Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thoughts on my mother, five years after her death

Yesterday marked the five-year anniversary of my mother's death.  I don't do anything to celebrate the day, but I inevitably note it, of course.  She was the only person who was a parent to me, and I miss her very much.

Over the years since she died, I've come to have more and more respect for what she managed to do.  Through a string of bad men--those prior to Ed and Lloyd, both of whom were (and in Lloyd's case still is) good men--and in the face of all sorts of incredible life difficulties, she never wavered from her commitment to her three children.  She did the job life gave her.  She worked her butt off to put food on our table and pay for the roof over our heads.  I never once heard her gripe about how hard it was to be a single mom.  (I'm sure she must have talked about it to friends, but not to us.)

She made a ton of mistakes, but she never stopped taking care of us.

She also imbued me with beliefs that I cherish to this day.  She taught me that in this country if you were smart and worked hard, you could make something of yourself, build for yourself and those you love a bright future.  I've since come to believe that this dream does not apply equally to all of our citizens, and that angers me more than I can say, but belief in it helped me survive a lot of hard times.
She also convinced me that she always believed in me, and that helped me believe in myself in times when I had trouble doing so.

She taught me the value of loyalty and of protecting those who were with you.  I hold to those values to this day.

She showed me earlier than most kids the joys of reading and of listening to music and looking at paintings, though we didn't have much in the way of the latter.

Most of all, she taught me by her example that you do the job life gives you, that you never abandon those you care about and who depend on you, that no matter what weight threatens to push you into the very dirt beneath you, you push aside that weight, get up, and get on with it.  She was a small woman, never a full five feet tall in all the time I can remember her, but when life pushed too hard I got glimpses of the absolute fucking steel that infused her bones and her soul, because she never gave up, never stopped doing her job, never stopped fighting.

Once, after a chemo crash during the treatment of her third cancer, on the phone with me, she came close.  She begged me to tell her it was okay for her to give up, that it was okay for her to die.  She pleaded with a hoarse, tear-filled voice for me to tell her she could die.  She said she could no longer take the horrible pain, that nothing the doctors were giving her was helping, and she wanted to die.  She wanted me to tell her it was okay for her to stop fighting and to die.  I was flat on my back and on painkillers, having hurt my back.  I never so much wanted to give up--and to tell her it was okay to give up.

I didn't.  Against her entreaties, I asked her to give me twenty-four hours, to fight for one day more.  I told her that I was absolutely positive--a complete lie--that in that day the pain would subside and she would feel better.  I told her she had beaten everything else life had smacked her with, and she wasn't going to stop now.  I told her she could do twenty-four more hours of anything, that she was just that strong, and that she had to do it.

"Just twenty-four hours," she said, her voice a whisper.

"Yes," I said, making my voice stronger than my belief in what I was doing.

"Okay," she said.  "Okay."

She kept fighting, and the pain indeed subsided.  On the day she died, about five years later, the doctors declared her free and clear of the cancer.

I hope every day to be as strong as my mother and worthy of her legacy.

I love you, Mom.


Michelle said...

That was a lovely. Your mom was indeed an incredibly strong woman. You were blessed, she was blessed. Thank you for reminding me how much love there is between a mother and child, it never wanes, it always endures and it is unconditional, no matter the circumstances. Your mother is proud of you.

old aggie said...

Bless you, Mark, for honoring your mom.

"She made a ton of mistakes, but she never stopped taking care of us" was also true of my mom. She always tried, always did the best that she knew how, and so what if that knowledge was limited? Mine is too, and everybody else's. I was so privileged to walk through the years of dementia with my mom. She may have lost her short-term memory and some adult reasoning skills, but she never once lost her sense of fun and humor or her convictions of right and wrong. The staff at her nursing home loved her like their own family and I couldn't have asked for better care. Funny how, when you're in that position, those daily visits and all the time spent isn't a burden at all but a joy.

And now we honor their memory by holding to the truths and values they taught us, passing them on to others and applying them to make the world a better place.

Thank you for these posts each year; it's good to remember where we come from.

Mark said...

Thanks for the kind words.


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