Last night, I dreamed about my mother. She was still gone, but someone was showing vivid, color photographs on a huge movie screen. The slideshow showed her laughing, being goofy as she liked to be (to hide her pain, she later said), looking happy. The theater was filled with relatives... my cousins, aunts, and uncles... and they were all laughing and enjoying the show. But I stood alone, unnoticed, outside of the darkened theater, looking in through a side door. I saw the photos of my mother on the screen, and my chest was filled with great having sobs, and I fell to the floor in tears. The pain... the emotional agony was palpable. It was as real in the dream as it was in reality when my mother rejected me, when she died, when she was gone and there was no longer any hope of resolution. I felt the powerful gripping sadness, loss, agony and could not control my tears.
Suddenly in front of me was my planner. I turned to the last page, crying, running my finger down a long list of phone numbers of friends and people I've known, looking for someone, anyone who I could call in my time of distress. I just needed someone to talk to, to care that I was hurting. I whispered, "who will care about me?" as I sought just one name, one number I could call and share my grief with, but there was no one. No one.
You see, when I left home at 18 and my mother stopped speaking to me, she stayed very close to my other relatives. When I was giving birth to my children, she wanted nothing to do with me. But she went to my cousins' weddings, held their babies, played with their children, welcomed them into her home. When I felt I needed her most, she rejected me but embraced my cousins and loved them as if they were her own children. I was the outsider, looking into that dark theater. Yet when she died, it was just she and I alone... none of them there... and when I was filled with inconsolable grief, there was no one to call, no one to comfort me. Even now, they sometimes pull out a picture of her and smile and laugh. They reminisce about the happy memories. And I can't. I hear them laughing but I have still had a lot of pain and anger buried inside.
At the end of my dream there was a calf. When I was a little girl, my mother used to take me to a nearby dairy farm to see the calves. I did not like them. I thought they were gross and smelly and I didn't like the way they stuck their big long tongues up their noses. While my mother was fawning over the calves, I'd wander away and pet the barn cats or the ponies. But the calves were always my mother's favorite. She cried whenever anyone around her ate veal. Really.
In my dream I had a little white calf. It was lying on the ground on its side. Its front leg had been chopped off, most of its hair was shaved off, and it couldn't walk. It had long cuts along its side, but it did not seem to be in pain. I was kneeling beside it about to cut a panel of flesh out of its side with a knife. I'd begin to press the blade to its skin, but each time it would look at me with innocent eyes and I just couldn't kill it. Finally, I felt sorry for it, put the knife down and started to pet its head and scratch behind its ears. The calf closed it eyes in contentment, and I finally felt some emotion... compassion... for the calf. As I realized I could not kill the calf, I felt such relief... a burden lifted from me... and I sat feeling the peace and calmness as I gently ran my fingers over the bit of soft hair on the calf's head.
Then I woke up.
It may seem like I've talked about the mother thing enough over the years, but this is different. This time I am seeing things very, very differently. I feel myself changing inside in my attitude and emotions toward her. The bitterness is leaving, the acceptance of some of the things she loved is appearing, and the angry desire to despise everything that has to do with her is disappearing. I am becoming free to be the person I truly want to be, rather than blindly rejecting and subconsciously mimicking the traits and patterns of my mother.
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