For years this has been a difficult day for me – like Father’s Day used to be while I was growing up. I could celebrate my Grandfather. He was a very positive influence on my life, and I loved him dearly. However, I was obligated to celebrate my father, and he was not.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do things with him. When we were out, my father was a lot of fun. He was even easy to talk to – and that is a big deal for a person who struggles to talk. But when I went to get a card, they always said stuff like, “the best father,” or “I am so lucky to have a father like you,” and that wasn’t true.
Even though he was fun, and easy to talk to, he was also manipulative, and would later use those things he learned against me. I don’t know why I shared with him as long as I did. So “lucky,” was not the word. And it isn’t like I could (or even wanted to) get him a card that said something like, “to a horrible father, who has his good moments,” or something. No. The cards were full of lies, and I just wished the day would pass us by.
Even that kind of card wouldn’t have been accurate. More like, “to a father who confused me, and made it hard to trust people.” For most of the time I didn’t hate him. I hated what he asked me to do – but then I blamed myself.
Anyway, back to Mother’s Day. How can I celebrate Mother’s Day, when it reminds me more of the children that were taken, then the one who was left? I always feel such shame in asking to celebrate this, as “I lost my kids,” keeps ringing at the back of my mind (or, well, not so far back, really.) So how can I say to my husband and son who are left, “come, let’s celebrate me, today!”
Maybe (and I have been told this often enough it must be common opinion) people don’t think of my loss in the same way I do. “The ministry was wrong,” they tell me. “You didn’t lose your children. You failed to adopt. That is all.” But in my heart and mind, I have lost my children, and that pain makes Mother’s Day especially hard for me.
“Who here is a mother,” they ask, and I timidly raise my hand. I have my son. I still have my son. But for a person who dreamed all her life of having five children, had four, and only has one adult child remaining – well… I am not what I thought I would be. And this day reminds me of that failure.
And then they speak of those who wanted to be a mother, but couldn’t have children. I think, “that is me,” but then, I did have one son… but then I had four, and now? And they speak of those whose children died, or those who as adults turned away, and I feel that pain. But mine were taken. They are still here. They still live. But I don’t know them anymore.
I walk away from church feeling sad, and wondering how I could possibly ask my family to celebrate me. After all, I lost my children, and if you “mess up raising your children, nothing else you do matters very much.” And I realize that my shame over this is not past, and I feel again my fear over the world that has such power to decide.
And in my ache, I hear in my mind, “I wish I could have children.” And I realize, though I am nearly too old now for that to be a possibility, it is still what I long for. No matter how much I try to tell myself I am okay with a future without children, I am not. Not really.
So we drive home, and I walk in my door, and I am greeted by my dog and one of my cats. They look up at me, and in their eyes I see that I am still needed. I am still wanted. It may not be everything, but I am still ‘mother’ to them, and that at least is something.