(Draft post written long before "Legacy" below - but which somehow slots right in there)
The older I get, the more I understand my mother....
Mom succumbed to cancer at the end of 2005, after a battle of around 8 years. Unlike many mothers and daughters, she and I did not get along very well. The clash started in my teen years, and attempts to regain a closeness before she died simply didn't work. By then it was too late and the gap of understanding each other was just too large.
But now, at age 42, I understand a lot of where she was coming from, why she did certain things, and what a very strong legacy of DNA-based behaviour the women in our family have.
From our falling-out, I disdained (usually not openly) what I saw as signs of weakness - and yet I see exactly those traits rearing their head in me now. I could never understand why she didn't stand up for herself, and why my grandmother didn't either - both were silent in the face of opposition. Yet I do the same thing, and now I understand why. Us Burgoyne women do not fight well, we would rather shut up and walk away than throw a hissy-fit screaming match (well, all of us except one of my aunts, who clearly got my gramp's fighting streak). That often leads to locking ourselves away - not physically, but simply closing off and putting up a wall. I saw it in my mom, I see it in me - and I'm fighting it daily.
I didn't like how she'd dumped her dreams. She had always wanted to be a nurse, my grandfather did not allow it and she became a teacher (the other "respectable" option for women in those days). She was a good teacher at primary school level, she put her soul into the kids, but it wasn't her first choice. I understand now how hard it was, but also that "dumping" her dreams had led her on a course that gave her pleasure. I know what I've "dumped" in the past, and that it has led me right to where I need to be. I think she would have been proud of what I've become - though some aspects of my life would probably not have met with her initial approval.
I was proud of having dark, luxurious eyelashes and unlined skin. Her eyelashes were barely visible, her cheeks had started to sag. I'm there now.
I understand why she hid her upper arms and wore what she wore. Genetics means our female line is pear-shaped, with upper arms that are not firm, no matter what we do.
I understand why she had a hysterectomy. The females in our family often experience extreme cramps each month. She lived in the days before readily-available Myprodal or other strong pain killers, and eventually the only option was to remove the source of the debilitating, knock-you-down pain. I'm convinced the sudden hormone change had something to do with her developing breast cancer when the stress of a trans-continental move kicked in - and I'm treating my hormones with respect as a result.
I get why she needed to talk to a professional when I fell pregnant at 20. I get the self-blame she piled on that needed relief, telling herself it was her fault for not raising me better. I do the whole self-blame thing to perfection myself in many different situations, not only as a parent, but also as a partner and businesswoman.
Would we have gotten along better had she still been alive? Probably not. We'd still be bumping heads. But now I understand a lot of what I do and why I did it. She did it first, and her mother did before her. DNA can't be changed.