Monday, June 05, 2006
Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 64 today. She died a year and-a-half ago in December 2004. It is very difficult for me to define our relationship. Which may be why it has been a strange journey for me since she has passed away.
Our relationship was not a close one. Let me try to explain. I loved her and I know she loved me in the best way that she was capable. I believe that she was a good person. She was a wonderful cook. She sewed beautiful dresses and clothing for me when I was a child. She was my Blue Bird / Camp Fire Girl Troop Leader. My friends adored her. She attended all my sporting events and extra curricular activities. She was always there and my brother and I never went without. She wanted the best for me and she wanted me to be the best. But? She also had her demons. She was an alcoholic. She was one of those functioning alcoholics that never drank during the day, but once it hit 5:00, the wine started pouring. I remember she would get antsy if we were out and wouldn't be home by 5. She also could be very critical of me. I was a reflection of her in her world. If I disappointed her, it made her look bad. In my tween years I began to overeat. A lot. I gained a lot of weight. My weight became a battle between she and I that has left me scarred to this day. As I grew up, became an adult and took ownership of my body, decisions and choices one of them was to distance myself from her. I attended Al-Anon and made a somewhat successful journey to physical and mental health. We still talked and visited, but I chose to keep things on a very superficial level. She never stopped drinking until she became ill.
My saving grace, or what finally brought a peace between us was when I made her a grandmother. The mutual love we had for my children gave us some neutral ground. I can't lie and say it brought us closer together or made our relationship stronger, but it did give us something in common.
It was Mother's Day two years ago when she first told me she was sick. At that time she didn't know what it was. She had back problems and her doctor told her it was arthritus (sp?). But, she said, she hadn't been herself since February, had lost her appetite and had lost a lot of weight. She also had not felt like drinking. The fact that she had stopped drinking was bittersweet. I knew something was terribly wrong. But, quick to be in denial, I let her assure me that everything was fine, that her doctor was running some tests and she was starting to feel better. Her and Dad had moved to Arizona some years earlier so I had to take her at her word that she was seeking help. We had plans to see her later that summer. My cousin was getting married in Portland and a big family wedding was planned for July.
When I first saw her that summer I was in complete shock. She had lost so much weight (she was not a large woman to begin with) and where there once was animation in her presence was now replaced with an almost sad-like quality. I just could not believe this was my mother.
Summer turned to fall and before I knew it Thanksgiving was upon us. I spoke to her on Thanksgiving and she sounded very tired. She didn't cook up her traditional feast and I was told she was on the couch most of the holiday weekend. About two weeks after that I got a call that she had been admitted to the hospital. She had passed out after leaving her doctor's appointment. They put her on oxygen and took her to Emergency. This was on a Monday. I called her that night at the hospital and she told me they diagnosed her with double pnemonia. I called the next day and she said they were going to drain fluid from her lung. I called Wednesday and she said she felt better after they drained her lung. When I called Thursday she was too tired to talk to me. By Saturday I was on a plane. I drove the two hours from the Phoenix airport and when I got to the house my dad met me outside. He was in tears. He couldn't talk. He choked out "she's dying. She has cancer. It's in her lungs." By Tuesday she was gone.
I know how everyone deals with death differently and everyone mourns in their own way. For me, the mourning and the missing my mom has come in waves. The first wave was taking care of my kids and seeing to their needs and answering their questions. The second wave was dealing with the holidays. Then? I don't know. I expected this big storm to erupt from within, but in never came. When Mother's Day came around, I thought, well this is it. This is when I will lose it and have a breakdown. Mother's Day came and went and with that was sadness and memories but not the storm I was expecting. Soon after that was her birthday. I, again, thought that would be the day and dreaded the days leading up to it. The day came and went. I mentioned to hubby that it was her birthday and he asked if I was okay, and? I was sad, but more than that I started questioning why I wasn't more... something, anything. I wondered why I was okay. It had been nearly six months since my mother, the woman that gave me life, had passed and why didn't I feel anything? I thought there was something wrong with me. I decided to just let it go. I couldn't force feelings or emotions out that weren't there.
A couple of weeks later on June 30th, my son's 10th birthday, I was driving to work. I still had a lot of last minute details to attend to for his birthday celebration, so I was going over a mental-checklist while I was driving. I remember thinking (among a hundred other things), "okay, I need to make sure we are home before 7:00 so we don't miss mom's phone call to wish Woody a happy birthday..." Almost as quickly as the thought crossed over in my mind I stopped. I felt my heart leap up into my throat and I couldn't breathe.
There would be no phone call. She wasn't calling. There would never be another birthday phone call. I started crying hysterically. I actually had to pull the car over. The storm I had been waiting for finally erupted.
I miss her. I do. Sometimes it hits me harder than others. Sometimes I miss the relationship we should have had, but never did. Mostly, I just miss catching her up on the kids and what has been going on in their lives and their activities. I know, whether real or imagined, I didn't live up to the dreams she had for my life. But, I am satisfied with knowing that I could bring a smile to her face just by sending her a photograph or passing on an antecdote about one of her grandkids.
Happy Birthday Mom.