In the year of our Lord 2010 we will all celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 9. This year will be the first Mother’s Day I will not be celebrating with my Mother. She died on January 19 this year after a very long illness.
My Mother and I had been through much of our lives together as even in adulthood I lived close enough to make “going home” a frequent event. Obviously, she had been through all of mine but I, only the part of hers that provided her the title: Mother.
I was going to begin this sentence by stating that we had always been close. That is true but not the entirety of the truth. My father had been out of our picture for many, many years & I noted early on the differences that develop in a family unit in which a woman is at the helm. In my growing up years most of my friends, nearly all of them in fact, were in man led families which is likely the reason for my early awareness of the differences in my own sphere. My Mom was my parent.
I was raised by a woman of titan standards. My Mother worked to support my brother and me in a small market down the street from our apartment building in Bayside, N.Y. making approximately 58% of the salary her male counterparts were enjoying. She was 26 years old at that time. It was years before I understood that though she soldiered on, she was likely exhausted, fearful, stressed out and lacking in hope for much of this time. To me, she was just Mommy. My Mommy.
I never gave thought to her youth, that she might really have liked a new dress or hat (how she loved hats, fashion maven that she was.) I never processed the enormous burden she must have felt in the sole care of two children when she was little more than a girl herself. I never thought her lonely for adult companionship though likely she was. I, like most children, devoted the largest part of every day to my Burger King mentality of “having it my way.” My Mother was the strongest woman I have ever known. She pressed on through difficult moments in her life in which lesser people would have given up. She never lost faith in life and even in love. Certainly, she never lost faith in me. When, after 28 years of working as a nurse, my husband and I became the owners and innkeepers of At Cumberland Falls Bed and Breakfast Inn I was more scared than I had ever been in my life. My Mother’s faith in my ability to do this (or anything) never wavered.
For all our time together, I never knew the woman I called Mother until circumstances in her life forced that strength away and revealed the struggling woman beneath it all. It was in that fragile state I began to discover my Mother.
Strange that— that strength can be crippling. It enables those that love us to perceive we are in control all the time and that nothing is too much for us to bear.
My Nana once said that sapling trees were, in some conditions, stronger than their much larger and older contemporaries. They have resilience she said. I was very young at that time and part of the “women games” of my youth were word games. We got a new word every day. Resilience in Webster says:”the power or ability to return to the original form or position, etc., after being bent, compressed or stretched.” My Mother, one day began to die from the effects of resilience. A peculiar diagnosis one thinks but not upon further inspection.
In being able to recover from the adversity of legions of assaults one can trick themselves and others into false thoughts. Beliefs that no amount unkind words can cause real, lasting damage, that no situation can be too much to bear, that no force in this universe can land the death blow. Why titans don’t die. They prevail!
In caring for the woman I called Mommy I looked far beyond the woman I had always known and got to know the girl she was once & the woman she later became. I learned about her life, her experiences as a person; someone other than my parent. Many things, totally unfathomable both as her child and later as we interacted as adults became clearer. Our journey together; my Mother as the patient and I, her nurse, lasted slightly over 8 years in the most acute aspect of it but it provided me with information and understanding of her actions, behaviors, thoughts and feelings I did not possess before. In short, she was, as we all are, an accumulation of her walk through this world and this was revealed in both the bitter and most often, in the sublime. I am blessed to have been given the time and circumstances enabling me to know this woman as someone other than my Mom. She was so much more than just that one parcel of her life and the wisdom I was so often the benefit of was earned with her very soul.
Mother’s Day presents an opportunity to acknowledge the person who gave you life. My wish for all of you for your Mother’s day is that you take the time to know the woman who is your Mother not just in that one confining role but as the myriad of parts she really is. In the knowing of her fears, her dreams, her thoughts, her values and her life you may find more than you ever thought. You may find she is not so very different from you. You may find the only person on the face of this earth who wants more for you than for herself and wishes you the sun, the moon and the stars every day you live. You may find a woman who loves you with a strength you cannot even imagine unless you have a child of your own. You may find your heart held in the gentlest hands that will ever touch it again because you began under her own.
Patti and Gary Wiles