When I opened my eyes, she was there. I saw her beautiful face bent over her needlepoint, engrossed, a faint smile on her lips, her blond hair picking up the morning rays through the dusty hospital window. It was a few years back when I had just had a serious back operation.
No, it wasn't my mother beside me, it was my oldest daughter, and I was coming out of anesthesia. It was around the spring of the year. So I have been thinking about her, about how our roles became gradually reversed. She, the caretaker now, caring for me.
She said, "I'm here, Mom," just as I had reassured her of my presence back when she was 7 and had just had her tonsils out: "I'm here, darling."
My firstborn, the one whom we had anticipated with the greatest of joy, the first baby I had ever cared for, worried over and loved, forming a female continuity of inner-connectedness with me, her mother. And I know now there's a lifelong mystical intuition between mothers and daughters.
This is not to detract from the wonderful mother/oldest son connection. This is just to say that researchers have found that life is extended when an aging parent has an older daughter -- who apparently gives peace of mind to the elderly parent and a feeling of hope that "you will be cared for in your old age." And that adult sons did not have the same effect when many elderly women were studied. This from Newsweek recently, along with other facts on aging and longevity.
Also, statistics say that the average American woman will spend 17 years raising children, and 18 years helping aged parents. So the Mommy Track has become the Daughter Track. And the oldest daughter sometimes becomes a pivotal point.
This came as no surprise to me.
Perhaps it has helped that my oldest is so pretty, so enthusiastic always, so full of life. Or, perhaps it just goes back to the fact that she was our firstborn, the excitement of which never leaves a mother's heart.
There have been a lot of books written about mother-daughter relationships, but so many of them are full of rage.
Nancy Friday discovered much about the mother/daughter connection when she wrote her best seller "My Mother, Myself." It was a deeply emotional catharsis for her, and a provocative search for the phantom between mother and daughter. Friday writes that to nobody's surprise the new mother finds the need for her own mother increasing.
Perhaps because my mother was my best friend as I grew older, my oldest daughter is now my best friend. I can also add to that my youngest daughter and our fine inter-relatedness.
Which brings me to a 40-year-old friend who recently told me she does not understand why her younger brothers don't help her with her ailing and now-invalid parents.
"I have to drive 200 miles every weekend, some weekdays leave my job, to see if they are all right and have everything they need. I feel that I am repaying them for the caring they gave me . . . but still my brothers are geographically nearer to them."
I suggested she read a new book that I just finished: "Stories from the Motherline; Reclaiming the Mother-Daughter Bond," by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky. It evokes the many feelings daughters have toward their mothers. The author examines why motherhood has been held as sacred and why it has been damned.
The author believes, as I do, in the strong ties of the Motherline. She writes that we need to know our uniqueness, that we are different from our mothers, and yet we need to know our alikeness, and that identifying with our mothers connects us to our origins.
My young friend and I talked about the special bonding of mothers and daughters, and the contemporary Daughter Track --the fact that many women are in the workplace now, making it a little more difficult to help their parents.
If you have an oldest daughter who has a smile to give, and who, when she is near, makes you feel somehow safer about yourself and the world around you -- you are blessed.