When Mom isn’t Mommy

My family worked together picking cherries each summer for a local farmer in Michigan where I grew up. We would all get up before dawn, sleepily getting dressed and then get right into the car. Our mom would hand us pint mason jars of hot cocoa with cheerios in them. A few minutes later we were working in the orchards.

One sunny July day in 1970 Mom was sick and needed to stay home, and I was tasked to watch over her. I was upset that I was the one tasked with watching over her. I remember standing near the clothesline playing with a stick or something; muttering to myself that she wasn’t that sick, and how come we couldn’t be with the rest of the family.

She died the next week.

Boy did I have guilt over that for years and years. So much so that as an adult; whenever any of my girlfriends would complain about their moms I would say, “You should be grateful, at least you have a mom.”

I didn’t know until later how judgmental that really was. Some women have Moms who aren’t Mommies.

I met my best friend when I was in my 30’s. We hit it off instantly and were kindred spirits because of each of our life circumstances. I found out her mom was an alcoholic who abused her and her sister and had created a life of hell for those girls. No wonder my friend was such a loving, caring, non-drinking mother. She decided early on to go in the exact opposite direction of her role model.

And then one day her mother called and said she wanted to move across the country to be closer to her. Just like that. Without skipping a beat my friend drove to Florida and packed up her mom and moved her in with her family, just like that.

I was surprised, but then I also know, that your mom is your mom…that never changes.

Come to find out, her mother moved in to die. She was in her early 60’s and ready to die, and had decided her daughter could take care of her until that happened. I watched my best friend go through so many emotions; sadness, guilt, fear, anger, hurt.

We aren’t supposed to feel relieved when someone dies, but sometimes we do. Today she is helping another woman I know deal with some of these same emotions. I will let her words tell the rest of this story:

“My mom got moved to hospice and I asked for a morphine pump to assist her in her death. I sat by the bed and kept pushing the button as soon as I could. I waited for my Mom’s last rattled breath. When she died, I cried. For a minute. Then I got up and was grateful it didn’t take longer than it had. I cried again, not because my mom was dead but because the chance of ever having her be the mom I wanted was gone. The fantasy of her being a wonderful Grammy and an involved mom was gone with her. The next day I went on vacation and celebrated her death. Really celebrating; she could never interfere with my happiness again. I was truly relieved she was gone. Today I still am relieved.”

Reader Comments

  1. Mary D.

    I also lived with guilt for feeling relieved when my mom passed in 1976. As a child, my lifetime had consisted of dealing with her mental illness. It was exhausting, embarrassing, and sad. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that being relieved didn’t mean that I didn’t love her. She was my mom, but was only mommy when she was well. I thank God that we had a Grandma who played mommy to us all those years! Mommies come in many forms, too!

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      Thank you, Mary for sharing your story. I can not imagine what it was like growing up with a mentally ill parent. When my mother died, I thought life was terribly unfair to me, until I looked around to see other people had hard things to deal with also. I’m glad you had your Grandma – Yay, for Grand-Mommies. 🙂

      And, thank you for reading.

  2. Linda Sayers Penna

    I love all your blogs. I find them so touching and some very sad and tragic. It’s amazing about some of our childhood pasts. I truly enjoy reading about your life. Being related it gives me sight on things I didn’t know about or had forgotten about throughout my life. You’ve done a wonderful job writing this and all the others to. Keep up the great work. Your writing is very inspiring to me.

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