As we near Mother’s Day, I notice many of my friends who lost their mothers too young, as I also did, start reminiscing about them, posting pictures or memories on Facebook, or simply stating the four simple words that pretty much sum it up, “I miss my Momma.”
I imagine it’s tough to lose your mom at any age, but when you are younger and they are no longer characters in major chapters of your life — graduations, career achievements, marriages, babies and the like, you not only grieve for the relationship you had but also the one you didn’t get to have. I find myself grieving for the latter almost as much as the former, maybe even more so these days.
The imagination can be a terrible curse.
This time of year, I always think about the beach trips we would have taken together with the kids. She would have bought them new bathing suits and sunglasses for the occasion and taken them to Souvenir City to pick out some beach toys. And reminded me to reapply sunscreen too many times. I’ve already done it, Mom!
Around Christmas, I always imagine my mom picking me and the kiddos up, and us going out shopping together all day, which kind of sounds horrible in a way, as I’m sure my two would complain nonstop. But I just remember so many years of spending hours in Gayfer’s and McRae’s with my mom and grandmother buying gifts for everyone on their lists. I can still smell how that bakery at the back of Gayfer’s smelled as soon as you opened the doors. It’s an experience I always long for around the holidays, but one that is probably better left playing out in my mind as a fantasy, a place where my kids are perfect angels and aren’t wailing about having to walk or asking if they can play with their iPads ad nauseam.
The imagination can be a beautiful blessing too.
But I find myself feeling very envious when I see other people getting to live out these seemingly mundane scenarios with their mothers and kids in real life.
Because it really isn’t during those huge, life-changing moments that you miss them the most. The joy, nerves and adrenaline keep your mind pleasantly preoccupied during those times. Sure, you think about the person who isn’t and should be there, but you don’t have time to wallow in it. It’s when things get quiet — that’s when the thoughts of what was and what could have been come creeping into your thoughts.
You can go weeks or even months and be OK, but then something will trigger it. And those triggers can come from a variety of sources at any time.
Coming across her handwriting on an old recipe or a show she used to watch on television (and then realizing the ones remaining are getting fewer and fewer), or just aching for the ability to pick up the phone to call your mom when you want to ask a question only she could answer or are having a bad day or when you want to complain about someone or just need a sounding board. Or just to hear her voice.
Seeing someone else lose their mom at a young age also makes the hurt fresh again because you know exactly the loss they are going to continue to feel for the rest of their lives.
A former roommate was close to her mom, like I was to mine. We lived together when we were in our mid-20s and we would often complain to each other sitting on the balcony of our apartment that our moms “loved us too much.” That their love was “suffocating.”
And they did, and it was.
And now I think we both agree how crazy we were for thinking that was a bad thing or even actually a “thing” at all. We were among the lucky, who got to feel that kind of love and have special bonds with our mothers.
It’s been eight years since I lost my mom. She lost hers a couple of years ago and is now about to have her first baby. And I know while she is about to experience the greatest joy she has ever felt, she is going to experience the same kind of grief I have over the years by not having her mother by her side to go absolutely nuts with her over her precious baby girl.
We have talked about this and she knows how bittersweet it is going to be. I have told her the only way I feel like I can keep my mother’s presence in my children’s lives is just to love them as she loved me.
I can still remember running into my mom’s room when I was 4 or 5 and snuggling with her on Saturday mornings. I can literally still physically feel what that felt like. She held me so tightly and told me how much she loved me and how I was the best thing that ever happened to her over and over again. Words she would continue to repeat until she was no longer able to speak.
And when I am feeling really down, I can easily go back to that place and it is a place of great comfort for me. I don’t even know if that makes sense to anyone or maybe it sounds crazy, but I just think when you love someone, you do so with all of your senses — the taste and smells that remind you of them, the sound of their voice, the sight of their face in a favorite photograph and remembering the touch of their embrace.
Parenting books be damned! I don’t care if my kids run into my bed at midnight or 7 a.m., they can stay there as long as they want and they are going to get hugged to death and told how much they are loved until they are tired of hearing it. I know the sound of their little feet running down our hallway is going to end sooner rather than later, and we are going to miss it so. We are getting all the snuggling we can get while the snuggling’s good.
And if I do half the job my mother did, they will feel “suffocated” by this love at the right times in their lives. But then, when they are out on their own in this big, scary — and often cruel — world, they will be able to rely on it when they need it, just as I always have, whether I am here with them in body or just in spirit.
Thanks, Mom, for loving me too much. I miss you…
Editor’s Note: This column originally ran in the April 27, 2016, issue of Lagniappe. Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there and to those who are missing theirs.
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