You say she’s “Trying to change the reality of our past./ Pretending to have always been likable,” which I assume means that the memory of her is softening a bit. Despite yourself, you’re remembering her as a better person than she really was.
Yet, later, you add “I have tried to remember only the good / I have tried to let the past be gone” contradicting your earlier statement where you’re trying to hold on to the truth.
Can both of these things exist concurrently in a poem?
Yes, they can.
Like a life is a paradox of success and failure, love and hate, the best and the worst, so too does this poem encapsulate not only the mother’s paradox of personality, but the paradox of struggle within the author — the desire to forget the bad and the desire for authenticity.
And it’s in this paradox where the heart of Jacobs’s poem lies. If she had achieved nepenthe’s solace, she wouldn’t need this poem. If memory stayed perfectly honest, we wouldn’t have this poem.
This poem is troubled, paradoxical, and exactly like life’s relationships with our loved ones, even after they’re gone.