It’s been a little more than a month since my grandmother died following a long illness. While she and I weren’t terribly close, I did love her and was saddened to have to say goodbye.
It was especially hard to watch my mom go through months of caring for a terminally ill parent, and all that entails. And while there wasn’t a whole lot I could do to help, it has made me try to imagine what it will be like to have to say goodbye to my mom one day — and what my own daughter will go through when I eventually pass away.
Mothers & Daughters. Is there a more complicated type of relationship? My grandmother and mother couldn’t have been more different. Grandma was headstrong, opinionated and (if I’m being honest) pretty selfish. Mom is loving, wants to please everyone she loves and can be (if I’m being honest) selfless, leaning just a little toward martyrdom.
They certainly butted heads more than a few times over the years. And yet, when my mom battled cancer several years ago, Grandma came to stay and care for her, no questions asked, just as Mom didn’t hesitate to move out of state to be there for her mom’s last months. Time and circumstances melted away differences, allowing for healing and loving. Mom says being her mom’s caregiver as she lay dying was the hardest thing she’s ever done and yet, she wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. There’s a lot of that time she cherishes.
Mom and I are so close now. We really have been for many, many years. But sometimes it’s easy to forget the years we struggled - he knock-down, drag-out fights we had when I was a (selfish) teenager, or the times she didn’t agree with choices I made, stubbornly digging in her heels and withdrawing her support.
Now that I reflect, I wonder if we almost had to go through all of that in order to get where we are now - to really appreciate the love we have for one another. In so many ways, ours is different that the relationship between Mom and Grandma. We’re not going to need a terminal illness to finally bring us close to each other in the end. But in some ways, it is certainly the same: Layered, yet at its core, loving. Complicated, but when it really matters, quite simple.
And how does all that compare to me and Emma? My daughter’s only eight years old, so there’s no real complication to our relationship yet. Or … is there? If I’m being honest (and taking several deep breaths), I can admit that already, she is starting to push me away, laying the groundwork for what our future may become.
And as I’m seeing this play out now for the third generation in a row, I’m realizing: perhaps this is just the natural order of things. As Mom and Daughter, we are going to differ, argue, and maybe even fight, and at some point, possibly separate.
It’s liable to get hard and possibly a little ugly, and certainly gut-wrenching. But …. as Mom and Daughter, it’s also going to be laughter-filled and heart-felt and wrapped in love and respect. It’s going to get oh-so-complicated, but also … beautifully simple.
In some ways, I wish I could fast forward through all the difficult years and get to the easy part. And then, my own mom reminds me, sometimes living through the struggle brings about the most cherished part of all.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.