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.