much I may have missed something so I will watch again too. Made sense that Hope Edelman was one of the producers.

    Mothers can give us joy, the feeling we are deliciously deliriously special and unique. When that can’t or doesn’t happen the loss is immeasurable. And boy do I know it.

    1. Teri Post author

      The image of Molly Shannon under the silk sleeves of her piano teacher. Jane Fonda forgiving her mother after 52 years. The young girl Jordyn doing the grocery shopping. Ginger Williams-Cook’s last conversation with her mother, and that slamming door.

      1. joplingirl

        Rosie O’Donnell keeping her foot under her mom’s on the gas pedal because she wanted to be touched by her someway somehow. Yes, Jane Fonda late life forgiving. And those hats thrown in the air at a High School graduation. Accomplishments never able to be shared with the one who made you.

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