Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Mother, My Domain

To the rest of the world, I took a seemingly inconsequential step forward yesterday: I retired my old website domain and its associated email. Not the most newsworthy move, right? After all, I already have another website that I’ve been using for months and people change domain names all the time. So what’s all the fuss about?

My new website represents my business quite well, much better than the old one as a matter of fact. It may be attractive and very easy to use, but represented the first step I took for myself in the world of business. It was my own business and I was finally selling my own products rather than someone else’s. It was also my first real presence on the world wide web. It was quite literally a reflection of myself. My spirit name is Hannah Star Dancing, so I had named my business Star Dancing Enchantments – enchanting things made by me.
As I deleted all of the content on the site and left a simple message noting that it’s been retired, I felt a twinge of emotion tugging at me that I tried to ignore. Moving forward is supposed to be exciting. I have a new website to unveil and listed it for folks who might wander into the old site looking for updates. They wouldn’t be lost; they’d know to go to the new site instead. Still, I didn’t really feel joyful about it. Finally, when I proceeded to write my announcement on Facebook about what I had done, I had a difficult time finishing my sentences without getting choked up and teary eyed. It was then that I understood what this action meant to me.

Retiring my first website was like losing an old friend. One I had been ignoring for months, knowing that its time was near an end, hoping the lack of attention would ease the pain of eventually letting go. As I thought about that, I realized something else – this was only a trial run for my emotions. There’s something bigger in my life that I’ve been trying not to think about for a long time, but I know time is nearing an end for that as well.

To say that my mother was a difficult woman to impress is an understatement. Just like many mothers and daughters throughout time, we fought constantly when I was younger. Many times, I believed our relationship was strained beyond repair, yet we were finally able to mend things between us and even became friends as we both got older. I’d like to say that with age came wisdom, but maybe it was only the wisdom in knowing that all of the fighting was pointless and having a real relationship was so much more fulfilling. We enjoyed each others company and long-distance conversations. I looked forward to her annual visits in July when we’d celebrate her birthday by traveling around Washington state, the Oregon coast, and British Columbia. I had even managed to finally impress her with something I was doing – writing my books.

My mother has only read the first chapter of my first book. She’ll never read the rest of it or any of my other books. She’ll never see my new website or the Celtic Journey Stones that I’ve designed. She’ll never witness my success as a writer (when that day finally comes) and we won’t be able to celebrate it together. The sad fact is that she doesn’t even know who I am anymore and hasn’t for a few years. My mother has Alzheimer’s disease and has recently been moved to hospice care. While I’ve been slowly coming to terms with her eventual death, I know that once that day comes, all of the emotional preparation in the world won’t really help. Writing the words here and sharing this with my readers is difficult enough. How will I react when I get the news that my mother has left this world?

Looking back on my childhood, I could blame my mother for so many things, but that would be truly pointless. I make my own decisions in this life and have no one to blame for my situations but myself. Still, I can’t give her credit for saying that she did the best that she could, because I don’t really believe that she did. She was lazy when it came to her children, at least when it came to dealing with my sister and I. My brothers are another story and I can’t speak for them. My mother could have done better, but she didn’t. However, I can’t fault her for that, not really. After all, I could have done better raising my own son, but I didn’t. The difference between us, though, is that I tried to do better.

I mention this fact to emphasize the dramatic change that the course of our relationship took. Anyone who knows me and knows what I’ve been through in my life, can certainly understand and appreciate the difference. The only real regrets I have about my relationship with my mother is that it took far too long for the change to occur. Perhaps the stubborn streak that we both share contributed to dragging our lives through the dark chasm of conflict for as long we did.

As my mother’s disease advanced, I watched all of the progress we had made slowly disappear. My mother didn’t remember any of it. In some ways, it was fortunate that she didn’t remember that I was even her daughter. I feared that she would remember only the fighting between us, but thankfully that sad fact must have been lodged in one of the parts of her brain that deteriorated. She thought I was one of her long-lost friends from her younger days in Germany, which of course makes me question now whose book she thought she was admiring.

So as I retire my first website, I think about one day having to say goodbye to my mother, who will be 81 years old on July 3rd. When that day comes, I’ll be a fifty-year-old orphan. My father died in 1981 and my stepfather died in 1997, and even though I’ve already lost her in so many ways, I’ll be losing my mother all over again soon. As a young adult, I kept track of relationships by counting moves: moving out on my own, across the country, away from friends and family, away from jobs. I suppose that I’ve now reached that point in my life where I start tracking how many others have moved on, who’s slipped away and left this life for good. So many people gone, so many deaths.

However, with death comes rebirth. From the ashes, the phoenix rises. When my mother leaves her mortal body behind, she will finally be released from the confines of a physical body that no longer functions. Her spirit, the very essence of her, will be free. It should not be a sad day, but one of rejoicing. She never wanted to live that way – none of us do. We will all journey through our grief when she dies and we will all miss her, no matter our history. I already miss her.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you.

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