She said something mysterious the other day.
She is Margaret, and while most people call her by her given name, Maggie flows well, there in the title. In her younger days they called her Maggie, Margie, Margy, or Marg; most often, it was Margaret. Those who know her now, though, know she goes by Margaret. She’s my mother.
And, there it is. Have you ever thought about this? Have you wondered how well we really know each other? Have you wondered whether you’ve been spared the family secrets? Have you ever looked at someone close to you and thought, “What really happened in their life before they knew me?” and “What haven’t they told me?”
Do you know your mother? Or, do you think you know her?
On one of our recent visits, as usual, we entered the chat zone. Mom and I have always talked freely. I don’t tell her everything. She has been the type of parent who doesn’t need to know it all, or even ask about it all. I could say maybe she doesn’t want to know, but that’s not true. She always listened when we choose to open up, but was never one to push or meddle. Through the years, I’ve come to appreciate that.
I was certain the same was true for her. Mom led a separate life before marrying dad; she had other friends. And, I’d never imagined there was anything huge or unnerving that she’d kept from us.
We’d been chatting about confidentiality. We’d been discussing family relationships within our extended family, degrees of closeness, how much people reveal. It was light-hearted, and nothing raised the hair on the back of my neck.
Until the other day.
In passing, mom said that on her death bed, “I’ll tell you my one big secret.”
I was flabbergasted, tried not to let it show.
With a smidgen of humor, I said, “Well, you probably won’t remember it then so you better tell me now.”
She smiled and said nothing as did I. We maintained eye contact. The subject was dropped.
I didn’t think again about mom’s “secret” until today, not until I thought about my relationship with my daughter. I parent much like mom; I don’t expect to know each detail of my children’s lives, nor do I ask. I listen when they choose to talk.
I’m not especially motivated to ask mom about her “secret.” Mom’s entitled to her privacy; so am I. Still, what if, when the time comes, she passes without telling us? How will we ever know? Will it matter?
I’ve decided it doesn’t. Not in the least.
But, it got me thinking.
- People close to me (may and do) harbor secrets.
- Everyone has a past.
- People are entitled to privacy.
- Some things should be kept hidden.
- We may not know the closest people in our lives, not as well as we think we do.
- People make mistakes; we’re human and entitled.
- I rather like the mystery.
- I don’t want to know every detail.
I thought I knew my mother pretty well. I still believe I do. Except for that one thing…
Those who called her Maggie may know more.