As I sit here listening to my twelve-year-old daughter and her tweenage friends splash about in our pool, after a night filled with water balloon battles in the front yard of our quiet little cul-de-sac home and off-key singing of “Happy Birthday” while tiny purple candles dripped wax onto the cookie cake decorated with a giant basketball and birthday wishes, I smile in the knowledge that this kiddo’s exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) has been little to none. A far cry from my own childhood.
I will be visiting with my mom in a few hours, a trip to the grocery store and vacuuming her apartment are on my daughterly duty list today. I thank God I still have her here with me. Even through the torment of growing up the child of an alcoholic – a mostly distant and sometimes violent consumer of booze and pills – I loved my mom. I longed for her to teach me how to play those card games she’d laugh over for hours on end with friends, or help me with advice about the bullying I was experiencing at the hands of a fellow Catholic school girl, or even just listen when I’d excitedly approach her about my science fair project. Instead, I was told how disappointed she was in me for the 93% grade (still an A, mind you!). “A ninety-three?” she slurred. “God gave you the gift of a brilliant mind. You’re wasting it. Why didn’t you get a hundred?” As I turned to make my way back to my sanctuary of a bedroom, shoulders slumped a little more than usual, my soul held onto hope . . . next time she’ll be happy with you, Teri.
I kept trying. Continuing to hold on to hope. Continuing to remind myself . . . next time.
And here we are, ages 82 and 52, my mother and me. We’ve reached a place of acceptance, both in our own ways. I accept my mother’s addiction, having learned to put healthy boundaries in place in order to protect my heart and soul. Her new hearing aids allow her to listen a little more than she did in my childhood years.
Last week, I excitedly told her about my new website, www.teriwellbrock.com, and all of my grandiose plans for helping others traverse their healing journeys. I grabbed her by the hand, dragging her in a toddler-esque fashion toward her front door, convincing her with each shuffled step, “Mom, come on! Let me show you!”
We stepped into the game room of the retirement village where she lives, two antiquated computers sat at desks along the far left wall and three antiquated little ladies sat at the round card table in the middle of the bright room, each a puzzle piece gripped between arthritic fingers and thumbs. They smiled in our direction as my mom announced, “My daughter, Teri, is showing me her new web-thing.” I laughed. They nodded in understanding so I left it uncorrected.
I sat her in the stationary chair next to my swivel seat, while my fingers typed away the web address in anticipatory glee.
“Here it is, Mom. My new website. It has my book summary, podcasts, videos about my speaking engagements, meditations, Sammie Doodle therapy dog info, all kinds of cool stuff!”
“That’s nice. Hey, Margaret, I made vegetable soup. If you stop down I’ll give you a container of it.”
Next time, Teri.
As I tucked her into her faded forest green chair, held together on the right arm rest by neon green duct tape, I kissed her on her forehead and reminded her, “I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too, TT. Don’t forget my doctor’s appointment is at noon on Wednesday.”
“I got it, Mom. I’ll be here.”
Maybe on Wednesday at noon, Teri. You know . . . next time.
However, as I drove off, I reminded myself of insights I read recently in the book, “Change Your Thoughts-Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao” by Dr. Wayne Dyer. In his translation of the 41st verse of the Tao Te Ching he stated, “Apply this same insight to the times you feel unloved: When you see what appears to be indifference, know in your heart that love is present. Allow it to work its magic in your life.” Then in the 49th verse, “I see myself in this person, and I choose to be in a space of goodness rather than judgment. I honor the place in you where we are all one.” And I took pause.
My mother’s spirit cheers for me even when her ego-based actions cannot allow her praise to surface.
I called her this afternoon, this 2018 Mother’s Day, asking what time she wanted me to head to her place for our grocery shopping endeavor. “Oh, you don’t need to come today, TT. Just enjoy your Mother’s Day. You deserve a day off. We can celebrate tomorrow instead.”
“Mom, it’s not a problem. Plus, I’d like to see you.”
“No. I’m tired. I think I’ll just go to bed.”
“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
As I was about to say good-bye, she interrupted my thought . . . “Teri? Thank you. For everything you do for me. I’m so proud of you. I told all of my friends about your book and handed out all of your business cards. Will you bring me more?”
“Yes! Next time I see you. Thank you. I love you, Mom.”