For many years, I felt I hadn’t done enough for my mother before she passed away. Now I realize, I did the best I could with what I knew at the time. That was 39 years ago.
Thanksgiving 1979 was the last time I shared a meal with my mother. After driving 40 miles to pick up my foster brother, I picked up my mother and took the three of us to a very nice restaurant in Santa Monica, California that was way outside my budget. I was trying so hard to be The Perfect Daughter. On December 10, she went into the hospital. A few days after that, she slipped into a coma. I remember driving to the hospital every night after work for the next couple of weeks, sitting in rush hour traffic. The street decorations were up for the holidays.
She passed away on December 29 at the age of 79. I was just shy of 29.
Unbeknown to me until she passed away, we were not related by blood. Of the many children she had taken into foster care since long before I was born, I was the only one she legally adopted. I was raised thinking I was her only child. In reality, she and her husband had adopted me at birth when she was 50 years old.
My mother had been in poor health for the 10 years preceding her death. My father had passed away when I was 14, so it was just me and her in the house. There had been numerous trips to the hospital, crises, close calls, and false alarms. Through it all, I never felt I was doing “enough.” As the years rolled by, I began to feel that I myself was not enough.
After she passed, I spent decades feeling guilty for what I should have done, for what I could have done, for what I could have done better, for what I didn’t do, and for what I did. I wasn’t The Perfect Daughter. In fact, I fell short by miles. It took a very long time before I was able to find any sense of redemption within myself.
Every year around this time when the street decorations start to go up, I think about those long drives to the hospital. I feel grateful for Mama and I think about that young woman who was trying so hard to be perfect. Sometimes I smile. Sometimes I cry. All of it is okay. Life goes on. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.