Nothing Left to Say. . .

Written by Carole Cancler on November 3, 2011

 Many of us have issues with our mothers. . .here fellow food professional and friend Carole Cancler describes her strained relationship with her mom. Carole told me that writing this story for Five More Minutes With did more for her in helping her release her pent-up feelings than years of therapy. Thanks for sharing, Carole!

Carole's Mom

I remember as a young girl going to the Tea Room at Frederick & Nelson with my mother and enjoying a Crab Louie with Russian dressing. We bought new dresses and hats for Easter service. I felt very grown-up and very special. I don’t recall feeling that special ever again.

A couple of years later, I found my mother alone and crying in the living room. I asked what was wrong. She said that no one loved her. In a small, meek voice, I stated that I loved her. She answered in an angry retort, “No, you don’t! Nobody does.”

I never seemed able to please her—each time I tried, I failed. I always seemed to do the wrong thing, in the wrong way, or at the wrong time. No boy I dated in high school was good enough. When my first husband left me, she reminded me, she often did that I had always been “a brat”. When I remarried 10 years later, she said that I was just plain stupid; she did not come to the wedding and did not speak to me for two years.

I tried to find common ground, be it developing an interest in things that she enjoyed (like opera, gardening, and bridge—none of which I do today). Each time I came up short. When I suggested we play bridge, she responded, “Why would I want to do that?”

We simply never bonded. In the 51 years we had together, we did not have even one “mother-daughter” talk. We didn’t share clothes or makeup secrets. She gave me no guidance in handling boys (or men). In the most vivid and frequent memories that I have of her, she is angry. During one angry exchange, I asked her if she could remember one time when we bonded. I did not receive an answer.

As a young girl lunching in the Tea Room, I saw her as an energetic, exciting, and glamorous woman. I very much wanted to be like her. As I grew up and began to make myself in this image, I also began to see her lack of confidence, a need that no amount of reassurance could assuage. At these times she would erupt in anger—anger that I’ve learned is the fear of failure, of being unloved. Yet, there were miniscule moments when some small gesture on my part was met with silence and I knew she felt love after all, love that she could only express with silence, never with a hug or conversation.

Still, I managed to build a successful life with dual careers, a loving husband, and a happy home life.

On what was to be her last birthday, knowing her cancer would soon take her, I gave her a card in which I thanked her for the qualities that I posses that have brought me the most success and happiness. Despite all indications, she must have had something to do with them. They came from somewhere. While I take full credit for my hard work, it seemed appropriate to look past her anger and silence, and simply thank her for the successful qualities we seem to share—my love of travel and adventure, a tenacious and determined nature, and the joy I find in life around good food shared with friends.

If I had five more minutes with my mother, there would be nothing left to say. She read the card. And she was silent.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Mom