Day 7. Final day. We’ve come a long way, you and I. Covered a lot of ground. Today I again find myself thinking about all that never was. Those far too frequent moments when I mourn the loss of that beautiful relationship between mother and child; when I imagine the life lessons, the generational spats, even the backlit strolls on a lively boardwalk, hand in hand, like besties. But you can’t lose something you never had, isn’t that what they say?
Even with your struggles, there could have been more love. There should have been. Affection, joy, lightness and cheer. How nice that would have been, even for a few moments. But I can only recall a handful of times I’ve seen you laugh. This makes me sad for you more than anything else. Why was your life so joyless? Even in the face of hardship, oppression, and loss was there nothing that filled your soul? Was there no treatment for depression back then or did you not seek it? Was that even a thing to think of treating or maybe, were the larger costs too great? So many questions.
You achieved SO MUCH, all by yourself. You gave all of yourself and more to me and everyone else. You were alone all of the time. All of it. What happened to the life that was supposed to have been yours? Why was it so easily lost?
It was a different time, I know. And the forces in your way were insurmountable, for certain. I’ve spent decades turning all of this over, looking for answers, looking for reasons why you and I never were. It’s tragic, really. And you’ll never tell. So many times and in so many ways I asked for the story of your past which is my past and was denied.
I’ve responded to those rare messages from you — always from someplace different — but I never heard back. I guess your need was to reach out, but not actually to me. Just like your need was always to have a child, a daughter, but not me.
There’s no one else who has your memories so I am left to accept that I will never know where I came from or who my parents were: What made you smile? How did you play as children? What were your favorite foods and your favorite colors? What were you good at? When you were tucked into your beds at night, where did your dreams take you? My questions are not extraordinary, they’re not insightful. They’re painfully basic in every way.
But I’m not alone in this. There are so many many many children and adults living with only their memories as their personal histories. They too must make their own families, find their own paths. Some are aware of their situation because their parents have been physically absent in their lives. Some are unaware; their parents are around in body but absent in presence. For them, the void is their normal. They take it with them into adulthood and into the families they build for themselves, passing along the normalcy of one of the great tragedies of our time.
As this series of letters draws to a close, Dearest Mother, you should know, I’m not angry any more. I’m good. And I’m going to choose to believe that you’re happy for me. If you want, you can take my happiness as proof that you won the parenting game. I’m alive and I’m well. I make my own choices and enjoy privilege beyond my own, much less our ancestors’, wildest dreams.
I am damn proud to be me and I work to earn that pride every single day.
This feeling is new and I’m not sure how to describe it other than peaceful. I realized somewhere in the middle of this week of letters that the anger no longer serves any purpose. It protected me, kept me vigilant and moving forward. It kept me connected to you. But I don’t need it any more.
I’m just fine. I hope you are too.