it now seems to be no mere coincidence that i grew up as the child of a mentally ill mother. fortunately, the time and place (early 60’s in WA) was right and the family recognized the need to have her institutionalized for the benefit of us all. fortunately for my mom it was the safest place she could be over the following decade as the paranoid schizophrenia took its toll on her and robbed her of the life both she and my grandparents had envisioned for her- and of the relationship she herself had envisioned with her two young daughters, potential grandchildren and more.
i bring this up for a couple of reasons. of course being mothers day, we honor our mothers in whatever size, shape, color or mental state they come. and although this day in the US continues to be one of the most commercially successful holidays where small and large tokens of appreciation are exchanged, no gift can quite compare with the gift of a mothers love over time, space and distance- even when the distances it must bridge are those tangled in the confusion and chaos of mental illness.
love endures, it really does.
in hundreds and hundreds (possibly 1000’s) of often confusing letters over the decades, she writes into the void expressing her thoughts and concerns (there are many!), keeping me posted on the day to day happenings in her life as she sees them- always ending each one with “Your Own loving Mother” then signs her full name including middle initial. as if each one is an official document.
she will be 80 next year and spends her mornings 5 days a week as she has done over the past 15 or so years as an assistant in a kindergarten classroom in No. CA helping children learn to read and write. we are very fortunate that she has lived a full, if somewhat unusually difficult, life. i am grateful for that. through her loss, i learned to appreciate my own motherhood in ways that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
may is also mental health awareness month- for what it’s worth. there are many kids out there who are not as fortunate as i was. who have to deal with the ups and downs of living with a mentally ill parent and have challenges to meet on a daily basis that are often confusing, hurtful, and even downright scary.
it seems while we have loads of new medications that can be used to treat these illnesses, the support system for administering them to the mentally ill is very lacking. i always feel that we were fortunate in that when my mother was ill, it was the norm to institutionalize them for treatment. now we just write out the scripts and turn them back to the families to deal with- often with terrible outcomes. how many of the homeless are mentally ill? i don’t know what the answer is but i do know that there are plenty of kids out there in need of support and on this mothers day, i am thinking about them too.
( a good read- The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut was a book i stumbled on in high school when one day at the bookstore i could no longer find any Kurt Vonnegut books i hadn’t read. again, no coincidence. the anniversary republished version has a new forward that is worth rereading the book for if you read this many years ago)
happy mother’s day to all the moms out there-a day early, as i will be attending to various “mom events” tomorrow. enjoy-