Friday, September 19, 2014

My mother is dead. And I’m gay. But those aren’t causal.

1938 - 2014

My mom in 1974, when I was seven. Our relationship was great until I realized – around age 12 – that I couldn’t be honest with her about the feelings I felt for other guys (and that I didn’t feel for girls.)

When I finally came out to my parents at age 25, my mom acted like it was the big act-one finale of some grand opera – oh, the tragedy of her life, two gay sons (yup, my older brother is gay, too.) My truth meant, to her, a life of despair – no grandchildren, no joy, no hope.

Her reaction was incredibly hard to experience.

I’m 47 today, and when my mom died last week, after a three-and-a-half year battle with ovarian cancer, she had my brother, myself and our dad at her side, and so much had changed. The truth of my mom’s life had transformed, and somewhere in these last 22 years we went from living in a tragedy to living a joyous, if sometimes bittersweet, comedy.

My mom this past summer, age 76.

My mom still had two gay sons, but she also had a son-in-law (my husband) and a granddaughter (our amazing daughter.) The six of us had spent two separate vacations this summer together, cramming in the great memories – my mom and daughter making matzah-ball soup for an early holiday meal, my parents meeting the rest of us for lunch after we had walked the gay pride parade in Tel Aviv with some of our gay and allied Israeli family, and all of us slathering on the salty mud by the shore of the Dead Sea in Israel.

We’d had such tough times, but my mom and I had finally arrived at a really good place. (Even though there were always little things, like my mom never really visiting this blog, which hurt my feelings. But as I was pulling together materials for her obituary, it hit me that I never really visited her artist website, either. None of us are perfect, and we’re all just doing the best we can.)

And while it’s tempting to be angry about all the time we didn’t get now that we finally arrived at this good place – the fifteen, or twenty, more years I wish we had with my mother – I find myself focusing on how grateful I am.

I’m so grateful we were able to heal from our hurt on all sides, and move on to the comedy, and the joy.

I’m so grateful I was able to be there for her final days, that there was nothing left unsaid between us. That I was able to tell my mom that I love her, and have always loved her, and that after all this time I know – even though I didn’t always feel it – I know she loved me always, too.

I’m so grateful for the 47 years she was my mom.

I’m so grateful for the 11 years she was a grandmother to my daughter.

I’m so grateful that change is possible.

And while I’m so sad, that gives me great hope.

My mom, surrounded by her husband, two gay sons, son-in-law and granddaughter… all of us covered in mud!

So this post is for everyone who’s struggling with their relationship with a parent (or with a child.) And, of course, this post is for her.

I love you, Mom.



Judy A. said...

What amazing words. Gives hope to struggling relationships. HUGS!

Unknown said...

This is beautiful Lee. Your words bring tears of joy and sorrow down my cheeks. Honest, touching and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story... the power of love.

Barbara Hoist said...

I'm so moved by reading this, Lee. You know, we all struggle with our relationships with anyone we love, regardless of orientation. Relationships are so hard - but worth it! I'm so glad that you and your mom came to an understanding and acceptance of each other.
Love you....

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Thanks Judy, Robyn and B,
I so appreciate each of you reaching out with such kindness. This was so hard to write, but at the same time it was healing, too. Knowing it's resonating for others as well is deeply meaningful to me.
Namaste and hugs,

Tricia said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. It gives me hope that any difficult relationship can be overcome with work and love.

I hope you find comfort in the wonderful memories you built in these recent years with her.

With love,

John Wind said...

Really touching, Lee... I get it, I had my own version of your story with our mother. The drama, despair, and disappointment, followed (years later) by real understanding, appreciation, and times of true joy and togetherness. I'll never forget how, at your wedding, mom and dad apologized for not participating in my own commitment celebration a few years earlier, and saying that 'sometimes the kids have to teach the parents'. We all came a long way on this journey. And I, too, will really miss our mom. Love John

Jeffrey Ricker said...

I think my favorite thing about this post, beyond the words, is the photo of your mother from the summer. She looks radiant. My deepest condolences for your loss.

ivanova said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss, Lee. It meant a lot to me to read this post. My mom died of ovarian cancer one year and four days ago and your words really hit home for me. I'm glad you have so many memories of your mom and I'm sending you lots of good thoughts.

Moonlit Librarian said...

So sorry for your loss. She was a beautiful woman.