My mom’s last Mother’s Day was in 2008. But I think I miss her more this year than ever before. In part, because I have been writing about her for these past many months. Her presence felt so powerfully as I paint her on each page. In part, too, because each year I spend as a mom myself I marvel more about how she might have managed—with her limitations and such a heavy load.
Then, in addition to the missing and the marveling, there is that lingering bit of regret.
My mom’s last Mother’s Day. Well…it could have been better.
I bought her flowers and a card, and that was good. We went to church, which was risky. Since it was also my fifth Mother’s Day with achingly empty arms. But I wanted to honor her, of course. Wanted to love her well on that special day. Had a sinking sense that it might be my last chance.
I survived the service, but afterward I just wanted Peter to do something—anything—to make it all okay. Maybe I expected him to take us to lunch. To have some sort of plan. To get us out of the house. So I didn’t have to think. To honor me as a wife even though I wasn’t yet a mom. But he didn’t know this. Couldn’t read my mind. Was afraid to mess up and make it worse. And as he and Mom and I sat in the dining room, trying to figure out what to do, wondering whether to fight the crowds or just eat at home, I lost it.
I wrote on Not-So-Good Friday about sadness and fear and how the mixture reacts—like baking soda and vinegar—and spews out as anger. And how I can spot the concoction quite quickly now. And release the pressure in less damaging ways. I couldn’t so much back then. Nor could Peter, I’m afraid. Not while the external pressure of our lives was also pressing in. With sometimes unbearable force.
So he spewed back. Then he marched out of the house and climbed into the car.
I followed hot on his heels. Begging him to stay. I even stood behind the car to keep him home. But he drove up on the grass, backed the car around, and left me standing there.
(Embarrassingly, our neighbor Sam, who is a bit of a recluse and didn’t know us well at all, had just pulled into his drive and had a front seat for this whole unfortunate scene. I imagine the poor man checked the locks on his doors and peeked warily through his blinds for the next couple of days. Until Peter saw him again. And apologized. And explained that we just weren’t ourselves that day.)
No, we certainly weren’t. Peter watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune at the nursing home with Dad that afternoon. Mom and I each took a nap. We came all together in the evening and apologized and forgave. But it would be nice to do that day again. To have just one more Mother’s Day.
And if we did, here’s what I would do…
I would wake up Mom with a cinnamon glazed bagel or Belgian waffles with strawberries and lots of whipped cream or Grandma Eve’s egg soufflé. I would pour her hot coffee and freshly-squeezed juice. And read her my handwritten card aloud while she ate.
I would fill her room with flowers. Tulips and daffodils, for sure. And other things that made her smile. Books and fuzzy blankets and floral blouses and all manner of kitschy stuffed bears.
I would take her to church and hold her delicate hand and lift my voice with hers in grateful praise. And if the opportunity arose, I would stand up in front of all the people and proudly proclaim, “Look at my mom. She is strong. She is love. She is life. She is brave.”
If we had one more Mother’s Day, I would serve her a lovely lunch on our patio. Then I would pull out old photo albums and pour over the pictures of the much younger versions of us. I would listen to Mom tell all of the stories that only she could tell. And I would write them down. Or even turn on a recorder—audio or video—and capture more of her. For keeps.
If we had one more Mother’s Day, I would pepper Mom with questions. Pick her brain on all manner of things. She wasn’t one to share her wisdom unsolicited or offer much advice. So I would probe: What do you want me to know about life? About marriage? And motherhood? And gardening? And laundry stains? And poetry? And politics? And God? And what do you want me to make sure to tell my children if He ever gives me some?
If we had one more Mother’s Day, I would choose to ignore what often made me cringe. Like squealing hearing aids and ready tears. I would change her colostomy bag with more patience and joy. We would play endless games of Scrabble. Rearrange the living room furniture one more time. Go shopping for nothing in particular.
If we had one more Mother’s Day, I would say the hard but simple things. The thank yous. The I’m sorrys. The I love yous. Over and over again. Because it’s never too much.
I take comfort in the fact that this year my mom’s Mother’s Day will be even better than anything I could dream up. And I don’t know exactly how my day will go. My fifth Mother’s Day as a Mom. But I’m not worried.
Daryl already gave me a wonderful book that he wrote in Kindergarten. “Daryl’s Amazing Mother.” In it he tells me that he likes to cuddle me and play with me. That I help him, and he thinks I’m smart. That’s all I need really.
Amelia’s present to me will probably be big hugs and lots of “I love yous.” Then she will likely create some sort of signature catastrophe—something akin to yesterday’s two jars of fish food and bottle of lotion spread liberally over the closet floor.
And Peter? No pressure this year, LOML. But. Well…okay. Maybe I do sort of hope that you’ve been paying attention. (See above.)