The Hole in my Heart
There’s a hole in my heart called Mom
Three letters missing from
my childhood alphabet soup
I run on empty
Search for something
Someone to fill an ache
That defies description
Hiding beneath my veneer
Of adult togetherness
The way she did
Never letting on that in her heart
There was a Mom hole
I was helpless to fill for her
Or for me
I make her proud
Proud of my adult sensibility
About what needs to be done
So she doesn’t have to worry
About my wellbeing beyond whatever
She can deliver
By way of food and clothing
Helpful household hints
Instructions about how to be
More efficient and organized
To keep the ache at bay
I’m responsible to a fault
Not in a good little girl way but
In the way she needs me to be
Adult-like responsibility that helps her
Feel like the mother she never had
And was unable to be.
Never rebelling or telling her
The truth about how I longed for
A real Mom to listen to me, hold me,
Comfort me, talk to me and
Help me find my way home.
* * *
I’m rereading Alice Miller’s Drama of the Gifted Child. I first read it in the early 1990s when I began working with my therapist.
The ‘gift’ isn’t about intelligence, talent or leadership skills. It’s about being Mom’s special gift, expected to fill the hole in her heart left by a mother who abandoned her early in life.
The so-called ‘gift’ to me was being able to survive this (as well as my father’s treatment of me) by denying who I was. My own thoughts, feelings and plans weren’t up for discussion. Instead, what mattered were her thoughts, feelings and plans for me.
I learned early to numb out and just ‘go with the program’ when it came to my mother. I might be seething on the inside–actually, a healthy and unhealthy thing. Yet I knew exactly how to be her obedient, responsible first-born daughter who always made her proud. Any sign that I might be unhappy with her, beginning in my infancy, was taken as rejection.
The task was impossible. I could never fill that hole, no matter how hard I tried. Mom frequently said, and it was true, that she didn’t know how to be a mother. No one ever showed her how to do it. She was correct. Her own mother abandoned the family early in Mom’s young life.
I’d rather know the truth than pretend everything is either fine or is now in the past and done with. Neither is true or helpful. Knowing the truth helps me grieve what needs to be grieved. It also helps me better understand my own struggles, especially as a mother. Then I can move ahead knowing that if there’s more grief, I’ll be better able to handle it.
Thanks for listening, dear Readers! In many ways, blogging has led me to this point. I have similar work to do regarding my father. Yet I’m beginning with Mom because I’ve never known how to include her in the picture of my childhood and youth. And now, my motherhood.
I’m beginning to understand her and myself better. And, as a side benefit, her mother—my Grandma Zaida. About whom I’ll write more later on!
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 August 2015