The password to my laptop is my mother’s name.
Not for sentimental reasons, but because she was staying here when I was due to give birth and she needed to use my laptop, and my old password was a complicated jumble of capitals, characters and numbers.
It’s been six months since she used it, but I have not changed the password back to what it was.
I don’t know if I will, either. Maybe that is sentimental of me.
I can’t tell my mother that I love her.
I tell my husband every single day. I tell my babies, multiple times a day. I say I love them with every breath I take. I can feel the love oozing out of my eyeballs when I gaze at them as they do their daily life living. As my two year old explores the world and tells himself things and jumps and climbs and experiments. As my five month old kicks the air and laughs to herself and turns her bright, sparkly, star-shine eyes towards me, her face exploding into that special smile she has, her dimples winking in and out on her gloriously chubby cheeks.
But I can’t tell my mother I love her.
I don’t remember my mother telling me she loves me either. I remember going to my aunt’s house, and having her come into the room at bedtime and kiss my cousins and kiss me and say, ‘I love you, I’ll see you in the morning.’ I remember thinking how nice and warm that felt, and wondering why we didn’t do that in our family.
I know my mother loves me. She always listened to what i had to say, about other people. Not about when I fought with my sister or when I felt wronged by her. But she listened to tales about my friends at school and my teachers. Everyday I would come home and tell her, twisting how I said things to say them in a way that I knew would appeal to her humour and make her laugh. And she would laugh, and I would feel triumphant and clever and extremely witty. I know she loves me because it is in the food she makes for me, in the love she shows my babies, in the home as we grew up, in the tales she tells me throughout my life of how loved I was…. by others.
I have had horrible fights with my mother. Things that even now are not resolved and they rear their ugly heads sometimes in our interactions, so I have to change the subject or ignore her until she stops making me feel like smashing my head against the wall. She goes on and on and on and picks at me until I want to scream.
So now when I talk to her I try to connect with her in a way that I know will be peaceful. In a way I know she won’t attack me or accuse me or make me feel like… something bad.
I love my mother to pieces. I appreciate her and everything she did for me. I know she loves me. I KNOW she loves me.
But I am twenty seven now and I can see she is a human. I can see she is trying her best but she has not healed. And so when she goes on at me and my throat becomes tight and restricted and I feel trapped into a corner and can’t wait to escape, I stay silent. I barricade. I feel heavy. I wait. Then I call her some days later and talk to her as though nothing happened.
When I open a conversation with her about how I feel she gets defensive. She cries. She becomes the victim and then I feel horrible. So I stop. I just exist as her daughter. She is my mother. I love her.
And I look at my children and love them fiercely and wonder, in deep horror, if I will end up like that too. If they will hide their truths from me because I can’t handle it. If I will put my feelings before theirs. If I will take what they say so personally that they will be afraid to open up to me.
And I wonder, too, if they will give me grace and try to understand me, and realise that I too am human.
So every day I try my hardest to swallow my own emotions when they are expressing theirs. Suppressing my anger at their feelings. Trying to explore how and why and what and where their brains are doing what they are doing. Trying to connect, always, despite the tantrums and tempers and worries. Hoping that when we all emerge as adults, the connection will have triumphed over everything.
Because I love my mother fiercely, but I am not connected to her.
And I don’t think I will change the password on my computer.