All you have to do is call and I’ll be there


Gina is finally on her way home.

When I was in my twenties, my mom found it infuriating that she couldn’t tell me anything. She frequently gave me her advice and I almost never took it. She gave me her unabridged opinion of everything I did, from my husband’s career choices to my decision to breast-feed my children. It wouldn’t be accurate to say I didn’t listen to her. I listened. It’s just that, most of the time, I disagreed.

Sometimes, she was verbally and emotionally abusive over that. She would ask me if I thought she didn’t know what she was talking about. She would ask me if I was telling her that she was a liar. She would demand to know if I thought all the living she had done had taught her nothing.

But, you know, the things that your life teaches you are filtered through the lens of your own unaddressed issues. I had accepted the idea that she and I could look at the same thing and see two entirely different things. That was tough for her, because of her control issues. She claimed that she wasn’t interested in making me into anything and that she thought I should be myself. But when I was, it infuriated her.

Having her for a mother was an experience that taught me all kinds of things, none of which were what she intended and none of which were what would have pleased her if she were still around to know about them.

Among the things I learned from her was that it would be important to the maintenance of my relationships with my children for me to let them live their lives — no matter how excruciating it might be for me to have to watch them do it.

If they ask me for help or advice, I will give it to the best of my ability. If they want my opinion, I will give them my opinion — and they know me well enough to know that I am not inclined to sugar-coat things. But when they don’t want to hear anything I might have to say (and we know, we parents, when our children don’t want to hear anything we may have to say), then I don’t say anything.

Gina has been living in Mexico. The experiences she amassed there were mixed, to put it mildly. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail because it’s not my story to share. I will simply say that it has often been difficult and confusing and painful and sometimes not entirely safe.

I have been watching her make a series of decisions leading up to this moment, over a period of about one and a half years. Because it is more important to me for my daughter to feel that her mom is a safe confidante than it is for me to assure myself that she is making the right decisions by making them for her, I have remained as silent and offered as much support as I could. My faith in her has proved justified. In the end, she finally made the right decision.

She decided to come home.

There are all kinds of things about being a parent that make it the hardest thing anybody ever tried to do. High on that list is the difficulty of momming them when they are past diapers and bottles, past balanced meals and clean underwear, when they don’t really need you anymore except that they do.

You never get past the desire to protect them, even when they reach a point in life where the sorts of things you might want to protect them from are things you can’t even protect yourself from.

You never get past that feeling of hating it when your babies are sick, even when they are old enough that the sorts of wounds they suffer are not susceptible to iodine and Band Aids.

Eventually, they grow up but they still cry when they’re grown up.

A little less than eight hours from now, I’ll be retrieving Gina and her suitcases and her cats from the airport. I can’t make life easy for her but I can at least give her a safe place to heal.


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