Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Rude Awakening

I’ve learned a lot during this A to Z Challenge—and believe me, it has been a challenge. Writing about my family has taught me how to pick through memory clutter and mold experiences (sometimes unpleasant ones) into entertaining, colorful stories. As a result, I’ve realized my childhood memories weren’t as unpleasant as I’d originally thought; they were just a little distorted. Or am I distorting them now?

 I’ve sat in Sunday school classes and listened to other women rave about their Betty Crocker moms and their Father Knows Best dads, and I’ve wondered if they were telling the truth. One shouldn’t sit in church and wonder if their friends are lying, should they? But everyone’s parents seemed very different from mine.

My mother never gave me cooking lessons, or turned the kitchen over to me. When I took Home Economics and tried to make a dress, we often came to blows over her sewing machine.  Our home became a war zone each night when I tackled homework. I couldn’t learn under Mom because she didn’t have the patience to teach. My passive dad wasn’t forceful enough to instruct.
My parents were strict way beyond fairness—at least Mom was, and Dad always backed her up. They were quick to dole out punishment, and very lacking when it came to encouragement. I was never told “You can do and be anything you set your mind to.” Were you? I know it depends on when you were born. Anyone born after the 60s probably had it sweet.

My parents didn’t know how to give encouragement because they’d never received it themselves. Mom was the oldest of ten kids. She didn’t have time for dreams, unless it was when she climbed that tree to read her books. Her family thought she was odd, persnickety, and wondered where she got the “perfection gene.” My dad was somewhere in the middle of thirteen kids. He was quiet, incredibly shy and his family made fun of him because he didn’t talk much—if at all.  He didn’t talk when I knew him either. If I had to choose a parent’s head to live in for a week, I’d choose my dad’s. He was a mystery.
My previous post was about family quotes, but I left out the most important one: You’re in for a rude awakening. I heard that a lot, and can't tell you how often it flashes through my mind. Anytime I failed a test, got in trouble at school, asked for something outlandish … I heard, “You’re in for a rude awakening” with a long spiel about how life isn’t anything like we think it’s going to be.
And it isn’t.  Sometimes it's better; sometimes it's worse, but it's never like we think it's going to be. That's a given.
When I visit my mom in the nursing home, I marvel at the “child” she has become—a small white-haired woman waiting for someone to tell her what to do, how to do it, and when. Well, actually, we can't tell her when to do something because she won't remember. She lives in the very immediate now. We often explain how to turn on the TV for the hundredth time during a day . Her faded blue eyes are like question marks—so unlike the confident, sometimes hard and angry ones I remember; the ones that sent silent messages to me and my brother when we were growing up. Her eyes could strike fear in us and make promises of what awaited us when we got home. Patience has been forced on her—along with a lot more.
You’re in for a rude awakening, she’d tell me. And when I visit her in the nursing home, realize I miss the woman she was, I know Mom was right. My rude awakening has finally come.

Share something that breaks your heart.


Charles Gramlich said...

I was generally told that I could be whatever I wanted, although at times I was actively discourgaged from both reading and writing. And while my older siblings repeatedly suggested that I was lazy, mom did not agree with them. Mom also changed as she got older. Seh became quite a bit more rigid and relious in her later life, which made it somewhat more difficult to communicate with her. But she certainly did love me and she sacrificed much for me.

D.G. Hudson said...

It's hard to see those who were strong and direct, changed to be more docile. It benefits them more when they have to be dependent on others for their care. Our MIL (hubs mom)is in a care home as well, at 98 yrs this year.

I used to wonder about those 'ideal TV mom and dads', too.

sue said...

TV shows like Father knows Best and the Waltons actually damaged people. We knew a woman whose family life was nothing like TV. And she did assume others were and somehow it made her feel guilty. My blog Q is for Queer breaks my heart. It’s about a young friend who appears several times in my writes who had the makings of a wonderful person. But he gave in to his disease (mental illness) and gave up trying to fight it.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You came really close to describing my parents, except that my father was gentler and more lenient. He also died when I was 11, leaving just my mom and I. It wasn't a pretty sight.

Man O' Clay said...

I was blessed with wonderful, godly parents.

Jess, you can do anything through him who gives you strength.

Anonymous said...

A really interesting blog post. My parents didn't have a whole lot of time for me. I was an 'accident' and was told that on a regular basis.

Manzanita said...

I believe every mother does the very best she is capable of doing. Every one is a product of their formative years and so it is with each mother. I too thought my mother was harsh but her life was also harsh and she being the survivor and watching over her children in the only way she knew.

Jan Newman said...

With variations for individuals, this describes my family and family life as well. It's a generational thing, I think. My son and DIL are raising their children quite differently from the way I was raised and the way we raised him -- thank God! I may disagree with their methods at times, but I cannot kindness.

Jessica Peterson said...

That's so sad that you never had encouragement as a child, but at the end of the day the only one you need to believe in you, is yourself.

It's hard to see loved ones regress to a childlike state, nonetheless your mom looks beautiful and happy.

Have fun with a-z.