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Mixed Feelings on Mother’s Day

May 12, 2013

Add another one to the Holidays I Think Are Stupid category: Mother’s Day. Not only is the apostrophe in an odd place (after all, I called both my stepmother and my grandmother today, both of whom are mothers. Anyway, shouldn’t we celebrate the collectiveness of motherhood as a general rule?), but the day’s existence rubs salt in a nearly six-year-old wound.

There is a reason why I have dedicated two posts on this blog to my father and none to my mother. It has nothing to do with preferential treatment, even if my father is, in general, a greater source of often-unintentional comedic gold. It has more to do with the fact that my mother died at the age of 52, when I had just graduated college, in spite of being formerly married to a well-connected doctor who could’ve easily gotten her in to see any specialist in town had she been willing to do something about her health issues beyond complaining.

She’s a difficult subject to discuss. On the one hand, my best friend / first ex-husband has fond memories of coming over to my house, where my mom would make us coffee and take smoke breaks with him out in the garage and gripe bitterly about her ex-husband and men in general and me for not indulging in her complaints about said ex-husband and men in general, never mind that the twice-mentioned ex-husband happened to be my father and my best friend happened to be one of those “men in general”.

But even if there were issues on tap even on those occasions, my best friend and I did bond over my mother’s crazy but easygoing nature–we could stay in her kitchen as late as we wanted, and since she didn’t have much else in the way of company, she seemed to welcome our presence.

On the other hand, there were also the issues that didn’t strike me as being off until years after she died. Like whenever I’d come home for a visit on a break from college or grad school. I’d stumble out of bed at 10:30 in the morning, groggy from the four-hour flight to Denver, and she’d already be awake but tell me, “I’d love to go out for breakfast, but you’re going to have to drive. I’m too drunk.” These conditions were not aided by the fact that when I was driving with extra care so as not to hurt her precious car (it had a name!), she’d helpfully scream, “GOOOOOO!!!!” at me from the passenger seat.

But she was never an angry or angsty or abusive drunk, so I usually didn’t give it much thought. More worrisome was her cigarette addiction (always fun when you yourself are allergic to secondhand smoke), which is even worse for a Type I diabetic than it is for regular people with regular chances of developing coronary diseases.

Worse still was my mother’s isolation. I am not exaggerating when I say that she lived vicariously through me. I’m not sure how she kept herself fed or supplied with cigarettes and alcohol when I wasn’t around, seeing as how she was afraid to leave the house. As to what she did all day, I have only a vague guess. If the Chicago Cubs, Bears, or Blackhawks (but not the Bulls. Too much winning for her taste, I can only guess) weren’t on and she wasn’t digging into a phone call for details on my love life or academic performance…well, it sounded like her life could have been more satisfactory.

One time I talked to her shortly before my college graduation and, it later turned out, a mere six or so months before she died.

“The other day,” she said in her breathlessly high voice, “I had these farts that STUNK. They reeked! They filled the whole house! They were so awful, I couldn’t help but sit around and wait for another one to slip out so I could smell it.”

“Jesus, Mom,” I groaned, pulling off a classic facepalm years before such a word had even entered the lexicon.

“That was the highlight of my week,” she continued, and even though her tone was joking enough, I could tell the farts that competed with Satan’s asshole after $2 Burrito Night honestly had been the apex of her social calendar. But I couldn’t even gently suggest that she get a hobby or apply for a job, because I knew she’d make conciliatory noises over the phone and proceed to do nothing of the sort.

Needless to say, I was never quite sure what to do for Mother’s Day when she was still alive–what would have truly made her happy would be me moving back into her house and getting a job where I could work from home so that I could always drive her to breakfast and the liquor store, and even then, I doubt that would have been enough to fill the gaping void, the existence that seemed to consist more of lack than of any significant presence.

Now I do work primarily from home, but I make an effort to fill my life with more than alcohol and intestinal gas. Earlier this week, after realizing I was in a bit of a rut, I semi-spontaneously decided to visit my godmother and my friend the amazing dancer in beautiful San Diego, where the latter had a performance she’d been working on for months. After all, I reasoned, Colorado has plenty of sand for a beach but nary an ocean, and as far as my work life goes, “home” is any place I can plug in my computer.

But still, even though I have three women in my life who have stepped up to fill the role of mother–my godmother, my stepmother, and my grandmother–today feels more like a lack of holiday to me. Those who have mothers, I hope you’re driving them so that they can have a (special-occasions-only) drink or two while it’s still daylight, and those who are mothers, may your life always be full, whether your children live with you or not.


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  1. I agree — wish Mother’s Day could be wiped off the old calendar. Sorry your mother’s no longer here, but Jesus, I cracked up at the fart story. No wonder you hate the holiday and feel a sense of lack. Good for you for recognizing the rut and heading to San Diego.

    • It seems like you know the lack all too well–I imagine Father’s Day is a bitter pill for you, as well.

      That fart story does feel like it encapsulates my relationship with my mother in the last years of her life, though! In some ways, I’m now really glad she decided to share that big moment, since it always makes me smile to think of it!

  2. Your mom sounds like somebody I’d have enjoyed having a beer with. Well, minus the smokes and the fact that I’m a Cards fan. Sorry you lost her so young.

  3. Ugggg. This post broke my heart, and made me laugh out loud. “I could tell the farts that competed with Satan’s asshole after $2 Burrito Night honestly had been the apex of her social calendar.” Comedy gold. Awesome post.

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