This will be the third Mother’s Day I’ve been without a mom. You’d think that, at the ripe old age of 55, I wouldn’t need her so much. I was so independent as a child that she used to say that my first word was “down,” followed soon by “let me do it.” I worked from age 15 , partly out of necessity but also so no one could tell me how to spend my money. I took myself to college and paid my own way, for the same two reasons. So why have I felt about eight years old since she died?
All that independence was largely a fiction, that’s why. Miss Smarty Pants (that’s me) got to do as she pleased because a) somewhere in the back of my mind I knew she was there to catch me if I fell and b) she knew I was too big a chicken to get in bad trouble. I acted pretty tough, but inside I was scared shitless most of the time.
From the time I went off to college, I never lived at home a day. I lived in crappy apartments furnished from thrift stores because that’s what I could afford after getting that write-your-own-ticket liberal arts degree from the state university. Momma tried to give me stuff and, stubbornly, I turned it down. How much I regret that now.
There were other things I wouldn’t let Momma give me, like compassion, empathy, and patience. Why she didn’t smother my smart-ass teenage self during the night I’ll never know. My mom was the nicest person you ever met…everybody loved her…and I don’t recall her ever saying a bad word about anybody, including my shithead of a deadbeat dad. Given that he beat her, ran around on her, and saddled her with three kids and a ton of debt, that took some real restraint. Not only did I not listen to her, I didn’t learn from her example. I had no problems compared to her, yet it’s only now that she’s gone and I am married to a prince of a fellow that I get the real lesson she taught me about gratitude.
So, just for the record, my mom didn’t teach me to be impatient, insensitive, bull-headed, thin-skinned, self-pitying, or unkind. If I’m a little short on the social graces, it’s not her fault. I did get the stubbornness from her, but hers looked more like determination, not like “you aren’t the boss of me.” When she told me not to ride my bike without shoes, she simply drove me to the emergency room.
For someone who didn’t listen to her mom, I sure find myself quoting her a lot. What I wouldn’t give to hear her voice, now.