About seven years before my mother died, I decided to create a book for her of positive memories and appreciations I had of her. My mother was not always the best mother as I was not always the best daughter. When I made the decision to do this project, I thought I would only have three good memories to write about. Instead, one memory led to another, and before I knew it, I had five full pages. Together with contributions from my brothers, this book was the best Christmas present she had ever had.
A few months before she died, we were sitting on the rocking love seat in front of her house. Though her dementia prevented her from reading the book anymore, she had brought it out as a symbol of my love for her.
I thumbed through the pages and found a story that included Betty, her sister, and asked her if she remembered her. She then said something I will never forget. “You liked her better.”
I didn’t know what to say. My Aunt Betty used to sing songs, tell horrible jokes, and taught me to bake pies. I adored her. Our relationship lacked any of the complications of my relationship with my mother.
But as Mom shared this pointed honesty with me, my heart filled for her, for her challenges as a mother, for her jealousy of her sister. As painful as these words were, I couldn’t and didn’t want to deny this truth that neither of us had ever shared with the other. We had never talked about how close I felt to Betty, or how distant I often felt from her. Maybe I pretended that she never noticed, knew, or cared that I would light up when Betty came over. How I had been sulking or sullen just before.
But in this moment, her lack of accusation, her defenseless simplicity, her bold candor hung between us with both the heaviness of a broken heart and the freshness of a Spring rain. Instead, I lifted her fingers to my lips, kissed them, and tenderly held hands with her as we rocked together in front of her adobe house that she loved.