My Healing Season


My Healing Season

stone-271752_640I have lived with my parents for most of my adult life.


I have often wondered why this is. What could be possibly be the purpose?

When my father was diagnosed with bladder cancer 10 years ago, a friend said, "It's good you are home to help. I think this may be why you are living with them now."

Certainly, living with them helps them. And, most definitely, living with them alleviates my financial pressure.

I will tell you, though, that I can sometimes get caught up in the why. Why is this necessary? Why am I still here?

About a month ago, I started to wonder if I have figured this out.

Several years ago, I wrote about my relationship with my grandmother, who became a part of my life in her 95th year. The benefit of understanding my grandmother meant I better understood my father which meant I better understood myself.

Perhaps living with my parents serves a similar purpose.

When I was seven or eight, I had a terrifying dream about my mother. In my dream, she had two sides--a good mother and a bad mother. As a bad mother, she appeared without warning as a witch to terrify me. In the dream, I played happily in my room until my witch mother suddenly appeared, scaring the heck out of me. I remember the fright I felt waking up from the dream.

My mom put me a diet when I was 12 or 13. Just me--not my thin sisters. The summer before I left for college, my mom announced to me: "I spoke with a friend who assured me that you would lose weight in college because of all the walking you'll do." (Unfortunately, the friend didn't warn my mother about all the drinking I would do. For me, the college experience was beer and boys.)

And, so it was and is. My mom still monitors what I eat. I still overhear her telling my father about what I'm eating.

A few years ago, I decided to grow my hair long, my last chance before I wear short hair for good in the second half of my life. My mom regularly complained to me about the length of time it took to blow dry my hair. She was not involved in this process of drying my hair but it still bothered her greatly. A friend of mine came for lunch one day and told me how much she liked my hair. My mom grimaced. My friend said, incredulous, "You don't like her hair?" "I don't," my mom replied.

Christmas with my mom is, well, a nightmare. We had a particularly stressful holiday about seven years ago. My younger sister spent the holiday with her in-laws, which meant her children also spent the holiday with their other grandmother. My mother did not like this. On Christmas Eve, as we gathered at my brother's house, my mom complained about just everything. When we arrived home, my parents griped about how much they didn't like the gifts they received and then piled them near the back door to donate or throw away. The next day, Christmas Day, I had the good fortune of spending the day alone with my parents. My brother and his wife had given me a fabulous present--a blinged out ring that doubled as a watch. Oh, was it cool. As I sat with my parents on Christmas Day in the restaurant doing my best to enjoy my food while covertly ignoring my table mates, my mom pointed at my new ring and said, "Why did they give that to you? Why didn't they give it to me?"

On Christmas Eve the next year, I said to my mom, "Let's remember the spirit of the season and be grateful for every gift we get." "Absolutely not," my 74-year-old mother replied. "Wouldn't Jesus just enjoy his gifts?" I responded. She sat silent, unconvinced.

And, so the stories go.

I do my best to have a good relationship with my parents who double as my roommates. I tell my mom regularly how cute she looks before she leaves for church or lunch with friends. I listen to her talk about day, encourage her to have fun. But I have my moments when I wonder how she got be who she is. What happened to her? I have not yet figured this out. But, I have realized this: Understanding how my parents are now--which is how my parents have always been--gives me a much better insight into some of the difficulties of my childhood. You know, when your parents tell you that you need to change, to be different, you begin to believe that you are wrong. I understand now that I was perfect as I was. It's been a great lesson to learn. I wish I knew that years ago--that as I am, I am perfect.

These insights mean I can be much kinder to myself. It was tough growing up with them. It's still tough having a relationship with them. Knowing that means I can heal myself--be much more understanding of some of my struggles, be much more gentle with myself. I also recognize they did the best they could. And, given the horrors others endure during childhood, I appreciate what my parents gave us--food, clothes, a good home in a safe suburb, an education.

Perhaps this insight has had an impact on my mom, as well. Last month, she received an invitation to her great-niece's bridal shower to be held about an hour from the house. She asked if I would drive her. Of course, I said.  She contacted the shower hostess, who graciously extended an invitation to me, as well. We arrived at the shower at the same time as two of my cousins, Sue and Anne. When Anne saw us, she said to my mother, "Don't you have two other daughters? Denise is always the one who drives you." The comment went over my mom's head; I imagine she thought, "Why would the other two drive me? Denise doesn't have a family so she should drive me." But I so appreciate that acknowledgment from my cousin; it's so nice to recognized for good deeds.

A week after the shower, my younger sister called me. "I talked to Mom about the shower," she said, "and I wanted you to know that Mom said you looked beautiful that day."

Living with my parents has turned into a season of healing. More so with myself than anyone else.

Like this article? Share on social


Sign in to comment


LOVE THIS for so many reasons.............!Thanks for sharing..........


Dear Denise, I am grateful for what you shared. Now I know why you understand others so well! The negativity is terribly difficult to work through. . . That is the reason I feel I need to get away very regularly, more than just a few hours, to detox! Awesome Hubby and I are doing better at letting some of those comments_mysql just go by without us getting \"beat up\" by them. Anita joins the club and shares our strategy also. . . to find what the hidden message might be regardless of how rude, insensitive or cutting the comment which may come from Ms. Dementia or not!


When I taught adult ESL, some of my Asian female (only female - men had it easy!) students would talk about how critical their mothers were. \"You're too fat.\" \"Your eyes are too small.\" \"You have to be a good cook because no one will marry you for your looks.\" Etc. Some of the women who described this were really hurt by it, and others actually heard more loving messages embedded in the criticism, like \"You are mine and you're important to me.\" or \"I want the best for you.\" I guess it depends on the daughter's personality. It would have been very hard for me. Actually my grandmother (mom's mom) was very critical and sharp-tongued, and I dreaded her visits when I was a kid. I'm sorry that you have this challenge with your mom, but I admire the way you're coping with it and continuing to treat her with so much love and kindness. Knowing what you are dealing with makes me appreciate even more all you give to us here.


Ah, interesting. There's something else, too. We often criticize others who have a trait that we see in ourselves. We can't love or hate a trait in another without loving or hating that same trait in ourselves. I try to remember this--that when I'm critical, I really need to look at myself.


Ah, I love this, Pegi. Thank you. :)

See more comments