The greatest gift my mother ever gave me was to comfort me while I openly grieved her death. As I write this, it sounds so horribly morbid. You must understand this is what a young girl does after her family unit has been turned upside down. My father dying was tragic, but my brothers’ moving out to start new lives was equally horrible.
Almost every night from the ages of four to ten, I sat awake in the darkness of the night and sobbed at the thought my mother would also die. If she did I would have been left with a grandmother, who I loved before she moved into my space, but my grandmother did not provide for me all of the things I imagined that she would.
In the depths of my terror my mother would sit beside me night after night comforting me in a very specific way. She would tell me things like “you choose your emotions” or “don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow.” As a 37 year old daughter, it is no wonder that she lives behind me in her own home. We are less than half of a football field away. We text during the day, email, and share all the family news that can be had.
My grieving process lessened enough for me to go to college and live in Italy for a while, but there are still days where I am overcome with emotion that is almost inexplicable.
As a former teacher, who is still working at the age of 73, she has impacted numerous lives. Her stories of students from days gone by contacting her are a loving joke. “Who reached out today, Mom?” She tells of how she influenced students, counseled them. On the few occasions that I have met her former students, they all tell me how lucky I am that she is my mom. This helps little when I try to illicit her specific and explicit words for what her daughter’s next step should be.
My most favorite student of hers was my oldest brother. Big Nate was a senior in high school when she was pregnant with me. I cannot even imagine what he felt like as she tried to instill the greatness of Chaucer and Shakespeare into him as her belly protruded to a size that seems inhumane. I weighed over 10 pounds at birth and was 2 feet in length. My dad exclaimed that he had never caught a fish as big as I.
She has rarely judged my life or even inserted her opinion as to what my next step should be. Her lack of interference is my greatest point of contention and sheer admiration for how she has conducted herself in my life. She knew that in order to become part of my sacred “top 5” she wouldn’t be able to comply with my incessant requests for advice. She is wise.
She has been one of the few witnesses to my crazy, haphazard, and down-right trashy life that I have lived in recent years. Ever the steady rock, ever the listener, ever the confidant, she is my greatest ally. She often says that she is thankful that she can call all of her children her best friends. There is no one on planet earth that she would rather spend her time with; after all, my legendary father is no longer of this earth. If he were, I could bet the competition would be fierce. Is it possible that she did not have room for both of us in her life? I will never know, but I would like to think that after his death I eased her pain.
She still wears her wedding ring. He died 35 years ago. He was her one and only. I still need to let that sink in; I imagine you need to do the same. 35 years and still wearing her wedding ring!
Perhaps I will never understand how truly lucky I am to have her as a mother. I will not see her long hours of blood, sweat, and tears with the same admiration as those from the outside. I may not understand or appreciate being left as a young child so that she could finish her doctoral degree. (She wrote her entire dissertation on a typewriter.) I can appreciate that she put all of her children through college because she did not want a hand out from the government.
And yes, I have grieved her death while she was available to comfort me. My family is very familiar with my darkest fear towards her. I hope that soon I will grow past my childish ways in order to celebrate her magnificence.
I am unaware of any person to meet her that didn’t know instantly that she is a spectacular human being. Spectacular. It is unlikely I will ever simulate her mark upon this earth, and even though we are two completely different people, it will always be my hope to influence half of those that she has impacted.