2008 ended with some momentous shifts in my relationship with my parents. If you've been following the saga, you know that my relationship with my folks, who are still Jehovah's Witnesses, has had its challenges since my leaving the "faith" three years ago. I am blessed in that my parents have never shunned me, as their religion would have them do, but it was obvious that our relationship was strained once I no longer held the same beliefs. This was more an issue with my mother, who has tended to be more hard-line in her devotion to the religion (somehow it feels strange to call it a cult now...not sure what that means).
Life gave me plenty of opportunity in 2008 to heal my hurt around my upbringing and move into greater love and acceptance of myself and my parents. I recognized that it is their journey and, as adults, they have the right to choose their own path. The child in me still wishes I hadn't been dragged along for the ride but it's okay. I'm stronger for it. All of it.
Towards the end of the year, my mother had surgery to have her thyroid removed. She had developed a cancerous lump. She called and asked me to be there with her the day of the surgery. So, I went. I sat with her in pre-op as she confirmed with the Anesthesiologist her wishes as a Jehovah's Witness not to be administered blood products in any circumstance. And it didn't trigger me. I realized that it's her life and she can do with it as she pleases.
While Mom was in surgery, my Dad and I had lunch and hung out in the waiting room. I helped him program his cell phone. He'd been carrying a list of important numbers on scrap paper in his pocket, not knowing how to put them into his phone. He was so happy to have those numbers put on his speed dial, he couldn't stop smiling.
Mom's surgery went well. They got all the cancer and the doctor later gave her a clean bill of health. She's adjusting to life without her thyroid now, sorting out meds, etc. and is doing well.
Something shifted after all of this. I'm not sure precisely why it did, but it did. Remember my long rant where I said I would not grieve if she died? Well, that was a very angry child talking. So, I gave that child some love and attention. And then I gave my mother some love and attention. And somehow, things are better.
My mother even spoke of how she feels her thyroid cancer may have had something to do with years of not speaking up, as though all that unspoken emotion literally festered and ate away at her. She said to me, "Please, make sure you speak up for yourself in this life." And I sat with that for awhile. Maybe that was her way of saying that she actually respects my having spoken up for myself by leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses, that she sees the value in speaking your own truth and living your own life. I don't know. It doesn't matter. It is what it is. Regardless, I'm happy for her, that she's finally learning to speak up. It's been long in coming. For both of us.
And remember during that rant how I thought that the only way I could have a relationship with my father was if my mother was out of the picture? Well, that's shifted too. My Dad and I have been going on "dates" pretty regularly. We go for coffee, lunch, hang out and watch movies.
My father came over to do some fix-ups in my apartment a week ago. And then, he gave me a gift I've waited 34 years to receive. When he left, he hugged me and said, "I hope you know how special you are to me. I am here for you always." Ya, you can cry. I did.
I just called my folks to say hi. My mom answered with a laugh, "Your father and I were just talking about you." I smiled.