Half a century.
Most of a lifetime.
Why did it take me so long to get it?
Why did I spend most of my life focused on me and my needs instead of trying to understand her and her needs, her culture, her heart? Yes, I was 50 before I could move beyond my perceived injustices, my slights, the lack of affection, my own needs. She was 85 when I realized that it was within my power to change that.
I will never forget that phone call. Before I called her I determined that I would tell her, "I love you." Something I never heard her say to me; something I had never said to her. We talked about many things for about 20 minutes. Then it was time to hang up the phone. The time had come. I was a bundle of nerves and I was afraid of the reaction. "Well, I better go," I said. And then...I blurted it out..."I love you." There was the slightest hesitation, then, "I love you, too," she said. And we hung up. And I cried. And I cried.
It was so hard, yet so easy. The barrier was broken. Over the next eight years of her life, I strove to make up for lost time. Before I could really forgive I needed to understand her better. Speaking with her sisters and brothers, I learned a lot about my mom and the times and events that shaped who she was. I better understood the culture of emotional repression. And I discovered that my mom was a lot like her mom. I forgave.
How thankful I am that I had eight years of not only telling my mom I loved her, but showing her that I did as well. I did what I could to be there for her, to listen to her, to advocate for her. I hugged her, I thanked her. And I'd like to think that in some small way I opened the door for her to express her feelings as well.
August 7, 2010, when my mother died, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she really did love me. I thank God for giving her a long life. I'm so glad she didn't die in her 80's. If she had, I would never have known the loving bond of a mother.