The Toll

Am not the woman my children once called Mother –
can see the disappointment in their anger-blotched
expressions, feel the constraint in their voices –

distance between us tugs on my heart, plays with
my conscience, as if illness is choice – a contrived
plot to rob them of their expectations –

hope they can forgive me before it’s too late;
hope they can forgive themselves.


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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

24 thoughts on “The Toll”

  1. Take care.

    Speaking as a mother, I would say that it is the mother in you feeling the guilt even when there is no reason to be. Speaking as a daughter, on the other hand, I want to tell you, your children understands and loves you much.

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  2. This really hits hard, and I know some of the feeling of this for myself, so it relates strongly, I live in hope, and I hope yours turns, as you say, before it’s too late. Thank you for sharing this.

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  3. Your poem speaks to so many. I’m not sure why, but child/parent relationships can be such a struggle. It is sometimes hard to move beyond how we see our parents, strong and always the caregiver. It is a shift in thinking and feeling, not always an easy one, but often one that resolves in time.

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    1. I believe you are right – the bonds keep us holding on – incentive to resolve. Since I wrote this, all three kids have reached out to check on my well-being, so there you go. (and they don’t read my blogs.)

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  4. What a dance it is to navigate the parent child relationship as we age. Sometimes it plays out very differently. When my mother had cancer I was so upset because she wouldn’t let me help her. She is fiercely independent and I think that taking care of herself gave her comfort. All we can do is keep trying to understand one another.
    Did writing about this help you?

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  5. Your poem is so sad, I just hope there is misunderstanding and that this is not your
    reality. Grown women and men must understand and want to ease the burden.
    I do know that they want their mother to be strong and hearty.
    They are your children and scared but you need them now.

    I pray they will see clearly so you all find joy between yourselves.

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  6. Your last line gets at the heart of this. Our children see us as the ones who take care of them – forever – in one way or the other, esp being emotionally available. Consciously or unconsciously. It has also been my sad realization that we are not seen as “people” – as much as they do love us. Taking care of us – at all – puts their needs second. They are angry at – who else – us – at changing. Illness and/or aging adds to the difficulty in maintaining their illusion. I think that it will only be when they are chronically ill or aging, that they will begin to understand about “what happened with Mom…” And work on forgiving themselves for their lack of empathy or compassion. The final step to growing all the way up.
    Meanwhile it is so very difficult for us.
    This poem is so powerful. Thank you.

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  7. Hope their anger (at their loss) morphs into compassion, into awareness that your condition may model changes they themselves will one day navigate. You remain their mother/teacher as lessons evolve. They need to “practice” adjusting expectations. Time will tell – time can heal – in the meantime, take care of YOU. Lots of us are rooting for you standing firm in what you can and cannot do at this point.
    This is a touching poem, a wake-up to fragility of relationships under stress. If you one day create a memoir, this poem could open a chapter on coping.

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