I have a feeling this is going to be one of those posts that makes people angry with me. But, it’s been in my head for a long time.
My mom passed away almost two years ago – May 21, 2009. She was 59. (Aside: Her mom died on May 28, 1980, when she was 58. I’m really not looking forward to May 2035.)
When I was in college, I remember being home, probably for Christmas break. I was in the kitchen, and my mom was in her usual spot at the dining room table. Out of the blue, she asked me if I thought she was a good mother. I think I asked her if she really wanted to hear the answer. You see, I’m a terrible liar, especially when put on the spot. Anyway, she did, so I said, “no.”
There are things mothers are supposed to do, and, perhaps more importantly, there are things mothers are not supposed to do. Two of the milder examples of the latter would be paying me to do my sister’s homework and constantly comparing the two of us, though we’re very different.
I know my mom did her best. I know she tried very hard. I know she loved us very much. I know that her life was not at all what she expected. Her mom was an alcoholic and abusive*, so she didn’t really have a good foundation. (Though I do believe there comes a point when you have to stop blaming your mother for everything. But that’s another post.)
When she died, I sang at her funeral. Mom loved Barbra Streisand. The only Streisand songs I knew at the time were “Memory” and “People”. “Memory” didn’t seem appropriate. I hate “People”. A friend suggested “The Way We Were”. I told my Aunt Sue (mom’s youngest sister), who immediately pulled up the lyrics on her computer while we were talking on the phone. The first verses sounded pretty good, but it was the bridge and last verse that sold me. I knew the song was perfect:
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time rewritten every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me,
Would we? Could we?
May be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply to choose to forget.
So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were…
This is so true. During high school and college, I tended to be very angry with my mother, for all of the things she wasn’t. I loved her, but I didn’t like her. After I graduated and moved across the country, and got married… the anger started to fade. By the time I moved back here, I had started to like my mom again. I’m far more likely to remember how she cared for me when I was sick. How she let me stay home from school an extra sick day so I could see the end of the Love Boat Egypt episode re-run. How she basically trusted me to do the right thing. How, even if it may have been the wrong time or for the wrong reasons, she always let me be independent.
Most importantly, I think about how hard she worked. At times while we were growing up, she had three jobs. She worked in “Health Information Management” – medical records – at a hospital for 35 years. For most of our lives, she came from work to pick us up from school and was with us in the afternoon. When we got older, she was home at 4:30. My sister started a paper route, and Mom started the route the next block over. After my sister was no longer interested, she took both routes, and then became the person who drives the papers to all the carriers in the area. She was awake at 4 in the morning. She crushed cans and turned in recyclables. But she still found time to volunteer at our schools. She was on my Grad Nite committee, as fundraising chair, I think. She was so proud of what they were able to accomplish – and it was pretty cool! The bathrooms were pleasantly unrecognizable. (That was her favorite part, seriously!)
So yes, it’s the laughter I’ll remember.
I really do love you Mom. And I miss you every day. I thought it would get easier. It doesn’t.
Happy Mothers’ Day.
* This would be my grandfather’s first wife, who died in 1980. My grandfather’s second wife, whom I call Grandma and Jack calls Great-Grandma, is wonderful. As far as I know, the only thing she’s ever beaten is a golf ball (and I’m sure it deserved it).