Sunday is a big deal for me I suppose. It is the first Mother’s Day without my mom and I’m kinda not sure how I feel about it. My mother died in January, oddly enough on her birthday, after battling a long illness. I am glad she’s not suffering any longer.
When she was diagnosed in 2006, I knew this was going to be her undoing. Was hoping for her to see her oldest grandson graduate high school. I guess in my mind, I was setting short-term goals. Well, at least one. After that, I thought everything else was bonus.
I pause here, not quite sure where to take this conversation next. I’m afraid I haven’t properly mourned my mother’s passing. I feel that I haven’t given her proper respect because I pretty much held it together throughout the last few months of her suffering and then her death. I know a part of me is waiting for the big flood of tears and sadness to wash over me, months later, and then I’ll cry. Deep inside me, I believe I failed her.
I reason with myself over this daily. I had a lot of responsibility during that time. My dad was away for a few weeks when she went into the hospital and so it was my show. My aunt and grandmother helped so very much, but I had some decisions to make and I had to keep my dad in the loop. I didn’t have time to fall apart.
And besides, I told myself, I had to keep my own family going. I had my job and my home to run. I needed to make sure my kids knew enough about what was going on with my mother to appreciate the seriousness of it, but not too much to have it encompass their entire lives. It may sound harsh, but I felt I needed to keep my kids’ lives as normal as possible, while still realizing that their grandmother was nearing the end of her life. High-wire walkers need to keep their wits about them, don’t they? And that’s exactly what I was doing.
As fall headed into winter and the holidays, my mom was still in the hospital and slowly, miserably, losing her battle. It was obvious that we were spending our last months together. She’d make a half-hearted attempt to plan a little for Christmas and I ordered her a few gifts to give to her grandchildren, but we sort of did that knowing that we were kidding ourselves. I did get her a Christmas gift and I debated probably a 100 times whether to return it or not. I still have it. And when I use it, it reminds me of her.
But still, I didn’t mourn. It was a lot easier to rationalize now. The holidays! Everyone is so crazy at the holidays! I didn’t have time to think. My dad wasn’t dealing well and I needed to be the strong one, the voice of reason, my mother’s advocate. I kept telling myself this over and over.
On a rare quiet evening, I was devouring a book cuddled on my husband. When the book came to the predictable part of the two main characters divulging their secret fears as to why the other could never love the one, I did the predictable shedding of a few tears.
“Christ, Babe, I cry over a stupid book but not my dying mother?” I was disgusted with myself.
My husband pulled me close and gave me a kiss on the head. “You’ll mourn in your own way Denise. When you’re ready, you will.” My husband has made good use of his college psych classes.
I accepted that reasoning because it wasn’t my own. It had to be a valid point if someone else had made it. So I felt better. I’ll do it in my own time. I’ll save my tears for the right moment and the sorrow and feeling alone and railing about the unkindness of fate would hit me.
We made it through the holidays and my mother hadn’t passed. I was glad about that, not wanting my children to open their presents and then get ready for their grandmother’s funeral. Gladness, of course, tempered by the reality of my mother’s situation. But for the kids, I made it nice.
I thought the big moment of my mourning would come when my dad broke the news to me. Sure, I cried. Maybe five minutes. And then it was back to planning. I even worked a few hours afterward, rationalizing it as I needed to straighten something out or else it would bother me. Apparently, my mother’s dying wasn’t as ‘bothersome’ as this project.
I had a few moments of sorrow through the funeral process but I was actually a little ashamed of myself for not being more emotional. I worried over my kids and my dad for sure, but even looking at my mother’s ravaged body in the casket, wearing the lovely grey silk blouse that even the size small swamped her didn’t get a reaction. I kept telling myself that this was what was best. She wasn’t suffering anymore. Cynically, and only to my husband and my close friends, I called myself the Ice Bitch. They chided me and said the time will come.
Fast forward to Mother’s Day and the time still hasn’t come. I’ve missed my mother, absently picked up the phone to call and had the errant thought that I would ask her one thing or the other. Each time I’ve stopped myself, did a reality check, and moved on. Each time, I filed what little emotion I had neatly away and went about my day.
Maybe Sunday will be the day I give my mother the proper send off. Maybe I’ll cry and ask why and rip at my clothes. Maybe I’ll fully understand that I am now without a mother and maybe I’ll finally break down. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll enjoy the day with my children and visit my grandmother and my aunt. Maybe I’ll work in my garden a little and finish a book I’ve been reading or even open up my own manuscript and give it a little attention. Maybe I’ve done all the mourning I’m ever going to do and maybe is that’s not only okay with my mother, but should be okay for me as well. Maybe…