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The Missing Puzzle Piece

By: Valerie Miele

"I was angry at my mother for not loving me, for not being tender, for not hugging me, for not being proud of me."

We all somehow are surrounded by some type of love but I do think we tend to look for the love that we are not getting. We fantasize and long for what we don’t have or think we don’t have. I know I was loved by many people that surrounded me. I lived in a “normal” home and  wasn’t really missing anything. Well, I did think I was missing out on a mother daughter relationship.  Compared to other families and friends my relationship was not normal.  I didn’t feel my mom loved me, at least not the way I expected or wanted her to. We were very distant.  I will dare to say from the beginning of time, my time.  The fact that I didn’t grow up with her may have influenced this. Many circumstances in our lives set us apart, whether it made sense or not. It just happened that way.  I spent a small scattered amount of years with her. To top it all, her personality was very dominant, very strong minded, and very passionate. You can actually place the word “very” in front every adjective that can describe her. I don’t recall a hallmark moment between us. As I grew older, our disconnect grew.  It was a very limited and strange relationship.  

By eighteen I was just ready to leave with the hopes that my absence would make her love me or show some feelings but it didn’t happen. Pride and resentment grew bigger and along with it we became complete strangers.  I made my life far away from her and from everything that could relate us.  That didn’t help the emptiness I felt inside of me. Very often I thought what could have been if my mother was a “normal mother”.  I tried to find in strangers that love that I didn’t get from her and it led me to many disappointments.  It made me question if I was worth of love. Maybe I didn’t deserve it. Maybe I was born not to be loved. If my own mother couldn’t love me, how could anybody love me?   

I grew angry many times and felt hatred. Yes, hatred.  I was angry at my mother for not loving me, for not being tender, for not hugging me for not being proud of me. If she would have just given me one “normal” day whatever that means. It hurt daily, even in her absence. I had to give myself daily lectures to snap out of it, to grow up and find some type of closure. It has been a long journey to find some middle ground and accept that it may never happen; to let go and live with what I had. I came to accept that I may never know why she couldn’t express love to me. There may not be a reason. Though I had to put distance between us, I didn’t forget her. How could I? For me, she was an important piece of my puzzle.  I didn’t hate her. I hoped she was well and cared for her no matter what.

As I grew older, I found myself finding justifications for why things happened the way it did. She was only human. She did her best with what she could and what she knew. Maybe she was also seeking for love, for a specific love or what she thought love was.   Maybe we were more alike than what I could ever imagine.  We were “two peas in pod.” No matter how I tried to rationalize, I couldn’t fill that emptiness.  Learning to let go released some anxiety and frustration and  allowed me to focus more on other things that were present in my life. I realized that, by focusing on the past, I was missing out on what was in my life at that moment.

Time doesn’t cure all, but it does dull the pain. As we aged, I found out she was ill. I kept track of her, I had to - she was my missing puzzle piece. I loved her but  I was always afraid of reaching out, I was afraid of being rejected and dragged back to the same feelings that I worked so hard to overcome. It was clear that she didn’t even want to talk to me or see me.  That hurt but it also hurt not to be with her.  As her condition worsened, I grew more worried and hoped she would let me into her life-what was left of it. I was no longer looking for her to love me.  I just wanted to love her. Finally, she did! She asked for me! Pride was not in my way.  I just wanted  to be with her.  Fear of rejection was still there but the joy of knowing I was on her mind at all overcame that. We are  family,mother and daughter.  I couldn’t even imagine what our reunion would be like. I didn’t want to have any expectations.  I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment.  I just wanted to be there.

When I arrived and it wasn’t a “Hallmark” moment.  It was very tense for a moment but it was a different kind of tension.  I told her, “I love you’ without hesitation and embraced her in a warm hug.  My heart was beating fast. I was sad and happy at the same time.  I was happy because we were both present for the first time. No judgment, no resentment, no doubts. We were just present and we were accepting what was in that moment nothing more, nothing less. I was sad because I saw my mother weak and  powerless.  Cancer had taken a toll on her. Still, she was peaceful.  We didn’t speak much but our silent wasn’t awkward - it was calm and  fulfilling. She grabbed my hand.  My mother was never physically affectionate so having her hold my hand was more than enough for me. To know that she wanted me in her life when she was most vulnerable.  I no longer felt empty, I stopped thinking of all the time lost.  For once I just felt that “now” mattered and nothing else.


Our time together was short but I no longer look back and wonder what could have, should have, or would have.  It doesn’t matter, we walked our journey as mother and daughter the best we knew how. She left in peace after loving and being loved. She and I both learned what mother and daughter’s love is: forgiveness, respect, compassion, giving, receiving, and being present.  

Valerie is a Director at a Consulting Firm for Private Equities.  She and her husband live in Austin, TX.
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