I did this self-portrait, at left, two days after my mother's death, six weeks ago. Her passing filled me with both deep feeling and great numbness. At times, the two states took turns. Sometimes, they resided within me simultaneously. Perhaps one in my head and the other in my heart. We were not close, due to her severe alcoholism throughout my childhood.. A friend told me it is harder to grieve the loss of those we love and yet are not close to. Her death meant the death of a dream -- the impossible fantasy that we could someday have a normal mother-daughter relationship. She became sober in her Fifties, a remarkable achievement. But, her sobriety did not magically fill in my childhood memories with the love and nurture that were not there. I was more her mother, and my feelings for her were therefore much more maternal than filial.
Her passing has, however, helped me to see her more clearly. Yes, I had a horrible childhood. But, she had a horrific one. Realizing that terrible fact, I can give her this grace: she did better by me than was done by her.
This blog turned very serious, as blogs often do. Let's close, not with a self-portrait, but with my mother's high school senior picture. I see aspects of myself in that face --- the same coloring, the features that are similar and yet different. I never knew this young woman. This old photograph (65 years ago or so) helps me to see that her failures as a mother do not have to be the totality of who she was, not even to me.