Mom died in 2006. September 8th; or was it the 9th? She was either 76 or 78. I am number challenged–please don’t judge. She was great with numbers and dates. Every time a monumental event happened she’d focused in on that date and the exact time so each month that came and went was another weighted reminder of extreme sadness or a mini celebration of a great memory. Deaths and vacations come to mind.
Numbers slip quickly from my head, tumble out my ears, bounce once off my shoulder where they are snatched up by the past and hidden in moss covered hollow tree trunks. This is and was my number-driven life, always with a perplexed number-loving mother saying “I just don’t understand why you can’t do this multiplication.” I was a digit disappointment. My brother, five years younger than me, could do them even though I stayed after school every day of third grade trying to memorize the damn things.
Approval. I lived for approval from my beautiful mother. I married, had two great and sometimes challenging children that mom totally adored. According to their grandparents, my kids took after them with their positive qualities. We as parents had nothing to do with that. The stubbornness and lackadaisical qualities were owned by us. Grandparent’s privilege.
Mom had been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis around 2004 or 2005 and had been declining slowly. I visited her on Mother’s Day, 2006 and noticed a dramatic change. We were always “of good stock” which meant we were short and chunky with thick wrists and ankles. There’s nothing dainty about us. Me, mom and my aunt. Cookie cutter stock. But that Mother’s Day she was sitting in her chair, feet up on the seat with her arms wrapped around her knees, folded up like an accordion. I was stunned by what was missing of her. “I’ve always wanted to sit like this. Don’t you wish you could do this?” She smiled while her oxygen hissed into her perfect and favored nose. I held onto my stubborn stocky self. “No. Not really.”
I could have been nicer. I regret I wasn’t.
In August, three weeks before she died, we talked on the phone and she reminded me that she was going to die from this terrible disease. I tried to downplay that whole ugly and too real end. Then she said something to me which convicted her statement. My kids were now in their thirties and my mom said something I’d needed to hear for a long time. “You’ve been a good mother.”
So were you.