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There’s a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for weeks now.

Let me clarify that. There’s a blog post I’ve been needing to write for weeks now.

But every time I start to formulate the thoughts, to figure out how to present them and organize them, my brain shuts down. This material is not subject to discussion. It is not available for exposure. I struggle with what to say and how to say it, how not to sound maudlin, how to put a positive twist on what feels the opposite of positive.

These days it feels like the worst kind of heartbreak isn’t the kind that happens when a loved one leaves you but when a parent rejects you, when you realize that the fantasy you have in your head of parental love and support, of maternal warmth and intimacy, is never going to happen. When you finally realize this, when you accept it, all you can do is hold the shattered pieces and grieve.

Every time I go visit my mother, I expect delight and connection, hugs and conversation, and yet each time this doesn’t happen, I am newly disappointed and devastated. Thirty-eight years in, I keep expecting something different.

This latest trip was the worst of all. I don’t know if it was worse because I’m more aware of my behavioral patterns and what I need from other people, because I’m standing up for myself in a way I haven’t done before, or because there has been a conspicuous shift on her part away from me. What I do know is that I’ve been home for a few weeks, and I’m still feeling the grief that this didn’t turn out the way that I wanted. I know I need to relinquish the fantasy of a relationship that will never be, and that I need to accept the fact that I have two parents who, for their own reasons, do not seem particularly interested in being my parents.

And somehow I have to figure out a way not to take this personally.

I try to be honest with myself about who my mother is — and what she is capable of giving me — but it’s hard to get past the disappointment. I’ve written on this site before about how hard it can be to move past the heteronormative programming that is all over our entertainment media, but it’s just as hard (if not more so) to relinquish the vision of what family is supposed to be. Families are supposed to be loving and closeknit. Mothers are supposed to be the most loving of them all.

Instead, so many things my mother does irritate and disappoint me, and it’s only recently that I’ve realized it is actually residual anger. Anger at not feeling loved, cared for, or appreciated. Anger at feeling unimportant. Anger at the fact that someone else is always bigger, always more important.

But I’m her daughter, I want to say! I should be biggest.

I’m not, though. Or if I am, she doesn’t know how to show it. She, in fact, does a very good job of hiding it. Maybe it’s somewhere behind the ungiven hugs, behind the distracted conversation, behind the unfocused attention, behind the lack of gifts and phone calls, behind the rage that explodes unwarranted in my direction, but if it is, I can’t find it, and I’m not sure she can, either.

I’m almost thirty-nine. Is there ever an age at which you don’t want a mommy? An age at which you stop craving hugs and attention and support? I suspect there isn’t — and that realization, combined with the fact that I’ve already got a father who long ago resigned from any parental responsibility, fills me with grief and heartache.

I keep thinking time will heal all wounds, but this wound cuts so deep, it’s hard to figure out how long it will take to close up. What do we do without our parents? Or with parents who don’t know how to be parents? How do I manage to be pragmatic and practical about a dynamic which is anything but? All I can do is what I’ve done with heartache before — wait for it to pass.

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