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.
This 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.