When I was a little kid, I thought all Mother’s were addressed as Mother. I don’t think it was until I was 5 or 6 and saw something on television using the endearment Mommy, that I realized there were other names for calling your mother. I asked my mother, “Why don’t we call you Mommy?” and her response was, “Because I’m your Mother, not your Mommy.”
I don’t really have a way of explaining that answer, but I got it. We never attempted to call her anything other than Mother, not out of fear, but just because that’s the way it was. Ok, maybe a little bit out of fear. And I confess in my eye-rolling teen years, I may have under my breath, called her other names.
Over the years in telling that story, the line has changed to have a little more vinegar in it. I dramatically play up my relationship with my mother to be something a little bit Joan Crawford-ish, because truth be told in a cleaner manner, with a lot less hangers involved, and without the hysterics and drama, I think she was a teeny bit like Mommy Dearest. I wrote my notes to her that way in high school and she was in on the joke. But I loved the hell out of her anyway.
I’m noticing sadly how it’s becoming more and more common for friends of my age to have lost one or both of their parents.
I lost my mother at a much earlier age, and I think I may have even written about it before. If I didn’t, then I probably meant to. I don’t know, I find myself forgetting all sorts of things lately. Aging sucks, because not only do you forget things, you go off on side tangents that have nothing to do with your point. 😉
I, like most who have lost their mother’s, find myself thinking of her stronger than ever with Mother’s Day around the corner. You can’t help it. Social media is running those meme’s that state something like, “Bark if You Miss Your Mom!” and everyone replies “Bark, bark, bark!”. TV and internet ads are reminding us to remember the one who loved us most. Until next month when they’ll remind us that Dad really loved us more than mom.
Confession: I, at times had a teensy flame of resentment about Mother’s Day when she was alive, because I didn’t really feel like I got a fair shake in things. I too was a Mother, but every second Sunday of May it wasn’t about me being a mother, it was about getting out to her place and honoring her. Coming up the funds to find the perfect gift when I was struggling to get food on the table for my little ones. Sounds self-centered, like I should be running around whining, “But what about meeeeeee!”, but these were all very well hidden inner resentments, and like I said, teensy in size. Truth be told, by the time my kids were in the picture, I actually really liked my mother. I enjoyed time with her. I think I just wasn’t a fan of the pressure.
Plus that old adage of be careful of what you wish for? Yeah for the past 17 years I haven’t had to worry about that perfect gift. Not a great trade off. OMG Universe, for Christ’s sake, can’t you take a fucking joke!?!
Funny how one would trade a barrel of those flames of resentment to spend another Mother’s Day with the one we love.
On a side note about this, I have this – well an old therapist once told me it was a coping mechanism – about finding the silver lining in every single tragedy that befalls me. Again, I think I’ve touched on this before too. I called it my inner Pollyanna, and I had thought myself pretty cool for dreaming a way to deal with things because hell, it got me thru everything. I found in therapy the reality was, it just made it more difficult for me to cope with the real issues, like pain and anger. Anyway, I didn’t get into that therapist until after my mom died, so that practice really was one of my survival skills when she died. Finding a silver lining. And that was it – not having to stress over the perfect gift for any holiday, or having to give up Mother’s Day. That’s all I could come up with, and I thought I was pretty damn clever on getting myself thru those holidays holding onto that thought.
Thank God for therapy and straightening THAT shit out.
I know that a lot of people post on social media that they really wish they had that “One more Mother’s Day” to spend with their own deceased mothers. I thought on it for a moment and realized bullshit, if I could have her back for a day I wouldn’t want it on the biggest puff-piece of a holiday, that some of us more selfish types might actually resent a bit. I’d like her back on an ordinary Thursday, or preferably a Saturday afternoon.
I’d pick her up from wherever that depot is that you get the dead for a day. Amtrak? Greyhound? Do the dead travel by ordinary measures? I’d hug her like her life – or mine for that matter — depended on it. One of those super deep, super long hugs where you hold on tight, and rock one another slowly, inhaling and taking everything in. I always loved my mother’s hugs because they were sincere. I’d sniff deeply, hoping to hold onto the scent of her until we met again. She always had this intoxicating odor about her that was a mix of cosmetics and cigarette smoke. Sounds unappealing, but on her it truly smelled lovely. It smelled like Mother.
I’d take her straight to my place, and unlike most, we wouldn’t have iced tea, or a cup of coffee. Ironically I’d probably make her a Ginarita. What the hell, it’s not like one more drink would kill her at this stage of the game. Ouch – really? Did I say that out loud? She would have laughed at it.
I think I’d make it a show-off day for me. Not to fulfill my ego, but to show her what a damn good job she did. I’d take her on the two minute tour of the condo and praise her for everything I had. She had taught me both purposely and inadvertently tons of independence, and I think she would be so proud of the achievements. The girls grew up to be lovely adults. I bought my own condo all on my own. My career made a pretty cool turn to my advantage. I’m not certain if she would be happy that I was going solo in life. She’d either appreciate the hell out of my gumption for accepting that I didn’t need a man to make me happy, or she’d be sad that I was alone.
I guess it would depend on if we grow emotionally when we are dead. My fantasy says we do.
I’m mixed over wanting to spend the time with her alone, or share her with her granddaughters. I think to be perfectly honest, my selfish side (surprise!) would win out, because every moment I had to share her would be a moment less without her fully. I’d show her pictures of the girls as they grew up, and tell her all about them and hope that they wouldn’t be too angry with me later. Better to seek forgiveness and all that happy horseshit as she would say.
By now I think the Ginarita (or two) would have relaxed us both (we both tend to run on a tighter wire than most) enough to just talk. Drinks, her favorite smokes, and chit chat. I’d remind her laughingly of how we could get on the phone some nights and talk for 2 to 3 hours at a stretch. On this day, the talks would be both lighthearted like they were in the past, and serious because I only had the day.
I’d apologize to her for two things; First and foremost for being so damn angry at her for dying. In grief comes anger, and I know she would understand it, but in anger comes bitterness, and it took me a little bit of time to untangle the pain from the anger and really heal. Not Pollyanna heal like I mentioned above.
Then I would quietly and without fanfare just let her know that I knew what she went thru in her short marriage to my dad, and how sorry I was that she ever had to experience that side of life. I didn’t discover a lot of these things until after she died, and it placed so many things into perspective about who she was. I mean So. Many. Things. I grieved for the life she lived when I found out those circumstances, almost as much as I grieved for the life she no longer had. I would want her to know how goddamn much I appreciated her protecting her children, and not having them grow up with a stigma of bad parentage.
I have a thousand questions, and in thinking about the reality of this fantasy I wonder, would I want that time spent on me asking her them? Are those answers so important that I would give up moments of a perfect fantasy to have them answered?
Sometimes when I drive home from work and my mind starts to wander, I wonder what info I wish I really could glean from her. A lot of times the child in me comes out, and I want to ask, just like my little one still does with me, “What does it mean when I (fill in the health issue) …?” I want to know, had she already gone thru menopause by the time she died? Did she have any health issues, other than what knew? What should I do about this or that?
Basically, I want my Mother.
But you know, it’s been 17 Mother’s Days without her, and I don’t think having those answers would change anything. I think using up the time with unimportant trivial bullshit like this would be a waste. It’s like having one free wish on a hot day and wasting it on wishing for an icey cold Otter Pop. Wish for more wishes, damnit! You always wish for more wishes!!
So no, I wouldn’t ask her the Mother questions. The answers that I won’t have about my own health now that I am nearing the age she was when she died? I can enter into that darkness and just sort of see what happens.
Instead I’d ask for stories.
She was a pretty private person, and I now understand why in some areas. But unlike me almost forcibly verbally vomiting stories to my own girls – a bit in excess for probably these exact reasons – I didn’t really know much about who she was BM – Before Motherhood. When she died, that killed me the most. Not knowing who she really was.
I’d pull out that old photo album that I found after she died. The one I never even knew existed until she died. Pictures of her in high school, at parties and weddings looking like someone I never knew. It was someone I never knew. She wasn’t someone’s daughter in these pictures – that person I knew from my grandparents. She wasn’t someone’s mother. That person I knew too. This was a young woman, on the precipice of life, laughing and dancing and crushing on boys. I’d ask her to tell me about that person. Naked questions that she never would have dreamed of telling me in life, I’d hope she could tell me now. I’d ask her scandalous questions. I’d ask her silly ones too.
I’d ask her about her fears as she aged, and as her children aged. Did she worry as much as I do? I’d ask her about compromising her love life, (as it seemed to me) and if she would trade that if she could do it all over again.
I think when I had these stories, these details, it would fill in a lot of the important questions that have been left smoldering for the past 17 years.
I know the day would be filled with a lot of laughter, because my mom and I could really get each other going. I would secretly record her laughing so I could listen to it later. Sometimes it’s hard to remember, until out of the clear blue it comes out my mouth, completely unexpected.
Before I said good bye, because I know how rough that would be, I would ask her to help me figure out to bring my brother some peace. Her sudden death and their being on the outs when it happened, really messed him up. I’m not certain what she could do, but because this is my fantasy I’m going to say I know she could do something to make it right.
The good bye, I can’t even really write about, because honestly even imagining it in writing will rip me up emotionally. It would be rough – as rough as losing her the first time? I’m not sure. I think in some ways, yes. But worth it.
I am not a fan of the analogy “Hug your (fill in the family member of your choice) a little tighter tonite.” It’s a bit contrite for my taste. But seriously, if you are fortunate enough to have your mother around for Mother’s Day, maybe give her an extra squeeze – from me. She’ll never know I was in on your moment.