Until I lost my own mother I at least looked a little bit forward to Mother's Day. I used to imagine that my husband and kids would make it a special day for me. That just for one day I wouldn't be the one taking care of everything and waiting on everyone. When that didn't work out, at least I had my own mother to turn to. At least I had that one person who loved me so unconditionally and understood. Now I don't and I hate it, hate it, hate it.
This year I have been going through some major milestones. I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary and she wasn't here to share it with. I am now in the process of moving and that has been weighing so heavy on my mind. It will be the first place I have ever lived that she will not see. It's my dream house, something I've worked my whole life for and I can't share that with her. I'm mad. I'm angry. I want to scream.
My younger daughter is graduating from college next Sunday (on Mother's Day, ironically) and she is not here to celebrate this most momentous occasion with me. She was a writer, an accomplished one at that. My daughter is receiving her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism - how proud would she have been? As we say in the Jewish faith she would have been "kvelling" beyond "kvelling".
Truth be told when I was growing up, we didn't often see eye to eye. She was a tough cookie, always seemed to be angry about something. In my early twenties I had to move out of the house or we would have killed each other. Even into my own early days as a mother we still did not always get along. My sister and I would call each other with "mom stories" when she would do something that infuriated us.
As the years flew by and boy did they ever, I began to understand her better.
She was an only child born to the sweetest woman that has ever graced this Earth. Her father however was a cold, mean spirited man who after finding letters she had written to her parents (found just a few years ago), discovered he was abusive to her physically. We never had known that before, it explained so much.
She was a brilliant woman. Growing up she was a concert pianist, editor of her school paper, a straight A student. After her first year of college her father insisted she drop out and work in his business. She got married at 21 and had a baby on her first anniversary. In my heart of hearts I know that was not what she had wanted from life. Not the children part but a career when it wasn't socially the norm. She was a trailblazer founding the women's lib movement newspaper "SHE" in the early 1970's. She had a drive and determination that could not be matched.
Yet, she never seemed very happy and that saddened me as we aged. Something seemed to always be at the core of her soul that rendered her bitter and sad.
Over the years she had significant health issues - lost 3/4 of a lung to tuberculosis when I was 8. We have 8mm movies of her smoking in the hospital after giving birth to me. She continued smoking after that and it wasn't until she was admitted to the hospital in 1992 with nearly zero breathing capacity that she quit.
As difficult as she could be to get along with and understand, as the turn of the century was rolling around I started to panic. I remember when I was a little girl I used to count to how old my parents both would be when the 20th century ended. It struck me on New Years Eve 1999 that I could no longer count. I knew that none of us were going to be around for the next turn - my mortality slapped me in the face pretty hard. I remember looking at my mother and thinking "you are the one and only - you are the only mother I will ever have, want to ever have". I promised myself from that moment forward that I would do whatever it took to get along with her; to make sure our remaining years together were happy ones.
She loved to be pampered so I pampered her. She loved to be the center of attention so I made it so for her. I showered her with gifts as that was something she loved. She craved attention so badly (a therapist told me that she felt mom suffered from narcissistic borderline personality disorder) so I gave it to her. And I can honestly say in the last nine years of her life we never got along better.
When I was growing up she always called me her butterfly. I had a hard time sticking with one thing and she said that was why she called me that. I flitted from one thing to another. On her deathbed she managed to mutter to me "You'll always be my butterfly". Was she really leaving me? Wait a minute I thought, we still have so much to do! My kids are going to graduate from college! They will get married and have kids! You have to be there!! What will Dad do? You can't leave!!
Yet, she did. And now Mother's Day has an empty feeling that I can't escape. I wish it would just slip away into oblivion even though I have my own children who will celebrate me. It will never be the same.
I am thankful that those last years we got along so well. I am thankful that I took the time to understand her and love her for who she was and forget any shortcomings I thought she had when I was a child. I envy people that still have their mother's and I want to scream "love her! Tell her everything that is in your heart because tomorrow you may not be able to!
On my first mother's day without her I bought a butterfly feeder for my garden. I have been waiting for three years to see a butterfly land on it. When I move to my new home, I will have that feeder in a place of prominence. When I see my first butterfly, I will know it is her, I will know that she has seen my new home and approves.
I know she will be watching over us next Sunday as my girl graduates. She will be "kvelling" in heaven.
And I will be looking out for a butterfly.