Long Time Gone

by Linda Hoffman Kimball

This was the month my mother died.
16 years already.
Long enough ago
That I could have been
Again a teenager,
Straining and wrestling
With her strange brand of love,
her impulse to lay blame,
To foster shame,
With her passive game
Of parenthood.

Long enough ago
That I can now see
She did the best she could
With what she had,
Undiagnosed, unaided;
That in her own
Wounded heart
She wanted as much
Unconditional love
As I did.

In her awkward care
Somehow I flourished.
She nourished some part that
Now can see her precious core,
Her singular beauty,
Her shimmering self
Holy, relieved and Alive.

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8 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    This gave me chills, Linda. Poignant and beautiful.

  2. Deborah says:

    This is really beautiful, Linda.

  3. Alisa says:

    I loved this poem too, Linda. It came at a time when I’ve been thinking about this with my own mother. We had a really rocky time when I was a teenager, and she said and did some shockingly/unbelievably abusive things during those years. Yet, she said once then that she was doing the best she could, to excuse what she did. I remember being hurt that it was the only acknowledgement I ever got from her.

    She was over at my house last week, and out of the blue told me that now I’m a mother she hopes she realizes she did the best she could. I wasn’t sure what to say to that. Yes, I’m sure she did the best she could. But somewhere, I would love for her to say she’s sorry. Or that she realizes she caused me pain.

    Now that I am a mother, I realize the tremendous love my mother must have had for me as she breastfed me, changed my diapers, taught me to talk and walk, etc. But now that I am a mother, I am horrified at the abuses parents will inflict on their children. Being a mother has, in a way, made me less understanding of how a mother could say that she wants her child to get raped, or that she will murder her child’s pets if they don’t do the dishes spotlessly. So being a mother has made me less understanding of these things. The love is so intense for my little one, I can’t imagine telling him I would place him in a situation where he’d be at risk for rape as a punishment for something he might do.

    I realize she did the best she could. But still, I would appreciate an acknowledgement of how some of the things my mom did were so damaging, even if she couldn’t help herself at the time. Anyway, it’s not so much a reflection on your poem, but just my thoughts about mother-daughter relationships. They’re complicated, aren’t they?

    And, I’m not holding my breath for that apology. But it would have been nice.

  4. marta says:

    Oh, Linda. That is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. Linda says:

    Thank you for the comments, ladies.
    Alisa, I hear you. Happily my childhood was on the whole happy and I don’t think anyone would call it abusive in any deep sense. Your examples sound so wounding and unconscionable! Yes, an “I’m sorry” at least somewhere in the mortal life span seems like the least you could get! Unfortunately, in the complicated relationships of life, sometimes the ones most in need of apologizing are totally clueless about the impact their callousness, selfishness or downright cruelty has on the people in their orbit.

    There’s a wonderful book called Prayers of the Cosmos that talks about alternative translations of some of the more familiar passages of the New Testament. For example, in the verses that say to “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you” the love verb is not the same one used for loving God. Instead it has more of a sense of trying to regain a harmony in walking when someone has thrown you off step. It doesn’t say anything about whether the other person will also straighten up and walk right or even whether they will stop trying to knock you off balance. That kind of love is to seek to establish some kind of harmony in your own pace. I like that interpretation.

    Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

  6. Alisa says:

    I’m kind of amazed/embarrassed I published such a personal comment, but maybe there was a reason for that. Thank you for your sharing your thoughts on harmony about that, Linda. I really think that’s one of the best things we can do when we look to our parents and their imperfections.

  7. Kelly Ann says:

    This poem really resonates with me as well. Thank you for sharing. I always thought parents should be perfect, even though mine were not, and just wonder what my children, if I ever have any, will say about me.

  8. Brooke says:

    Very touching. Thank you for posting this, Linda. It is a beautiful sentiment.

    I am far from being the kindest mother at all times, but I think I’m pretty good at saying “I’m sorry.”

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