Professor J's Place

16 December, 2007

Mothers and Daughters

I lived with my mother for the last twelve years of her life. During that time, she nursed me through a bone graft, and I nursed her through colon cancer, a broken wrist, two broken ankles, emphysema, and two separate iterations of lung cancer. And, of course, I was with her when she died. It was an important time for me in many ways. I got the opportunity to forgive my mother for being mentally ill, for drinking too much, and for being, well, not the best mother in the world to us three girls. I got the gift of seeing Mama as a human being who just didn’t have what it took to be the mom we wanted her to be. I remember watching her with her beloved cat one day. Kitty was sitting next to Mama on the couch, and Mama was patting the cat on the head. It was the best she could do. And the cat? The cat acted like someone was giving her a sensual massage. I realized then that Mama’s affection and support for us over the years, as limited as it seemed, was all she had to give. As we grew closer during the final years of Mama’s life, we became good companions. I enjoyed her sense of humor, her clumsy generosity, her intellect, her spirit. And Mama loved me fiercely. I loved how either one of us would be reading a good book and would run into the other’s room saying, “listen to this.”

The last year or so of her life, when the second lung cancer emerged and we both knew this would be her last illness, we began to talk lightly about what would happen when she was gone from my life. She wanted me to have the house, of course, and she tried to make it clear to my sisters that this had nothing to do with favoritism—it had more to do with the fact that I had been paying more than half the bills, that I had been her primary caretaker, that I was the single daughter. . . But more than that, I think, Mama worried about whom I would love in her absence, about who would love me. “I wish you had a daughter,” she’d say to me, “someone who could be a companion to you like you are to me.” I agreed with her. I didn’t worry so much about someone to care for me in my old age, but I did worry about having someone to love the way that she loved me and I loved her.

I did not want to have a child. I am a little afraid of young children. They need so much, and I (having inherited my mother’s and my grandmother’s mental illness) was not sure that I could provide the loving consistency a young child needs. “What I want,” I told my mother, “is a girl. A nine to thirteen year-old who needs a mother. Someone I can talk to in a normal (adult) tone of voice.”

I did some research and decided that the path for me was getting a foster child. I would give a home to someone who needed one, and we would get to know each other and decide if we wanted to become an official family. Of course, I had Mama to care for in the meantime, and I was a new teacher teaching at three different schools. Who had time for foster care?

And then Mama died. Around that time, the Texas legislature made it illegal for lesbians and gay men to become foster parents. And I had an ovarian cyst that made it necessary for me to have a hysterectomy, so “natural” children were out of the question. Of course, it did not matter. I was in such a deep depression that I was unable to care for myself and my dogs, much less a child.

After a couple of years, when I clawed myself out of my depression, I took the advice of several friends and checked out an online dating service. I saw Susan’s profile and decided to pay for the service so I could meet her. I fell in love by the second email, I think. Perhaps I fell in love while reading her profile. At any rate, we have been dating since March 1996. I moved in and pledged my troth this summer.

And why do I write about this? Because Susan has a daughter. Morgan just turned 26 the 14th of December. She has some developmental disabilities, so she is intellectually somewhere between nine and thirteen. Does this ring any bells with my readers? Morgan loved me from the second time I saw her. The first night I spent the night with Susan, she says that Morgan came out into the kitchen with a “can we keep her?” look. I loved Morgan from the time I went to see a movie with the two of them, and on the way out she took my hand.

I think she started calling me “Mama #2” and “my other mother” about three months after I started dating Susan. She needed me as much as I needed her.

I wouldn’t say that I’m a very good mother. I tend to get frustrated and tired of hearing about Hannah Montana. But I love her more than I can say. And she loves me. And now, Mama, I have a girl to take care of—one who needs me as much as I need her. Here are a few pictures of my Morgan at her 26th birthday party on Friday. I am a lucky, lucky woman.



Blogger Mrs. G. said...

OK, we both know that I am prone to hyperbole on a daily basis, but I am sincere in saying that this post now resides in a secret pocket of my heart reserved for especially good things. I don't know you, Professor J, but I love you. You are a blogger I need to break bread with...we'd have a lot to talk about.

December 16, 2007 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger BipolarLawyerCook said...

What a beautiful post. I hope I reach the same place with my Mom some day that you did. Morgan's lucky to have you as a second Mom, Texas legislature be damned.

December 16, 2007 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger Professor J said...

Thank you both for your kind words.

Mrs. G, should you ever find yourself in Texas, or should I ever find myself in Washington, we will definitely break bread (and hoist a couple of gin and tonics, too).

BPL, I hope you get there with your mom, too. It's a good place to be.

December 16, 2007 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Julie Pippert said...

What an awesome tale. Few people find or seize the chance to make peace and bond that way. And as for your wish are all very lucky indeed.

I hesitate to even touch on this after such a warm and lovely post, but I cannot begin to express how frustrated it makes me that there are so many children who want good homes, and we exclude plenty of good ones because they happen to have two moms, or two dads.

Using My Words

December 16, 2007 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger JCK said...

*Sigh!* Professor J... I am so glad that you shared all of this. It is your deeply personal post that resonates. A true synchronicity at work in the universe that brought you Morgan and she you. It sounds like your life with Susan and the love around you is just what your mom would have wanted for you. And you for you! Beautiful. Just beautiful.

December 16, 2007 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger Family Adventure said...

If that isn't destiny, I don't know what is...


December 17, 2007 at 2:30 AM  
Blogger Mary Alice said...

That was such a beautiful personal story and it made me cry this morning. Life has a way of turning out doesn't it? I want in on the bread breaking and G & T's. I can only imagine the conversations we would have. The kind that after you leave and look back on, you sigh one of those big soul sighs of contentment.

December 17, 2007 at 5:16 AM  
Blogger AuthorMomWithDogs said...

Ah geez. Wish you had given a tissue alert! I've got to go blow my nose.

Prof. J., you deserve every bit of love life has to give you. You are very special, indeed.

I don't know that there is such a thing as a perfect mother. Or a perfect daughter. But there is "perfect for each other." I'm so very glad you have that too.

December 17, 2007 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger anne said...

Beautiful post. How wonderful that you were able to develop that relationship with your mother.

And what gits in Susan and Morgan!

Don't sell yourself short as a mother. Even the Virgin Mary would get sick of Hannah Montanna.

December 17, 2007 at 11:20 AM  
Blogger Claire B. said...

I am teary. What a beautiful post about your mom, Susan and Morgan.

And by the way, eff the effin Texas legislature those bastards.

I also want in on the G&Ts if you do it in WA. I'm right here and all.

December 17, 2007 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger Melanie said...

Karen, that was so beautiful, so tender. I'm a little speechless.

I will say this: I honestly cannot understand how ANYONE could read a story like yours and doubt for one second that love is love is love, and that it is the worst kind of arrogance to believe we have any business legislating that love.

I'm glad you found your girls.

December 17, 2007 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger Simple Blog Writer said...

Oh hooray! This is a wonderful love story all around (except for the Texas legislature...the big dummies).

I'm crying, I'm smiling, I'm happy for you and your family, mama #2.


December 17, 2007 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger Lisa Milton said...

I've been sitting here, bowled over, not sure what to say except what a beautiful post.

Thank you so much for sharing about your mother and the women that make your life so sweet.

(Hannah Montana - who knew Billy's kid would haunt our waking hours so.)

December 17, 2007 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger JCK said...

P.S. Yes, I wanted to come back and say that the Texas legislature is SO WRONG. So wrong.

And I've so enjoyed reading your posts over the last few weeks.

December 17, 2007 at 11:43 PM  
Blogger Ginaagain said...

Professor J, that was undoubtedly the most touching story I've read in a long time. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

December 18, 2007 at 1:08 AM  
Blogger Ginaagain said...

I've tagged you for a Meme. I hope you will find time to join in!

December 18, 2007 at 1:27 AM  
Blogger Pearl C. Pritchard said...

What a lovely post!!!

I identify with quite a bit of your story.

I never had children of my own and in my 40's I married my partner who has two boys. Step parenting has been the most challenging thing I've ever done.

Best to you!!


December 18, 2007 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mother: creating such a family. This is a beautiful post and makes me remember the time my husband did an incredibly generous thing to help two women have a baby (no, not that :-). Friends of friends were trying to expand their family (they had one daughter) and my husband donated his sperm to them -- for three years! Sadly, the women were too old and no baby ever came of it. But I know few men who would have done what mine did -- out of only a desire to see one more loving family grow!

December 18, 2007 at 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Kristy said...

Congratulations. Isn't it wonderful how the universe sometimes just brings us what we need? You and Morgan are both very lucky!

December 18, 2007 at 11:07 PM  
Blogger K. said...

This is such a beautiful story on so many levels for me, and I want to thank you so much for sharing it.

December 19, 2007 at 2:31 AM  
Anonymous A. Beaverhausen said...

Love the new banner. Love the warm colors and I LOVE this story. As Keanu Reeves' character says in the movie 'Parenthood'? "You need a license to catch a fish, but any buttreaming asshole can be a father". Yes. And in this state, there are too many of those assholes who should not be having children...meanwhile there are loving gay and lesbian couples with SO MUCH TO OFFER a child and the ass-backward laws in this state make it impossible. Oh, the shame of it. The good news? The precinct in our area finally elected a Democrat to the House of Representatives when Republicans have been running things here for the last 25 years. And? Joel openly gay man won a seat on the Fort Worth City Council. And...Texas A&M (my alma mater) appointed an Hispanic WOMAN as its new President. Things are changing for the better. Merry Christmas.

December 19, 2007 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger slouching mom said...

What a touching, wonderful, poignant post. And best of all? That you found your daughter, and she you.

December 19, 2007 at 8:18 PM  
Blogger Irish Goddess said...

What a wonderful post - heart wrenching and full of joy and thankfulness.

I love your new banner, too!

December 20, 2007 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger JCK said...

Just stopping by again. Hope you are having a lovely respite.

December 22, 2007 at 12:06 AM  
Blogger Jennifer (Jen on the Edge) said...

This is a post that will stay with me for a long time. Thank you so much for sharing with us. How wonderful that you have such love in your life.

December 24, 2007 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Saucy said...

I love your story! Happy Holidays to both of you and your dear daughter... and Hannah Montana too! xoxoxo

December 26, 2007 at 11:14 PM  
Blogger Grandy said...

Professor J~ The act of loving Hannah Montana does not quantify your quality as a mother (THANK THE LORD).

What you have been able to share about your own relationship as a daughter and as a mother is so touching. Thank you for sharing! I'm very impressed with the depth of your realizations and ability to take something positive with you.

Thank you!!! Happy belated birthday to your girl!!

December 29, 2007 at 10:11 AM  

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