My mom died nine years ago today, a few weeks shy of her 70th birthday. Her own mom died at 69 also. Even though I’m not a chain-smoker (since adolescence, you know, the norm back then) and keep (relatively) healthy, there’s not a doubt in my mind when my own 70th birthday is on my horizon I’ll be holding my breath on the way to that (obviously) momentous milestone. I hear that’s a pretty profound moment in any child’s life.
69 is way too young. Especially when you are (relatively) healthy (chain-smoking notwithstanding), still incredibly stylish, newly-retired and just returned from a 1st ever trip to Europe. Really. It’s just not fair.
69 is way too early. Especially when your youngest grandchild is still a toddler and the whole slew of older ones are in the throes of expertly keeping your kids exasperated. Damn, if you could only see them all now. All 10 of them. We were all together this past Christmas and man, your heart would’ve exploded with happiness and pride. So unfair
69 is way too untimely. You had finally mastered your flip phone but had barely tried texting. Of course you’d still be watching Law and Order but I think you’d really like Netflix.
Funny, the things a daughter won’t forget. When my sister and I had endless babies crying and walls of crayon and strewn cereal and crap everywhere …. you’d gently remind us to comb our hair before our husbands got home from work. If you were here today you’d definitely be dissing my overalls and oy vey, would have never kept silent during my gal’s Free to Be You and Me unshaven armpits stage. (I’d get the full blown disappointment; the granddaughter would get the hall pass. Naturally.)
You made sure we never picked out a funky dish pattern because it was important how food looked on it. It was also important that the food colors be pleasing to the eye (no carrots and sweet potato together—too much orange!). Funny, I’ve never had anything but white dishes. Just another little something that somehow stuck.
I think about all the nuggets of knowledge I gained from you during our not-long-enough time together. Your little tolerance for self-pity. Your tenacity to get things done, figure things out, keep moving forward. My childhood friends still remember you in admiration, still shudder at the memory of your cool exterior and, always, still admit in amusement how nice it was to see you soften throughout the years. You lived a tough life yet never let a series of unfortunate events define your path.
You taught me dogged determination. And fierce loyalty. And unwavering strength. You showed me how to plow through obstacles and brush aside setbacks because, get over it, it’s not the end of the world. It’s never as bad as someone else may have.
I miss her all the time but especially in the dog days of summer, when the bell tolls on the anniversary date. All the memories of all those long days and nights come rushing in and the weight of all the what-might-have-beens is crushing. The last hot night I spent with her in her home is seared into me. When she fell on her way to bed and couldn’t lift herself up anymore I knew. When I couldn’t lift her up all by myself either I knew. I held the phone and agonized, pausing before dialing because I knew. I knew once I entered those digits and that ambulance arrived, my mom would never again step foot in her house again.
She never did. And I’ve never forgotton the anguish of that decision. Funny, the things a daughter won’t forget.
Nine years. A lifetime ago. Back before all my kids were (gulp) grown-ups. Back when I had a 10 year old. And 12 year old. And 16 year old. And 17 year old.
I am no different than anyone else whose heart stays heavy over a lost loved one. I feel her most days and talk to her more. Usually just a quick Thanks, Mom when something goes right or a sarcastic Thanks Mom when a kid’s being a smartass.
I was talking with my sister recently and was having a bit of a moment. I’d just found out I had qualified for a sizeable mortgage all on my own, without the need of a co-signer. Just me. I know, right? Like I said, it was a moment. I was trying to explain to her what that felt like. I struggled finding the words.
“It’s like …” I began.
“…you’re Mom,” she finished.
My breath caught.
Yes, I suppose that could be true.
Cheers, Mom. My hair’s combed and I’ve ditched the overalls today. Just for you. xoxo
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.
Missed the start of A Momoir? Catch up here:
Chapter 2, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/
Chapter 3, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/
Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/
Chapter 10: Click here: A Momoir, Chapter 10: Coming Clean: The Art of Mastering Uncomfortable Conversations
Chapter 12: Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2020/03/17/a-momoir-chapter-12-when-a-teen-up-leaves/