My mom died four years ago today.
I no longer spontaneously cry – making beds, walking down the produce aisle, seeing commercials for cancer centers when I least expect it —
But I still catch myself absent mindedly reaching for the phone when something funny happens. You know, the house phone. I can’t really name too many people I still talk to on my house phone anymore. Even now, 1460 days later, I’m not ready to get rid of it.
I’ve honored her memory every passing year by putting into words the changes that have crept into my life in the time without her and have usually marked its passage by focusing on my kids; their size, their maturity (or, hello, teenagers: lack thereof), and their role as unknowing anchors in my unsteady journey through middle age. It’s funny; I often wonder how they’d take knowing the true strength of their super powers.
What’s heaviest on my mind on this anniversary, though, is the profound change of my emotional core. My emotions – and the things that affect me — have veered tremendously from what once was.
You know what angers me most now? When friends roll their eyes over their mothers’ forgetfulness. Or annoying habits. Or intrusiveness. Or anything, really. I find myself irritated when they complain about perfunctory – and quick – visits with their moms and I often suppress the need to scream when hearing they dutifully “have to” go see their moms for dinner, or doctor’s appointment, or — again — anything, really. It infuriates me that they just don’t get it. Or understand what others would give for one more day.
Know what makes me happy now? That my mom died so young. And quick. It’s actually a rather ironic personal admission I’ve made peace with. She was only 69 when she passed and the toxins in her body were vicious and speedy, taking her within six months from start to end. The thing is, prior to her diagnosis, she was beautiful, hipper than most her age, and stylish. Extremely stylish. She was envied for her magnetic humor, was incredibly charismatic and if I may be cliché, a treasured friend. Really and truly treasured. She was also quite the hot ticket: In sickness, when she was too weak to get to Kohl’s, she circled items out of their circular and sent me out to buy them. Shoes and bags she never did muster up the energy to use. But she had to have them.
She was immeasurably vibrant and if I’m being totally honest, I find comfort in that image being my final remembrance of her. I will never, EVER know her as a frail, feeble old lady, with white hair and stooped shoulders. I will never feel pointed sadness helping her up a flight of stairs. I won’t ever have to visit her in a nursing home and spoon feed her. And I will never know the unfathomable despair of watching her recollection of me and other loved ones fade from her memory right before my eyes. She will forever be my great-shoe-wearing, never-leave-the-house-without-makeup-wearing, always-with-awesome-accessories-wearing 69-year-old mom. And that is my beautiful image. And that makes me happy. I imagine I’m not the first person who’s lost someone too early in life to cling to this shred of positivity, so I’m not sorry for it.
Know what I care about now? Hmmmm. Not so much. I keep a firm grasp on my family, of course, and make sure we stay intact because it’s all we have and all we need. It is the good stuff for sure. But all the other stuff? Meh. See ya. Grudges, weight-gain, the-sky-is-falling hysteria of every day that screams BREAKING NEWS? I let all go. I learned how to surround myself with drama-free friends. I ask myself, What’s the worst thing that can happen? And I realize it’s not the end of the world if (pick one) a kid doesn’t go to college or a spouse loses a job or a kid drops OUT of college or the bills are piling up or the kid doesn’t play Varsity or someone snubbed someone on Facebook. Ah, what the hell, pick ‘em all. None truly matter.
Not in the least.
So I really don’t care about all that much these days. Just the good stuff.
I wish she could see how fantastic her grandkids are turning out.
I wish she could see the living room chairs I just spray painted.
I wish she could see how long my hair’s gotten.
I just miss her like mad.
And when my youngest, sitting in my passenger seat, innocently blurts out, “This song reminds me of Nanny…
I know we all do.
Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements. (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore). A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.
Hi Tina – you don’t know me but I am local to you. Anyway, I love this post and I have to say I agree on so much of it. My mom also died young, she was 66 and I was 32. It was very difficult to lose her at that time but now (I’m almost 50) I see my friends caring for aging parents, making hard decisions about nursing homes and end of life care and so much and I think – hey, my mom was young and beautiful and there’s a part of me that’s relieved that I didn’t have to watch her go through a sad and lonely old age. As for the rest of this – that part about things that really matter – YES. Thanks for writing a piece that really resonated with me.
Thank you so very much! It’s rewarding connecting with others — gives us strength in numbers! xoxo
Tina, what a heart-felt beautiful tribute to your mom. It brought tears to my eyes.
Thank you! xoxo
Hi Tina, I just read your beautiful article to my Mom. We sat and read and had tears streaming down our faces. It’s like we are in a club. If u haven’t felt the loss of a parent …u just don’t get!! There will always be a hole in my heart for my Dad. 8 yrs later I got through his birthday without crying for the first time. The pure hurt and ache does dull with time. Sending our love to you on Margie’s anniversary. I picture her at our kitchen table having tea with my parents. Looking ever so beautiful and always with a quick remark to make us all smile. I only wish I knew you and your sister earlier. All of us together would have been a blast!!! Xoxo
So nice to find comfort in the sweetest of places! Give my eternal love to your Mom for giving eternal friendship to mine xoxo
Ummm… I probably shouldn’t have read this at work because tears are streaming down my face. And the cute guy from down the hall just walked by. (Dammit!) Oh, and I should probably be working. But I digress…
This was so beautiful, Tina. Truly. I wish your mom could read your lovely words. But you know what? I have a feeling she can.
It took me 10 years to realize my mom dying of cancer at 71 was in a way a blessing as it was quick (too quick for me). When my dad followed 15 weeks later (he was 73) it was a devastating event. Again, when I was feeling better 10 years later and 10 years older I feel good as he was never separated from my mom and just couldn’t make it without her. Now that I am 70, I am realizing how very young they both were. Angels now take care of me daily. RIP mom and dad