It has become harder to write about my mom each Mother’s Day, when she is no longer here and there is nothing new to say. “Just start making stuff up,” Editor/Husband suggested. “Tell them about the time she taught you to throw the knuckleball.” That is the only baseball you will read about here today. The rest of this is true.
I am all that is left of my mother.
I was the only one. The one-and-only child, who was, if I’m being honest, something of an accident … coming late to a father who didn’t think children fit with his plans and a mother who was, I guess, good whichever way maternity went.
To my credit, I seem to have ingratiated myself into their lives, so I rarely felt like an afterthought.
My mom’s been gone 14 years now. Saying “been gone” makes it easier, doesn’t it? To say she’s been dead 14 years seems so cold. So final. She’s been gone – just out to do some shopping or spending time in her garden. It’s so much easier that way.
But, as the years go by, I find that my memories of her have become blurry, as most memories do with time. I remember fewer events that we shared. Instead, I simply feel her. The presence of her inside me.
If it’s late in the day and I’m feeling especially weary, I will look in the mirror and see her looking back at me. She carried a lot of hurt and pain. She earned her weariness. She looks back at me from the mirror when I’m weary from much more mundane things.
She would worry, I think, that I look tired and that I haven’t bothered to put on makeup for most of the past year. “A little makeup,” she would say, “would brighten you up and hide those dark circles.”
I inherited some of her good traits – but not her best ones. And, I inherited some of her bad traits – but not her worst ones.
I am an amalgam of not-the-best and not-the-worst of my mother.
I’m all that’s left of her.
Can I tell you about her?
She loved horses and dogs and me, generally in that order.
She loved to cook, preparing way too much food at every meal, all of it very good, without being pretentious.
When I became a vegetarian, she got upset – it was an insult to the meat-and-potatoes meals that were her signature. She worried that not eating meat would make me sick and weaken my bones. (She was fixated on my bones and worried about them a lot.)
But, then she rolled with it, trying out different things and learned to make a vegetarian lasagna which wasn’t fancy, but was awfully good.
When I would come home to visit, she made all my favorite things, in quantities far greater than I could ever consume. There is only so much rhubarb pie one can eat in a weeklong visit. I did my best.
She cooked by instinct with an occasional recipe thrown in for direction or inspiration. I’m sort of the same.
She read voraciously. She read so much and so quickly that the librarian would take books by the handful – fresh from the publishers – and set them aside for her before even putting them on a shelf. He came to her funeral.
She read, while neighbors and friends lunched, went to movies, and threw parties. My mom lost much – but not all – of her hearing when she was young. It made socializing hard. It runs in the family and her mother – my grandmother – was profoundly deaf. My mother wasn’t deaf, but her hearing loss was severe. The hearing aids of long ago were clunky and obvious. My mother was neither clunky nor obvious and she refused to wear one. Not hearing conversations made lunches, parties, movies, and friendships a challenge.
I used her hearing loss to my advantage when I was young. I talked back, “smart mouthed,” and, when annoyed, said rude things just-quiet-enough that I’m not proud of today.
Around the time I was in high school, my mother – who kept many secrets – invested in sleek, discreet, and extremely sensitive hearing aids. She didn’t tell me.
… Until I muttered something a little too loudly at the dinner table one night and she caught nearly every word.
She was a sneaky one, my mom.
Like her, I read voraciously and don’t socialize much.
But, my hearing is fine. Although every morning I wake up anxious and worried that I’ve lost a little bit from the day before.
I worry about many things that will wake me in the night. Losing my hearing is just one. Sometimes I feel that I worry about everything. It is then that I realize I have become my mother.
She worried constantly. About all kinds of things. She worried about the weather, the news, the neighbors, her pets. If a celebrity looked unwell in an interview, she worried about them.
If she were here, she would certainly be worrying about where that Chinese rocket will crash this weekend.
Mostly, though, she worried about me. About my health. About my nutrition. About the safety records of cars I drove and where I was driving and how late I would be out. About why I wasn’t home when she called. (“Mom, I have a job. I was at work.”) She worried that my simple head cold was a symptom of something terminal. And, she worried that I worried too much.
Checking to make sure my bones were ok.
She worried that I might fall down a flight of stairs some day. And, she recommended that I always carry a cell phone with me, just in case.
(I fell down my first flight of stairs seven years after she died. I did not have my cell phone with me. But, nothing was broken, although it did take more than a year for my back to heal.)
I worry, too. Much more, I think, than the world calls for.
To be honest, I’m a little worried about that Chinese rocket.
I can’t imagine how my mom would have made it through this pandemic, although I’m certain she would have had no problem with mask mandates, social distancing, and vaccinations. She would have worried about neighbors and family members who did not take it as seriously as she did.
She would have worried about me. And, I would have worried about her.
Even though she is gone, we are forever bonded by blood, DNA, and, most of all, worry.
She would worry now that I’ve told too much here. About her. About us.
I worry that I haven’t told enough.
Oh, Jackie, so much of this is my mom and me, especially about worrying and her loss of most of her hearing by the age of 40! However, my mom tried for four years before I arrived, to both parents great joy, and eventually there were three girls. I lost Mom, my best friend, in 2009, while I was working at Montpelier. Not having children, I am sure I don’t totally understand her worry for me, but I lie awake at worrying about the Chinese rocket, racism and GOP evil stupidity and obstruction, Covid, climate threats,…. So, this blog hit home, reflecting good and bad.
Wishing you less worry, and many more books. My motto: Sleep is good, but books are better!
Love to you and Randy from
Lynne and Lady Jane Grey
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities” Voltaire
“More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate.” Roy T. Bennett
I think I’ve discovered that worry is inherited by every daughter. (I hope all is well in your world … I’m more than halfway through my “Goodreads” book challenge of the year. Although now, with baseball season, my nightly reading has been slowed by the Orioles.)
I like your Mom. Mine was a jerk (there’s a reason I was raised by my Grandparents) but yours sounds terrific. And she did a terrific job raising a daughter. Good for her (and for you).
Thank you, v.
This is lovely, Jackie. I, too, am all that is left of my Mother. This is my first Mother’s Day without her. It will be difficult, but today is my husband’s birthday so we will celebrate. She worried about everything. And, so do I. Well, almost everything. In her last few years with Alzheimer’s she didn’t worry about anything. Wishing all of us less worry.
I don’t know if the loss of one’s mom gets “easier” with time. But it does get “different.” I think I worried when she died that I would eventually lose her entirely. But, moms never disappear … it just gets different. I guess that’s just one of a mom’s “super powers.” :)
Jackie this was wonderful. I too am a worry wart and the stress of tge last year has taken its toll on my own health, something I am working on to fix. I lost my mom in June last year, my best friend at the hands of her husband, my dog Riley in July and my dog Emma this year in March. I worry a lot. I loved the story of your relationship with your mom. Mom and daughter relationships are very complicated. I was able to physically care for my mom in her last year and her wish was to pass at home and we were able to grant that wish to her. I know you are a fur Mom, so I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s day. Sandi StewartPS say hi to Randy from meSent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone
Oh, Sandi … you have been through so much. And, I think that this past year — of isolation and separation — has made things even harder.
Complicated is the perfect description of my relationship with my mom. The hard parts have softened in the years since she’s been gone, though. I think that’s a healing thing.
Thank you for stopping and leaving a comment. Take good care of yourself … and Randy says “hi” back to you. :)
I can appreciate the good and bad that comes with our relationships with our moms. Mine is here – I am lucky to spend this weekend with her – but we live far apart otherwise. My mom gave me my competitiveness, which is something that sometimes gets in the way of life with her… ;^) It’s cool that you can still feel her presence, though. That proves she’s not totally gone, right?
That’s the same message I give to my friends and clients who lose their mothers. I’m convinced that some of our grief is a fear that we will lose them forever … my message is that they never really leave. The relationship just changes. Happy Mother’s Day to your mom! :)
It will soon be 33 years since my mom has been gone. Though she always worried about the health and happiness of her children and grandchildren, she was not a worrier. She was realistic about the challenges of life and love, especially those that would face her daughters as they went off into their own lives. I remember other moms in our neighborhood coming to.her with questions about how to care for their sick children or how to repair a piece of clothing. Us kids would sometimes refer to her as Doc Adams.
She has been appearing in my dreams more often of late, not in person but as a voice from the next room offering some pithy comment or bit of advice. She loved puzzles of all kinds and was a great card player. She made most of the clothes she and her children wore, including the wedding dresses of her daughters. Mom and dad were partners in life.
He missed her until the day he died.. I miss her to this day. Thank you, Jackie, for sharing your memories.
Gloria … Thank you for sharing such a sweet memory of your mother. I miss seeing you and hope we can catch up again soon! :)
Pingback: The week gone by — May 9 – A Silly Place
I couldn’t write after I read this first thing this morning. What an eloquent, moving post in honor of your mother. I am far luckier than you in that I have brothers who share scant memories of a woman who passed too young..as well as memories from the resultant hardships. There is a balm in these shared memories, justification that, yes, that happened.
Mother’s Day has been hard since we unexpectedly lost my husband’s mother in 1984 and worsened when I lost the step-mother I liked almost ten years ago. Since my Aunt who raised me, and in the space of 10 short years gifted me with a moral center, has passed (3 years) I have had a miserable time of this holiday. I never realized how much thought, love and appreciation went into preparing for Mother’s Day until I lost all focus of the day.
I’d like to share your post. Why? Crying is cathartic. Acknowledge it, get it out of my system and then go sailing..that’s my plan.
Thank you for your kind words … and for sharing a little bit about your mother and those who are the other “moms” in our world.
And, thank you for sharing my post. I realized after I wrote it that “worry” is a universal gift from many moms, and I’ve been so touched by those who have shared a little bit of their “mom” memories with me.
Beautiful tribute Jackie. I guess when parenting, when mother is good and great, there are never enough wonderful things to say, never enough praise and gratitude and appreciation. I wonder sometimes if it’s inevitable, if we do become our parents or parts of them…some cynics might call this brainwashing or cloning. I call it fortunate. I’m like you in that I cherish my mother, not only her devotion in raising me up, but the way she is as a person. Time to go. Time to call my mom and wish her a happy day. Thanks for making this special day even specialer.
Thank you Steve … and Happy Mothers Day to your mom. I think this gets us deep into the “nature” or “nurture” conversation — and I suppose we get some of both from our parents, don’t we?
Thank you, Jackie. Your tribute is eloquent, beautiful and a window into how you became who you are. Mothers never leave us, and if we are lucky we go through life wrapped in a cloak of their love and worry. Miss you, wish you were closer. Love, Debi
Thank you, Debi … and Happy Mother’s Day to you! I hope all is well!
Jackie, thank you for your post. It was beautiful and it made me wonder what parts of me my daughters will keep with them after I’m gone. “Not my best and not my worst,” Sounds like a good combination to aspire to.
I lost track of my website in May and just saw your comment from many, many days ago. Thank you for your kind words!
Absolutely beautiful piece. I so look forward to these showing up in my inbox. Hope you have a great day, because you’ve brightened mine.
I ran into so much “other stuff” in May that I lost track of my baseball writing and am just now trying to catch up. Thank you for your kind words about my post about my mom from many, many days ago. And, how about those Wahoos!? Their win over Notre Dame on Friday was a sheer joy! :)