A Bear Hug, an Afterthought, and Everything In-Between
9/6/2012 12:51 PM
By Stephie Goldfish
Mom knew we were coming. We had phoned her on our way and she even said she would prepare some Haitian chicken.
After the long eight-hour drive, around 11:30 p.m., we arrived at our mother’s senior high-rise apartment building. My twin sister and I each carried up our cat in its carriage and a few of our personal items. It’s a cumbersome routine, and although there is an elevator, I had to stop outside of the elevator to catch my breath before we knocked on our mom’s door. I do this so that I don’t stand there panting and out of breath when Mom opens the door, and my sister waited with me to make sure I was OK.
After a few minutes, my breathing normalized and, anticipating seeing our mom’s happy face, we knocked on the door. It flew open. There stood our mom, smiling her big smile.
But then, my heart sank.
I will try to describe from my perspective what happened next and how it affected me, but I know there are two other perspectives that I am not writing about, so I can only write about mine.
I don’t know how long my sister and I stood at the door, but it seemed like an eternity and yet, it happened in an instant. My mom’s eyes never once caught my eyes—she was transfixed, staring at my twin sister and smiling. Then still without glancing in my direction, she reached out and gave my sister a long bear hug.
I thought she’d then switch to hug me after she had hugged my sister, but she turned around to go back into her apartment. I had already sat my carriage down, my hands were free, and I felt so stupid. I sensed my sister knew what had just happened, yet we both didn’t say anything.
My heart dropped to my knees. I felt a sickness and unbearable pain overcome me. My mother must have realized what she had failed to do; I came in and sat down, and about 15 or 20 minutes later, she came over to me and said, Steph, give me a hug, you had your hands full.
And she gave me a hug. I felt emotionally raw, I was still reeling inside of me from what had just happened, and I returned her hug, but after she hugged me she turned and said, I didn’t want you to feel you got gypped.
Later, the next morning, when my sister and I had gone to run an errand, I brought it up to her. She also noticed what had happened and she felt anger and pain. She said she had whispered something under her breath, but I hadn’t heard.
This is not the first time this has happened, though. It may not be the last.
However, as the couple of days spent at my mom’s went by, I returned to my normal self, to feel my deep unending love for my mother return to my heart, to feel compassion and empathy for her, knowing that she is also fragile, and yet her strengths amaze me. She has been through her own life tragedies and struggles; I understand her pain and sorrow. To see her daughter sick is also painful, and it must be hard for her not to be able to do anything for me to make it better.
One of my doctors once said that my mom must feel it’s her fault that I have my congenital heart disease. That many mothers grieve over this belief the lifetime of their sick child. I just hope that I can help mothers, fathers, and other family members be aware of some of these underlying beliefs and work to resolve them and not think they are to blame for their sick children. I am working on my issues I have with my mom and hope to not repeat these patterns or have them carry down into future generations.
Please, everyone, don’t forget to give the ones you love a (((((hug))))), and let them know you love <3 them.
Stephie Goldfish, aka Stephanie Hodgson, was born with a large ventricular septal defect, but it wasn't diagnosed until age 17. Since her defect went unrepaired, this resulted in Eisenmenger’s physiology, and she has developed severe secondary pulmonary hypertension. Stephie is an artist who graduated at the top of her class from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh; she is currently pursuing her love of writing, and writes short stories and poetry, as well as nonfiction. Learn more at her website and personal blog.
Copyright ©2012 ACHA
1 comment(s) so far...
By Sherry Richert Belul on
9/13/2012 7:52 AM
Re: A Bear Hug, an Afterthought, and Everything In-Between
This is such a beautiful, honest, and brave piece. I am so touched by your ability to hold so much — to try to put yourself in your mother's shoes. You have a big, wonderful perfect heart. Thank you for sharing this story. It will help us all love that much more generously.