My mother, who wasn’t prone to smile unless something wonderful tickled her heart, sometimes received criticism from my jolly dad over the years for what seemed to be a permanent scowl etched on her otherwise breathtakingly beautiful face.
Being a Daddy’s Girl, I was quick to jump on a judgmental bandwagon and my respect for her as a strong, independent woman waned. I wanted her to be jolly and strong like Dad and me, without considering the whys and wherefores of the situation.
At 52 I find myself scowling constantly, with the same focused look of pursed lips and furrowed brow whenever I am doing anything that requires physical labor. It makes me think of Mom every single time I realize I’m doing it, and another “twinge” of guilt (as if I haven’t already imposed enough on myself) smacks me in the back of the head like a six foot long two-by-four swung by an orangutan.
This cursed scowl is something new to me in the last year or so and I’m humbled when my thorough analysis of the situation exposes the scowl for what it really is: a dogged determination to get through a task regardless of how much pain my body has to endure or how exhausted it has become in a ridiculously brief time frame. Mixed among the pain and frustration are poison arrows of depression that must be dodged. Depression over not being the woman I want to be, and having become merely a fraction of the woman I once was. Unhappiness abounds.
Oh Mom! My sweet, beautiful, wonderful Mom! Please forgive me. I am so very sorry for my gross stupidity. I’m sorry that I couldn’t find the wisdom, well into my third and fourth decade of life, to understand – or even really try to understand, damn my stupid stubbornness! – why you carried this scowl.
If I had it to do over again, I’d treat you better. I would apply my Irish stubbornness to understanding what made you scowl, and then I’d apply limitless energy to deliver just what you needed to make your life a better place.
You have often called me your “miracle”, and in the 15 years since I moved away you’ve told countless people that I am your light…the sunshine in your darkness…and I am humbled. I don’t deserve such love. Perhaps you don’t remember all those times when I was less than kind to you. Perhaps your love for me is so great that those times, like the pain of childbirth, has been worth the smiles I have given you.
The love outweighs the…well…everything. A mother’s love outweighs everything. Yes, I know that’s it because that’s how I love my own sons.
I’ll accept the scowl with honor as just one more family trademark and remind myself that this is a sign of my tenacity, my strength, and my unwillingness to shrink away into the darkness. From this day forward, I will stop by a mirror to see the scowl, and I’ll smile at the reflection of my mother.
© Maria R. Conklin and Journey Of A Tired Heart, 2015-2016