Early May is when it REALLY stinks to be motherless. It’s like every store and commercial is shouting Go Hug Your Mom! Go Shopping With Your Mom! Go Out To Eat With Your Mom! Go Celebrate Your Mom! Except you can’t. Because your mother is dead. Or your mother is otherwise absent from your life. And that sucks.
I feel your pain. I lost my mom to cancer when I was 23. To make the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day a little more bearable, I try to be grateful that I got to have my mom for 23 years because I know that many people aren’t that lucky. The way I summon gratitude is by remembering the funny or touching moments that defined my mom.
So, all of you motherless people out there, let’s celebrate our mothers even though they aren’t physically with us anymore. Let’s tell stories about them. I’ll start.
The fall of my senior year in high school, I wrecked my knee playing soccer. The doctor told me that it would be a year after surgery before I could conceivably play again, but never at the same level, and that I would be in extensive physical therapy during that year. My dream of playing college soccer was dashed. On the way home from the doctor’s office in New York City after hearing the bad news, I lay in the back seat with my leg outstretched in a huge brace and sobbed. My mother drove down 7th avenue and kept looking at me in the rear view mirror, tortured. There was nothing she could do to make it better and it was killing her. Suddenly, though, there was something she could do.
She cranked the wheel. We swerved across three lanes of traffic and lurched to a stop in a no parking zone. My mother rolled down her window and called to a man walking a tiny yellow Labrador puppy.
“Excuse me, Sir? Yes, you. Hi! Would you let my daughter pet your puppy for a second? She just heard some really bad news and your puppy is so cute. I know it would make her feel better. She’s in the back.”
“Mom! Stop!” I hissed, swatting tears off my cheeks. “He doesn’t care!”
To my surprise, the man shrugged, gathered up the little furball and opened the backseat door. He carefully placed the adorable creature on my lap and it slobbered all over my face, its kisses and puppy breath and fat little belly exactly what I needed. I temporarily forgot about my throbbing knee. After a few minutes the man took his dog, we thanked him and Mom merged back into traffic.
“See?” she said.
Then she took me to the video store to rent The Other Side of The Mountain, which she thought would put things in perspective for me. She was right. The main character in that movie became paralyzed after her ski accident. I could deal with one bum knee.
Whenever I remember that brisk November day, I don’t think about my lost college soccer career, or the pain I was in. Instead, I think about how fortunate I was to have a mother who loved me so much that she would go to unbelievable, embarrassing lengths to make me feel better.
I told that story to an acquaintance recently but the significance was lost on her – she still has her mother. “Your mother sounds crazy,” the woman said. Yes, maybe my mom was a little bit crazy in mostly funny ways. But I was the recipient of her crazy love. And I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
OK. Now it’s your turn. What do you remember about your mom?