I met Sheila, A.K.A. Mary Tyler Mom, at a bar. Go figure. It was a get together of Chicagonow bloggers. I’m an energy sort of gal, and I knew immediately that she was positive. She was an absolute light in the dark and noisy bar. I was new to the group; meeting her and being introduced to her blog simultaneously. I wanted to impress her, to be less of a potty-mouth. I would attempt to filter myself.
FAIL. OH MY GOD -FAIL! And I’m so glad I failed.
MTM and I grinned at each other and spent a little time talking. We had a lot in common. I instantly fell in girl love with her. IT’s true when they (whoever the fuck ‘they’ are) say that opposites attract. Sheila is innocent, polite, classy and soft spoken. Oh, and beautiful, the kind of old fashioned beauty that reminds you of someone, you might not remember who, but you just know that you loved them. Aaaaaaaand you know what I’m like…..’nuff said. I won’t lie, when she told me about how she lost her daughter, Donna, to cancer, I choked up and threw back an extra vodka soda. I stared at her off and on all night, wondering how she could be such a light. How did she even manage to sit there with us, shootin the breeze? Her brilliant smile, infectious laugh and intelligent contributions to the conversation didn’t betray a shred of pouty sadness. How was she laughing? How did she keep breathing? Living? I wondered if I disgusted her. I’m an unkempt loudmouth who developed a huge blog following based on random bitching about my children; my living and breathing children.
I wanted to explain myself. I wanted to tell her that despite my rants, I am actually a grateful mother. From the moment I knew of my children’s existence in my body, I was overjoyed and devoted myself 24/7, to the care and keeping the lives growing inside of me. I wanted her to know that I don’t take it for granted or have yet to experience a moment of regret. And yet I am still me. I am my own self with needs and wants and feelings that I must be met so that I can care for others. I need to sleep and eat and cry and relax. That I am sometimes sick and cranky and selfish and HUNGRY! That being a parent didn’t change my level of humanity. That I struggled to be the ME that I was before I became the “she” that sometimes forgets her “me-ness,” because I am so busy being a part of WE. But I didn’t. Would she even understand? If I were her, I’d “accidently” trip me and throw a good throat punch in trying to “help” me up off the dirty bar floor.
Soon after our first meeting, I began to stalk; I mean follow, MTM’s blog. I fell deeper in like with her clever wit and unapologetic opinions about the stress of motherhood, work and big mouth celebrities. She didn’t want me to hate her because she had a cleaning lady, and she invited Gwyneth Paltrow to kiss her ass. She expressed appreciation and understanding of her son’s fascination with poop. But what amazed me was that despite the loss of her firstborn to the deadly and diabolical cancer, she was perfectly fine with saying that she often dreaded cooking and cleaning for her family, that business trips were enjoyable and wonderful “breaks” from the overwhelming demands of parenting AND that she wasn’t about to feel guilty for needing and wanting some goddamn time to herself. I wonder if she ever got an earful from judgmental readers with regard to her honest confessions about the stress of parenting. I mean really, a person in her situation complaining about parenting? Yep, because she’s a mom.
My seemingly ungrateful bitching had been met with disdain by hundreds of women (and men) who made it a point to let me know just how they felt about my ranting and writings. I’ll spare you the details, but know that my skin has grown into a reptilian thickness since the start of my blogging career. Among all people who should want to shank me with a shiv, and feel bitterness toward me for my terrible-ness, I could and would understand if MTM led the lynch mob against me. But we were becoming each other’s biggest fans.
MTM was reminded of Donna through my writings about my own daughter. My Cate is so much like her Donna. Both of them true no-nonsense gals, full of honesty, strong opinions, and detailed observations with specific and inflexible interests and demands. But my daughter is alive. MTM never once made me feel a shred of guilt about this difference in our lives as mothers. She chooses to focus on our similarities.
We are coming close now to the end of MTM’s series about her family’s journey through cancer with Donna. As the last installments of the series meant to raise awareness about childhood cancers roll out, you have all expressed your grief because you will miss Donna. You have fallen in love with her. Know that it’s not the end of Donna. Donna is alive. She brought us together not just through the telling of her story, but with the life she continues to live in the hearts and minds of her family, and now in yours. You can miss her and continue to keep her alive remembering her when MTM starts writing about her reluctance to cook and her annoyance with celebrity narcissism. And that is what MTM wanted. She wanted you to know that her daughter lived.
MTM doesn’t want to be known as a martyr or a saint. She wants you to know that she is a regular human being and that she is a mother. She is Jay’s mother and she was Donna’s mother. She will continue to be Donna’s mother and so a photograph, song, retelling of a story, giggling remembrance and ongoing celebration of her life by doing GOOD THINGS in her name is always a welcome part of her day. It’s O.K. if you need to think of Donna as an angel, as long as you NEVER forget that she was here.
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