Not Always

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From long before I understood the words’ meaning, when she was angry at me, my mother would say, “I may not always like you, but I will always love you.”

One evening when I was 24 I went to her home for dinner. She was a fabulous cook and had prepared crab crepes for us. Before we sat down I told her that I was in love. “With a woman,” was her quick retort. “Yes,” I said.

With such a sense of coldness and finality, my mother said, “You are not my daughter.” And being so much herself, she went on, “If you’d known how much this would have upset me, you’d have waited till after supper to tell me. Get out.”

My mother was an alcoholic; she had mental instability. She was the hardest worker I’ve ever known, the best storyteller, the most open-minded of mothers. Not so when it came to her firstborn.

That was the last face-to-face conversation I had with her for five years until receiving a call from the hospital that brought me to her bedside. Waking up from a coma, my mother looked at me and softly said, “You haven’t been to supper lately. How come?”

After a deep, pensive breath, I replied, “I promise to come to dinner a lot from now on.”

My mother lived for nine days, was conscious for the first five of them. The many hours I sat with her before she fell into a final coma were spent telling stories and singing together. She never recalled having cast me out, never remembered the mean messages she’d frequently left on my telephone answering machine. My mother had stayed true to her word: “I may not always like you, but I will always love you.” Those are the words I carry with me to this day.

What words of your mother’s do you carry with you?

2 thoughts on “Not Always

  1. “Sit down.”
    These two words always meant that she had something important to tell me—the first of these was to inform me that there was no Santa Clause, but that it was a secret for us, “older people” (I must have been 6), to share. I was now old enough to be part of the conspiracy of protecting the small children from the privileged knowledge. So rather than feeling disappointed and betrayed, I felt proud and responsible.
    There were three or four other “sit downs,” but this was probably the best of them.

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