Lately, I´ve been hearing a lot of sad family stories. Brothers not getting along, parents that have very few paternal and maternal skills, kids, way past their teenage years that rebel against their parents and grandparents just for the sake of it. Stories of physical and emotional violence, manipulation and abuse. And what I keep thinking through it all is how lucky I´ve been with my family. I come from an educated middle-class family that valued trust and communication. The only time I ever got a slap from my dad was when I dropped an egg because I was jumping around with it. I´m pretty sure he was having an awful day and it was not about the egg. He never touched me again. Neither did my mom. I rebelled during my teenage years but I was lucky enough to be intelectually gifted enough to not have my grades suffer from it. I went to the best schools, got into a good university and then dropped out. My parents eventually got over it and were extremely supportive with all of my career choices. All in all, I´ve had an amazing support system from my family and friends, I turned out a decent and optimistic human being that loves helping others.
Now let me tell you where I failed. Since I was a baby my mom suffered from anxiety attacks. She had a period of seven years where they were really bad. I remember playing Monopoly on the floor of the room with my best friend, my mom shaking in bed under the cover just her eyes and the tips of her fingers visible. She couldn´t be alone when these attacks happen. What I don´t remember is if I was ever kind enough to bring her a cup of tea, if I ever comforted her. What I do remember, and keep seeing nowadays as well is how little my dad understood these anxiety attacks. I swear he must be doing his best, but some things you´ll only understand once you go through them. So my mom got little to no empathy from my dad and I can´t for the life of me remember if she got any from me, as much as I loved and still love her.
Then, my mom got pregnant. I was 14, my parents weren´t even considering having another child, yet, it happened. My mom, who was 42 at the time, was expecting. I was over the moon. I had always wanted a sibling and kept secretly hoping that my mom´s promises of “Let me just finish my PhD first” were not lies. My mom was very happy too. My dad, not so much. He´s an extremely good man and I can only hope I´ll find someone as good and kind as him. But he failed as a husband at that point. For the next nine months he barely spoke to my mom. I believe my mom even moved to another room. I hate myself for not remembering the details, but I do remember the outrage when my mom told me about it.
Fast forward a few months into the pregnancy, my mom and I were visiting a friend of hers. This was the era where mobile phones were starting out so as a 14 year old, I was pretty much just playing snake for the whole visit. This didn´t hinder me from overhearing my mom´s friend asking her if this pregnancy was going better than the last and if she was hopeful. My mom´s belly was big already and in my head I could only ask myself what went wrong with her pregnancy with me. Later, in the car, I asked my mom. Turns out a little over a year ago, my mom got pregnant and lost a child. I could again for the life of me not remember when that could have happened. I looked and looked into the past of a year and a bit ago and couldn´t find any indications of my mom going through something as horrific as she was saying she did.
So this is my failure story. As a teenager, I failed as a daughter. I failed to show empathy for a mother that always showed me empathy. For a mother that has not let me down once. I failed to acknowledge the horrific anxiety attacks and child loss my mother went through. I yet have to forgive myself for that. My mom doesn´t have to. She never took it to heart. She´s the strongest woman I know. The most devout wife and mother of two children. I try to make up for it every day now. Every day I call her and ask her how she is, let her vent about how hard it is to take care of her dying mother, thousands of miles away from where I am. I try to convince myself I am not failing her again by choosing to be so far away from her and my family. I choose to believe that the moral support I didn´t give her then, but I am giving her now, is my way of making amends. I do however still feel that I failed as a daughter back then. I also feel that as long as I try to make up for it till the end of our days, I will find forgiveness.