On May 8, 1981, the Friday before Mother’s Day, my mom lost her battle with cancer. Today is the 40th anniversary of that date, and so it seems important to mark it somehow, to give the day time and attention and thought. I was a wee pre-schooler when she left, only 4 years old, and barely able to understand death, let alone the death of a parent. As I grew, naturally I missed her presence at the sentinel events – my graduation, my wedding, the birth of my children – but now, in my middle years, I think I’m beginning to miss her in a different way.
I never felt motherless. I was nurtured and cared for by my grandmothers (and I’m sure other caring friends) while my father was single, and once he remarried I was nurtured and cared for by my second mother. It never seemed right to call her my step-mother, and “new-mom” meant by default that my birth mom was “old-mom”, which didn’t exactly fit either – she would be eternally 29 years old. And so it’s always just been “Mom”, and I think she’d be ok with that.
There are some questions I will never be able to ask. Like when did your hair turn grey? Did you have hot flashes? Would you have lost your cool when helping me with homework? What was your favourite flower? Did you prefer baking or cooking? Would you have kept your feelings inside or been an open book? Some of these I think I know, but then I think about how I have changed in the past 15 years and I wonder how you might have changed. Would you have stayed home or worked outside? What hobbies would you have picked up? What would have made you angry? What would have brought you joy?
It’s fitting somehow that she left in May. Forever the first Spring flowers remind me of her – the little blue forget-me-not types that also live on her Royal Albert china. Maybe if she had left in November, or July, there would be years when the anniversary would slip past unnoticed, lost in warm summer days or the bleakness of late autumn. But leaving in May was a gift – an impetus to remember at the time when mothers are celebrated everywhere.
It seems this is somewhat of a hodge-podge of thoughts. But I think the bottom line is I’m sometimes sad that I didn’t get to know my mom as a friend – and I feel at times the absence of the wisdom she would have shared and the connection we might have had.