My Mother's Bed
In a childhood sanctuary, a woman confides the disappointments of her life--and finds comfort.
BY: Elizabeth Flock
Lying next to my mother at 41, I feel a hand on my wrist, a delicate bird-hand I know as well as my own, as I wonder aloud what the hell happened to my life. My mother listening, staring at the ceiling knowing it's easier to talk that way, like when you're in a car.
"I've made a mess of my life, Mom," I say, fighting back tears, following instead a hairline crack in the ceiling paint, probably from the house settling. "I've pretty much fouled up every single aspect of it."
Her hand gives a light squeeze. My mother knows—she always knows—I need to keep talking so she remains quiet.
? What the hell is wrong with me?"
Do I tell her how hard I worked—how hard we worked—to keep it together? Do I confess that I am mostly to blame? Will she smile knowingly if I admit I'm a handful, I'm difficult to live with, and I have such impossibly high standards no one not even Barack Obama could meet them? (Well, maybehe
Most of my friends wonder why I walked away. "Lots of marriages become stagnant," they say. "That's what happens. It doesn't mean you just walk away. You don't just throw in the towel, Liz," the wordjust
implying an infuriating haphazardness. The decision to leave my marriage was not arrived at impulsively. And it certainly wasn't easy. It was agonizing, painful, and so deeply wounding that a part of me died in the process.
"Nothing is wrong with you, Liz," her voice shakes me out of my litany of misery. "Life tries to break us apart sometimes and you didn't break. You bent, yes, but you are not broken. You just need to heal. You'll pick yourself up, honey. You will."
At 43, I lie in bed with her looking up at the ceiling, and she asks me how I am and I tell her. I tell her I am finally happy.
While her questions sometimes make me squirm, I am grateful they are asked. I may not tell her this, but I am also grateful for the advice that follows. For with age comes acknowledgment of our own limitations, our own ignorance. Our parents' life experiences are seen in a new and more favorable light (finally
, they will surely say). So if we have any measure of maturity, we will recognize our parents as people who just may know what they are talking about. At the very least we can appreciate their journeys.
The cats have readjusted themselves at different angles beside and on top of my mother. I feel her stroking my hair and reflexively I say: "I know, I know. I need a haircut."
"I was just thinking your hair is beautiful," she says.
A comment I could not have taken in as an awkward teen, a brooding twenty-something, or an independent 30-year-old. But I am 43, and so I smile. I am grateful for her words.
I am grateful for my mother. And I am grateful for my mother's bed.