September 8, 2021
This is the first of several posts that will be about my mother.
Hello there, today I want to talk about challenging and complicated relationships. One of the most complex relationships I ever had was the relationship I had with my mother.
Unfortunately, our relationship was rocky at best and very tumultuous most of the time. My mother was feisty, strong-willed, temperamental, and highly spirited. She was also funny, enjoyed music and dancing and loved to laugh and she was one of the most giving people I’ve ever known. (In many ways, I am a lot like her). But, she often warred with herself, me and the world, and I always believed if her life had been different, she would have been more of the loving, sweet and caring parts of her personality.
Part of her challenges stemmed from the fact that she could not take care of any of her children. Mentally she just wasn’t capable of raising us. It wasn’t until I was nine that I had regular contact with her. You see, we used to live in another state with our grandparents until, due to circumstances beyond our control, we moved here.
It wasn’t easy to be around her; challenging to have a relationship with her. Sometimes she would make promises to us, only to break them. “Yes, I’ll give you money for a radio! Wait until I get some money.” Or “Yes, I’ll buy you some new shoes and that doll you saw in the window.” And countless other promises were broken, too many to remember or name. These were little things, but for a child, it was big. Especially since, we were beginning to know her and we were used to our grandparents keeping their promises.
Other times, going to visit wasn’t safe. Once, I went to see her and she wouldn’t let me leave. My mother became angry and threatened to hit me with a belt if I tried to leave. She guarded the door and it wasn’t until she got up to use the restroom that her boyfriend, later to be our stepfather, told me I should leave while I had the chance. Other times, she would come up to the school and cause a scene or she would come by our apartment and make a commotion outside the front door.
Sometimes she attempted to buy my brother and my affections. Once, she gave us money to buy her birthday present, saying we could keep what we didn’t spend and buy ourselves something, which was not a great thing to tell a ten-year-old and a 13-year-old, especially someone as money-conscious as I am.
My brother wanted to buy her something expensive from Woolworths or Goldblatt’s would’ve taken almost all of the money. So, me, being one that tries to get her way, if she can get it, was surprisingly able to convince my brother that we could get her something else a little cheaper and have some money left over and that the more frugal gift would be just fine. My mother was none too happy with us, and my brother was very upset with me. He got angry with me sometimes as siblings do, but this was the angriest I’d ever seen him, at least up to this point.
Looking back now, I believe my mother hoped to find a way to get us to love her. Her childhood had (in my opinion) had starved her of love and she was desperately seeking it and wanted the love of her children. When she didn’t take her meds or worse, if she took them with alcohol, her moods would change to a kind of Jekyll and Hyde behavior.
Ebbs and flows of us not getting along, roller coaster ride, in part because she would say and do hateful things when I didn’t do what she wanted me to quick enough. Her behavior sometimes made it complicated to love my mother. Often, I felt more like her mother than I felt like her child.
Yet, throughout the years, I would visit her in the hospital and go to the nursing home where she was. Calls, visits, birthdays and such could be tremendous or miserable depending on her mood. I started to resent spending money on her to buy clothes and things she said she needed, only to find out later that she had tons of things she asked for in her closest, like deodorant, shower gel, journals and clothes she’d never worn.
Periodically, she would ask me if I loved her and I would say something along the lines of, “I love you in my own way” or “I love you as much as I can.” It was not a great response or the one she wanted, but all I could say.
But, about six years before she died, my mom began to change, apologizing for her behavior rather than saying, “You know how I am.” She was more thankful for the little things I did – like coming over directly from work or bringing her food or coffee. I can’t say that I ever loved going to the nursing home, but I did look forward to our time together. Visits were less of a chore and getting the things she wanted or needed was a little easier. Though, when you visited or called more, she wanted more (like a kid who is not satisfied with one piece of candy), but she was less demanding than previously and more understanding about my other time constraints. She would say, “you like me a little more now, don’t you?” And, I’d smile.
December, 2019 was my favorite memory because my husband and I visited for Christmas along with our two daughters. We spent time visiting, playing BINGO and laughing; everyone had a great time! I will treasure this time spent with her forever.
My mother and I were praying about the situation; praying that God would guide us and show up in our relationship; that we could heal from past wrongs and move on. Later, I found out that my daughter had been doing the same. My mother really wanted a better relationship. Eventually, when she asked me, “You do love me a little bit now, don’t you?” I was able to say “yes” without any doubt or hesitation.
So, by the time she left us to be with the Lord in February 2020, our relationship had grown into something better than I could have imagined. It took some time and effort on both our parts and prayer, but things did turn around. I am not one for crying, but when my mother died, I cried for several days and even now, I can tear up if I think about her. My daughters were sadder than they would’ve been if the relationship had not been repaired before she died. I wouldn’t say I like the tears or the sadness, but I do like that my heart was full of wonderful new memories that took the sting out of the old, bad ones.
If you have someone in your life that you want the connection to be better, hang in there and don’t give up. Sometimes, it takes time and many prayers, but relationships can change, especially when both parties want to see a change. Don’t give up even if you only wish to change and you are the only one praying. I am so happy that my relationship with my mother changed before she died and I hope the same for you if you have a challenging relationship.
I still have great expectations for two other relationships; I haven’t seen or had much contact with these people, but I am hopeful there will be a change.
Note: If you are in an abusive relationship, however, please seek help. Get out as soon as you can.
7 thoughts on “A Turnaround”
Samella, this is a wonderful article and very powerful as well as encouraging!
Samella, this non-fiction piece about your mother was stunning. There is also a tremendous amount of potential. Please, please, please continue to write stories with your mother. I can see this as a memoir or novel. Your mom’s dialogue is powerful and really moves the story forward, very well, in fact. The more detail the better; slow down moments and really carve them out. Godspeed to your writing journey. Thanks for sharing!!!! -Christina
Thank you for the review and the feedback!
This story, to me, is beautiful; a beautiful example of how people can change, how their behavior can change, and how a relationship can change – if people strive to change it and really want it to change. It also is a great reminder that there are no perfect relationships as there are no perfect people – but we can still have great relationships anyway! Thanks for sharing with the world what you have learned!
Samella this is a wonderful article and gives me strength and courage in my relationship with my mom. Thank you! Love Chrissy
Thanks so much for your comment. And, glad it gives you hope. Love, Samella.
Samella this is a wonderful article! It gives me strength and courage in my difficult relationship with my mom. I will keep on praying. Thank you! Love, Chrissy