Anyone who has ever met my mom says the same thing: She's so sweet. My mother is one of the most accommodating, hospitable and selfless people I've ever known. She'll ask you if you want a glass of Tejava or a Coke Classic.. and when you say no thank you, she'll ask you again in about 7 minutes. When I was a kid she'd pop her head into my room after a quick and gentle knock on the door to ask if my friend and I would like some bagel bites or pizza rolls. She'd deliver them, dutifully, with a couple napkins and tell us they were hot, and then when we were finished, she'd collect the empty plate.
My mom hasn't worked since just before I was born. She had a rather menial job as a janitor for the offices of the US Marines, but was put on medical rest while pregnant with me, and has not worked since. She vacuums the house every single day, though, and has a very rigid cleaning routine. The bathroom on Thursday, and she hates it. I didn't have chores as a kid.. so I asked for some. I was a industrious only child and there was a period of time, I think I might have been about eleven, when I went through all the closets and cupboards and organized everything. The apple doesn't fall far I guess. Anyway the only chore she ever assigned me was to make my twin bed, which was wedged in a corner. It was the only thing I didn't want to do. To this day I don't put beds in corners because they're too irritating to dress. If I tried to do anything else she'd just re-do it behind me.
Naive but ambitious as a child, I held some disdain for my mom for her apparent lack of ambition or backbone. She existed in a fairly subservient role to my dad, who was not abusive but not always respectful either, when impatiently demanding a fifth cold beer that he could just as easily get for himself. She would of course provide it immediately, and then clear the rest of the empty cans after he elbowed them, irritated by his own clutter. Observing their dynamic lit a fire in me and for a really long time, maybe even still, it has served as my motivation to be self-sustaining. I seethed at the thought of a life partner barking drink orders at me under the pretense that my expenses are covered. A tiny precocious feminist, I chastised them both regularly. Him for not being more polite or not getting his own damn beer, and her for putting up with being talked to that way. Both of them for smoking in the house, constantly. I was a nagging child. Really, I just felt it was my only way to lobby for a decent living environment. It never worked though, they are not the sort of people that change so I just resolved to move out as soon as I could.
It wasn't until I was almost 18 and my mom sat down with me and asked if I ever heard voices in my head telling me things, or telling me to do things, that I came to understand what she might be struggling with. She's been medicated for paranoid schizophrenia since she was that age. In hindsight, a lot of things made a lot more sense after learning that. The general sense of knowing my family was different, her lack of friends and assumption that the neighbors harbored ill will towards her, the time she thought the stranger in the drugstore called her a bitch from two aisles over so I had to go in alone at about 8 years old to pick up whatever it was on her list that was on special there, with the coupon she'd carefully snipped out of the weekly ad. Her inability, or perceived inability, to work, and her franticly demanding the turning off of certain triggering songs that she claimed we're inspired by drugs. Her condition made smoking weed as a teenager a far more hallucinogenic and traumatic experience than it is for most.
I couldn't really talk to her about most things, as I'm made to understand a daughter is supposed to feel about her mother. Any struggle of mine was a stressor for her, so I learned to deal with things on my own. Thus blossomed my emotional resilience. I don't mean that she waved off my problems, it was actually quite the opposite. She would ruminate on them and try to coddle me even if I was just informing her that something had happened and I was fine. If I'd gotten hurt on the playground, even it it was an accident, the offending child was a permanent enemy, and their name could never be said without a sneer from then on out. It was just easier to not mention it. Only good news.
There was a time that my patience with my mother was far shorter than it is today. I was frustrated with her shortcomings, her tendency to repeat herself, her fixation on what I considered to be trivial things. Hearing my end of a phone call with her resulted in raised eyebrows and an inquiry as to whether everything was okay. I have not always been nice or respectful to her, and despite chastising my dad for it, I'd taken his lead on how to treat her. It was shameful, really. I have since lifted the bar for my own behavior. While I still may find myself grasping for patience, most of the time it's not a big deal. I've let go of my resentment that I once felt resulting from her not being what I felt she should be, parentally. She is only who she is and she does her very best. Remembering that gives me tons of patience, and I am much gentler with her than I once was.
My relationship with my mother has taught me acceptance. I have no choice but to accept her for who she is. Everyone is doing the best that they can, loving you the best they know how, even if it's not how you prefer or need to be loved. I can and must appreciate what she has to offer, even if it's not quite what I need. It's all she has, and she gives it freely.