The Sound of Silence: a mother’s day reflection



Here in the high desert it has been raining off and on for the last few days. A giant puddle sits in the driveway and all the trees range in color from subtle shades of sage to emerald. Fringed Chamisa, spun gold and salmon wildflowers are bent low but stems are luminescent. Seedlings are sprouting in unlikely places.


I can’t think of a better mother’s day present for the desert than these ongoing cloud-bursts that are nourishing the earth with water and minerals from the sky. I am profoundly grateful for this year’s spring greening.


The earth is experiencing a sense of renewal. I wish I could say the same for me with respect to mothering and mother’s day. I approach this cyclic threshold with the same feelings of dread and grief that overpower me each year. Neither of my children acknowledge me as the mother who once loved them so fiercely, but oh so imperfectly in her own confusion and despair.


I was such a young wife, barely twenty when I became pregnant with my first child. By the time I was twenty – two, I was a mother of two sons. Two years later I was divorced and on my own.


Although I tried to repair the damage as soon as I was able, neither child was willing to join me. I desperately suggested counseling – many times. As adolescents and young adults both Chris and later David, responded with chilling silence and apparent indifference to every frantic attempt I made to bridge the gap.


It was decades before I began to understand that after my brother’s death I surrendered my children to grieving parents whenever they wanted. I had no idea my behavior was rooted in survivors guilt (My 50 percent). Later, after my father’s sudden death, my mother co opted my children for her own reasons, making certain that both would shut the door on me, just as she had. She demonstrated the power of silence/absence as a means of soul destruction, and cheerfully passed the torch onto both my children.


It was too late.


Yet, I kept trying for another 25 years. Two years ago, after yet one more aggressively abusive phone call from my youngest son I snapped, and gave up the ghost.


I struggled then – mightily – to find a way to accept incomprehensible truth. That I had two 50 plus year old children who couldn’t see me for who I am, children that don’t care about, or respect me. Love is not part of their equation. This reality seemed so extreme that I couldn’t digest what was.


I still can’t.


I suspect the stomach issues I am dealing with today with have everything to do with the fact that a person can only live with so much emotional suffering before physical collapse becomes a reality.


As my body continues to weaken, most of the time I retreat further and further from that which I am powerless to change.


But around mother’s day I can’t help but think about my relationship with my children and my mother because I am both mother and daughter and because my life is permeated by the suffering that comes from being silenced, rendered invisible and unloved. An intergenerational pattern of harsh judgment/rejection lives on and I wonder who will be damaged by it next.


My mother is dead and my children are well past mid –life and responsible for their own choice -making. I no longer make excuses for either of them. I hold each son accountable for mother betrayal, just as I learned to hold my mother accountable (after her death) for her betrayal of me. I don’t know my grandchildren well enough to make any judgment. Like my mother, my oldest son, their father, made sure they were never able to see me until they were already 18 years old. They were taught how to use silence as a weapon of destruction too.


If I am willing to be accountable for the mistakes I made as a parent knowingly and unknowingly, and I am, then so are the other members of my family. It’s that simple.


I am aware that my story is not unique. Families twist realities and create their own cruel and distorted stories. We are all are living through dark times; cultural and earth destruction are ongoing realities. Some days I can barely imagine a future that embodies hope on either a personal or a collective level.


And yet, when I walk out the door I see the seeds that I did not plant sprouting new green. When I lovingly water them I am catapulted into the Field of the Living Earth… S/he too has lost children, millions of non – human species, and will lose so many more before the story ends… Yet, she continues to align herself with Life. I choose to join her. I hope that before I die I will find a few more seeds to plant and nurture even if they did not emerge from my own body.


The prophet Gibran once said that our children do not belong to us but are life’s longing for itself. The Earth demonstrates the truth of this statement; I want to believe it too.