This post over at (in)Courage made me really start thinking about my Mom.
Mother’s Day always brings up tough feelings in me. While everyone else is putting ribbons on balloons, choosing flower arrangements, or making dinner reservations, I sit home with my memories. True, I am a mother, and my kids usually do the Mother’s Day “thing” for me, but while I love them and love that they care, I miss my own Mom a whole lot more. Mother’s Day isn’t a real “happy” day for me. I know that it should be, but it isn’t.
My Mom died when she was just 45 years old. She had battled breast cancer at 35 and won. At the time, they told her she “couldn’t have breast cancer… you’re too young.” She did, but she survived. She had a mastectomy and no follow-up treatment whatsoever. (Thankfully they have learned a lot about breast cancer since 1984).
Mom taught me so many things. She taught me how not to take “NO” for an answer. She taught me that grief is sometimes felt so overwhelming that we can’t think or be anything but grieving. Watching her live through the death of my sister was both heartbreaking and amazing, because when she moved past immobility, she caught the fire of purpose, and took on Sheriffs, District Attorneys, Attorneys General, and other governmental officials and policies without batting an eye.
She boldly wrote letters to the editors of I don’t even know HOW MANY newspapers in Washington and California. She even wrote two letters to President Reagan. The first was answered by the Secretary of State, and in the second reply, Ronald Reagan himself told my mother that he and Nancy were praying for our family. My Mom had chutzpah.
Ten years after she beat breast cancer, she had a sore in her mouth, so she went to an oral surgeon, who did the biopsy and made the diagnosis: Squamous Cell Carcinoma this time, and it was in her jaw and mouth. Too many years of too many cigarettes, but again she was told she didn’t “fit” the typical case scenario for this type of cancer. “It’s the kind you hear about men who use chewing tobacco all the time getting,” she told me.
She didn’t use chewing tobacco, and she certainly wasn’t a man, but she did succumb to the cancer all the same. It was the hardest year of my life. She was so sick, went through several surgeries, lived with an NG tube because the radiation treatment burned her throat so badly she couldn’t swallow correctly. She fought the best she could and showed me again that she was strong. Her spirit was stronger than anyone I’ve ever known.
Mom was creative. All the way back as far as I can remember, she did crafts with us. She knitted, crocheted, and sewed. We did paper crafts, created photo albums, planted gardens, picked flowers, all the while she hummed or sang. I miss that so much. I have my Mom and Dad’s answering machine tape from their last answering machine. It’s her voice on the tape, telling someone to leave a message after the beep. I have the tape put away now but I used to listen to it over and over. We never got her on video; all I have is the tape.
Mom loved us. She always made time for Cindy and I. Crafts, walks, playing games of all sorts. There were always games handy: playing cards, Scrabble, Boggle, Yahtzee, a set of dice, and a Backgammon board. These were the things we used on an almost daily basis.I remember playing Rummy until 3am with her when I was around 11 or 12, then going out for breakfast. We snuck back in and went to bed around 4:30 in the morning the first time we ever did it.
Mom was given enough time to raise me before God called her home. I know that now. She got breast cancer only about six months after Cindy died. If we’d lost her too I think my Dad and I would have just disappeared into thin air. As fragile as we all were, she kept us together during those years. My teen years were turbulent at best. My early marriage was volcanic, and it wasn’t until I was out with my daughter, safe, and stable that she was taken from us.
He knew that I wouldn’t have survived my teen years without her. He knew that my Dad would have completely fallen to pieces. He knew that I wouldn’t have made it through a premature birth, a divorce, and living on my own without help. He knew. She taught me what it meant to be a mother, a wife, a friend, and a survivor. God gave her just enough time to teach me those things.
Still I’d give anything to just have one more night of Rummy with her, and breakfast at Denny’s. 16 Years later, I still miss my Mom.