Music moves us; sometimes, literally. I remember the first time I heard the song “The Living Years” I was in my car. I had to pull over to the side of the road.
Released in 1988 by Mike and the Mechanics, it is a song about regret. It is written from the perspective of a son who had a troubled relationship with his father; realizing after the father’s death, that he had a much closer bond than he believed. He laments that they didn’t see eye to eye, but wishes they could have had the conversation before it was too late.
“Every generation blames the one before“
I was hooked from the opening line. This was about my mother. Her mental illness was briefly treated in her early thirties, mostly ignored for the next twenty years. She erupted into a full blown mania at age 51, but by then, it was too late. She died of stage 4 cancer just two years later.
“I know that I’m a hostage, to all his hopes and fears “
I blamed her for everything that I believed was wrong with my life, giving little or no credit for anything that was right. Those last 2 years of her life were a very conflicting time for me and the entire family. She was too sick for us to have the real conversation.
So we watched, and we waited. We nursed and supported her until the end. And then, in our separate ways, we fell apart.
This was the woman who terrorized our childhood. She was ill equipped to be the mother that she was forced to become when our live-in grandmother died suddenly.
I did my best for the first two decades of my life to not become her. I pushed away relationships, I vowed to never be dependent on anyone. We were constantly being told what a burden we were to her, how her life could have been so much better, if only she hadn’t gotten pregnant….six times.
I was certain I didn’t want to be married; there was no way motherhood would ever appeal to me. We had gotten the message. I was terrified to walk her path. And I hated her for that.
“So we open up a quarrel, between the present and the past.” “It’s the bitterness that lasts”
I know better now. I discovered a lot about her illness when I suffered a devastating depression in my twenties.
As children, we were innocent victims of a raging, untreated manic-depressive mother and a father in denial; not believing that there was any help out there for her. It is beyond sad.
And I wish I had her back, even for a few hours. A few hours to forgive, a few hours to explain, a few hours to have that conversation in the living years.
A beautiful song with a powerful lyric.