Five years ago, on May 12, it was also Mother’s Day. It had been a lovely day with my kids, and I had spoken that afternoon with my 80-something mom, who was on what she was determined would be a temporary stay at a nursing home. Her voice had been so raspy that it was difficult to understand her. We had talked about the upcoming commencement when I would celebrate the completion of my master’s degree. She had spoken of sharing with the nurses the photo I had sent of my then four-year-old son.
That night, I was awakened by a phone call telling me that she had passed away.
Obviously, Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me. It’s also complicated.
Thanks to my mom for all of the important things that she taught me to do and be. Mom shared with me her passion and respect for the natural world. I love the plants in my gardens like my offspring, I feed birds, and I refuse to use pesticides. I am a rabid recycler. I apologize, however, for not saving every piece of used aluminum foil.
At least as importantly, I give my thanks for the lessons in how not to be. Overcooked macaroni, asparagus, and most everything else led me to a determination to teach myself to cook! Mom burned the bottoms out of enough pans to fill the quota for the both of us. However, Mom could turn out a mean apple pie (and raspberry, and blueberry), and so she gets credit for the fact that I can make pie crust from scratch.
I also learned from my mom how important it would be to take responsibility and apologize to my children when I screwed up—not because she modeled this, or told me to, but because she didn’t. I cannot remember my mother ever saying to me that she had been wrong about something. What pressure to put on oneself. This sort of coping strategy was typical of how my mother masked her considerable fear. I resented it when I was younger, gained compassion later as I worked to be mindful of my own fearful behaviors, and slowly learned to make different choices than she had. Sadly, the fear that my mother clung to also acted as a cloud, a protective barrier, through which I could never clearly see. Some healing, I have discovered, has to be done after someone has gone.
Mother’s Day, then, is messy. But it is full of love, and I will cut lilacs and bring them in (I picked Mom a bouquet on every Mother’s Day that I spent with her. She preferred these treasures from our yard above the more perfect, less heartfelt arrangements that florists charged an arm and a leg for). Thanks to my mom, for all of it.
image source: elizabethpatch.com