The Things You Don’t Know

One of the best and worst parts of someone dying is that you learn things that they thought about you that they never told you themselves, and now you can’t respond to them. For instance, Lindsay told me that my mother read my blog religiously, and would say things like, “did you read that funny story Leslie posted?” or “She sounds good right now, doesn’t she?” or, the one that made me laugh the most, “Who is that Argo woman and what has she done to my baby?”

The short answer to that is “nothing,” but mothers do not believe that their children aren’t perfect, and anything I did to convince her of it wouldn’t have worked, anyway. Believe me, Argo wasn’t the problem. I was. But try telling that to a tiger mom.

Lindsay’s main point is that my mother never left me, even though I wasn’t physically in Houston. She kept tabs on my life even when I was too weak to call back… because now that I’ve lost her suddenly, I regret the times when I couldn’t see past my own anxiety and just pick up the phone. She never commented on a single entry, but would call with her thoughts, which were never about craft, or even about content. It was just, “are you ok?” I always was in front of her, with very few exceptions.

Those few exceptions were monumental in my growth and development, because she was the one that wanted to know how I was really doing, as opposed to the “I’m fine” you give in a “ladies who lunch” setting.

I just wasn’t comfortable sharing myself with her, because I was so practiced at guarding myself around her. The walls that were starting to come down never will.

I wish I had been more brave. I wish that I could have realized earlier that she really could handle everything I had to tell her, that there was no scenario on earth in which she’d say I was anything but perfect.

It’s just that if there’s anything my mother wanted me to be, it was healthy and happy, and showing her that I wasn’t caused her so much empathetic agony that I wouldn’t open up… but it wasn’t just that.

I’d decided as a teenager that my mother was never going to accept me for who I was, and that I had to find other people to fill that role. Those feelings didn’t completely go away until my 36th birthday, and after that, I was a little more comfortable regarding needing her mother love, but reticent to activate her mirror neurons. She felt more deeply when I was hurt than she ever did with her own scrapes and bruises.

I think I know now why I am such an empath today, picking up every emotion in the room. One of the reasons that this is “theantileslie.com” is that in person, I am very much the empath that just wants to fix all the things, and when I write, I just want you people to get off my lawn.

I don’t think my mother ever got to the point where she’d had enough. She just gave until she gave out. She didn’t even go to the emergency room when she first fell. She waited until it was impossible to avoid telling someone she needed help before she actually did it.

When I think about my 36th birthday, I think about how much that last paragraph echoes my own story, the one where I waited until every possible sign that I was about to have the “holy shit I am going down” parade had already passed and an unspoken want had to be expressed. I am embarrassed to need, in exactly the same way she was.

She asked her husband to call the ambulance, and for that to happen, I can only imagine how bad and/or weird she must have felt.

So many parallels in my own life that I cannot even. I am her blood, she lives in me. It is an impossibility that some of the things I feel are things that she felt during her relatively short life.

Her relatively short life.

DAMN IT.

I’m not supposed to be writing this right now. I’m supposed to be telling you all the things we’re going to do when she comes to DC, because we’d set aside an ENTIRE DAY for Mt. Vernon.

I want to be able to tell you about her hopes and dreams for the denouement of her life, rather than having to face the fact that “here today, gone tomorrow” is a thing.

There were so many things that my mother thought about me that she never told me, and thank God Lindsay is able to fill me in on some of them. I just wish that she hadn’t had to have so many conversations about me…..

because I didn’t pick up the phone.

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