Seventeen years ago this October 31st, and Mother’s Day blows in like a gentle breeze, kisses my cheek, and I smile and am thankful I had her as my mom.
The other day at work I overheard some co-workers asking each other what are you doing for your mom this year? I got teary, turned away, thinking I wanted to tell them how lucky they are, but it’s so maudlin. Hoping they didn’t ask me, too, but I had a ready answer if they did. Like every year I plan to buy a plant, as she was an avid gardener too. I used to buy a red Geranium, but they don’t really like it here – too shady.
I wonder what she would have thought of my life now, of where I am, who I am, what I’ve done. I think about how she would have aged, how she would have looked in her 70’s, as she died when she was 54.
I miss talking to her, going to her for advice, or getting it unsolicited. I remember once walking in the back door, her taking a look at my long hair rolled up in a bun on my head, no makeup on, and her quipping you look like a Mennonite, why do you insist on that awful long hair, it does nothing for you.
She was always well dressed, make-up on, hair coiffed, never went out of the house without looking her best.
Me? Meh. Really never as important to me as it was to her.
I know all that about how people see you, and their opinions, but at 50 something I actually can’t be bothered to care as much as I once did. I’m not looking for anyone’s opinion and I work in an environment where it really isn’t as important as it would be if I was more customer facing, or in some sort of office. Currently. Nor am I looking for a mate. I’m happy in my own skin, finally, and loath to get back on that hamster wheel of dye jobs and hairdressers and all that expensive clap-trap.
Call me a hippy. Or a Bohemian, perhaps, which is to say I like dirt of the earth under my nails, and myself free of the mundane. I would rather spend that time on my bike, reading a book, on a history doc, hiking in the woods, or along the river, or just sit in my garden watching the world go by.
Probably even more so now that she is gone. Life is so short. So many things to see, to feel, to do, to know. Not near enough time to waste paying someone for something I’m capable of doing myself, if and when I choose to.
If there is one thing I did promise myself after she died, it is that I would not romanticize her, wouldn’t misremember her, wouldn’t whitewash her. I believe to do so would lessen her, as she was as much who she was for her faults, as she was for her goodness, her beauty, her love, and her deep compassion.
She was always that go to mom for my sisters friends, and I think it was for just that, she was real, and honest, and just as flawed as they, and she gave wise counsel, and never made you feel as though you were less for your real-life problems. We all make mistakes, trip, fall, turn a blind eye, or dive into a depression due to the death of your mom, like she did. Maybe drinking a bit too much every night after work, probably.
Saying she was an alcoholic always seemed sort of harsh, but I we could never deny it was so. None of us. We knew she partook in the wine and beer too much. No bottle of vodkas hidden around the house, but we became a family of drinkers, but she was not always that way, but became so over time, I suppose.
It actually I guess hit us like a brick when her Doctor in those last weeks of her life (she died of cancer) turned to us and asked, out of the blue, was your Mother an alcoholic? And I think we all kind of froze right there in her private room across from the nurses’ station.
We all looked at each other, Dad, my younger sister and I, and I said yes. I think she was.
I think it was the first time any of us had really been honest about it. Strange, eh? Your mom’s dying and you finally admit she was maybe, um, an alcoholic. It does not come tripping off the tongue easily, you know.
It was easy to talk of her father as one. Joke of his stir stick collection she brought down for us to see one time, from all the best hotels in Ingersol and London, she explained, with a glint of a smile in her eyes.
I know the truth of it, though. Know she had to come home after school and start dinner, as Grandma worked full-time, and Grandpa was no help, certainly not in that era. Mom took up more than her fair share, though I always kind of wondered why. Did Grandpa take off work a lot? I never really thought about it, to be honest, as Grandma was a stenographer for some doctor and Grandpa worked as a secretary for some office downtown, wore a suit to work and everything.
Suppose, maybe, he just drank the money away.
Strange writing about this, you know. Very strange. It almost feels kind of disrespectful to her memory, but truth is truth, and I can’t help but think she would understand, maybe even encourage. She was always one for the truth, for being honest, coming clean, and all that.
Still, though, one never wants to admit to the flaws of ones loved ones, as we often strive to deny our own.
Mom was never an angry drunk, and nor was her father. Maudlin, perhaps, bit stumbly with the words, repeating the same thing over and over, sometimes. To be honest she could generally handle a great deal of booze, and wake up before everyone else and have breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast on the table by the time we all arose on those Saturday mornings after the Friday night before when my ex-husband and I would visit. Always shocked the heck out of him, and often he’d turn to me and say your family is nuts, you know that don’t you?
Yep. Well aware, dear, well aware. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
Though, still, a recognition of the dark and looming world of booze is a good lesson to remember. How those dark days after of a night of libation can drag your emotions even farther into that pit of despair, as alcohol is a depressant. Do that often enough and it becomes difficult to discern the truth of the world, see its brighter colours, hear the softer sounds of life, and the darkness becomes the friend who’s always there for you, but only when you are drunk.
I saw how much she missed her mom. How painful her grief was. How she seemed to so long live within that grief, and eventually, it consumed her. I learned from that though. Certainly, I’ve had my moments, well, ok, years, but those are well past and today I am very careful, and while not a teetotaler I do not partake like I once did, and have far less interest in its effects as I once did, preferring to wake up early in the morning, enjoy a pot of strong coffee, walk the dog, enjoy the day, ride my bike, read a book in my garden, and all the things that are absolutely no fun at all with a hangover.
Well, plus, I know my liver will thank me for my abstinence.
The strange thing is, you know, almost all my friends today have lost their mom. I suppose though I am at an age where that is more often the case.
So, how will I spend Mother’s Day this year? Well, other than working to early afternoon, I’m not real sure. It’s in the air, really. I will maybe venture down to Tuckey’s Hardware, peruse the garden centre, see what they have. Might even buy a Red Geranium, sunshine or no.
But I do know I will miss her just the same as I do every day.
Love you Mom, and thank you, for everything. Your honesty, your flaws, your wisdom, your truths, your pain, your heartache, your beauty, and everything that made you YOU. And thank god for you being my Mom.