For years, I was upset with my mother. Sometime in the dim dark early seventies, I left my husband. It had been a long time coming and it was not something I wanted to discuss with my mother. At the time, we had two small children but I was sure I could make a wonderful life all on my own with my kids. Besides, at that time, I thought the bit about "Honoring thy father and thy mother" was, well, old-fashioned. After all, it was the very beginning of a very selfish time and I was in the vanguard of selfishness.
When my husband and I finally separated, I had to tell my mother. She was not very happy. I got on my high horse and took her concern as overbearing interference. How dare she tell me what to do? How dare she suggest that what I was doing was not in the best interest of my children?
Added to my youthful naivete was a newly-developed bitterness at the lack of support I received from my very own family. I packed up and, in a huff, left my home province. My kids are all grown now and I'm on my own. And I still don't live in my home province. But my children do. As they grew up, they gravitated back to my home. Through them, I began to understand and appreciate my mother more and more. Slowly I began to comprehend how she was concerned and, more importantly, why she was concerned when I set out to be a free spirit with children.
My slowly-growing regret for not honoring my mother hastened one day just after Christmas when I heard myself speak the exact same words my mother spoke to me. My sister had been going through a crisis in her home life for some time. I'm not quite sure how long she's been thinking about being on her own but I'd known about it for several months. After the holidays, she left her husband. So there I was, on the telephone talking to her when I heard myself saying the same sort of things to her my mother had said to me 25 years ago.
Things about what a lovely home she had. About how this would affect the children. Things about not being realistic in her expectations of what a divorced woman with very little career experience can expect in the work place. Things about how she might as well face the harsh reality that second marriages are (a) hard to find and (b) often no better than first marriages. Things about the sanctity of marriage.
As I mentioned, I'm not living in my home province so distance prevented me from doing what I most wanted to do -- go to my sister's place and shake some sense into her. I spent the weekend being so very, very angry at her for her oblivious venture into a cruel world for which (I think) she is not prepared. Late Sunday, pacing around my living room, I finally realized that my anger was not directed at her at all. I knew in that instant that the bitterness I'd felt towards my mother for what I perceived as her lack of support for my bright and brave decision to set out on my own was really directed at myself. For Mom was right. My divorce was not properly considered and in the long run, I think it hurt my children unnecessarily.
That is not to say that the marriage could have or would have, or even should have, lasted forever. But in my haste and foolishness, I made decisions that were bad and plunged myself and my children into a life of needless poverty and isolation.
There is no way to undo the undoable, to go back in time and listen to her now but, oh how I wish I could. I'm still worried about my sister and I will not lecture her any more because she has to find her own road but I will tell her that my harsh words, just as Mom's words to me, were based in love. And love does not always speak softly. Mom knew that.