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Monday, June 13, 2016

Bittersweet Birthday (Precious Memories 3)

How lucky I am to have something 
 that makes saying goodbye so hard. 
                                      Winnie The Pooh

My mom and I did a lot of things together. It was natural for us. We were friends. We hung out, we shopped, and we visited Barnes and Noble.

One of our traditions was stopping by there on my birthday (or her birthday) and splitting a piece of the Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake.  Heaven on a spoon.

I can close my eyes and picture my mom’s face as she took her first bite.  I can hear the “mmmmm” sound we both made, eyes rolled back in our heads, convinced that only angels could have whipped up something so wonderful.

The next birthday I have, will be the first one without her here.  The cheesecake sure won't taste the same.

There are days I wake up and it feels like she’s been gone for years. Other days I wake up and it seems like only a day has passed. I think about her everyday. The “month” anniversaries have been a roller coaster of emotions for me. While no time has passed for her in Heaven, I find myself marking my time with how long it’s been since that day.

Little things will trigger powerful memories, and sometimes overwhelming waves of grief.   It hits me unexpectedly. Like when I woke up the other night, crying. I was dreaming about my mom, and saw her so clearly. I startled myself, waking up on a wet pillow, stained with tears.

How deep my connection to her goes.

My heart feels like it needs to plug in someplace, but the other end is missing.

I’ve been told that a daughter never stops longing for her mother. Almost every woman that I have talked to, who has lost their mom, knows exactly what I describe. There is this disconnect. A sense of emptiness only a mom can fill. No one told me it would feel this way.

There’s a mom-shaped hole in my orphaned heart.

My mom laughed (and sometimes giggled) a lot. She made me laugh too. She was a very moral woman and taught me good character. However, she could also be a bit mischevious and rebellious at times. I’ve had many a conversation with my aunt, who is several years younger than my mom. I have learned some fun and interesting facts, things my mom conveniently forgot to share with me!

I’m pretty sure it was intentional on her part. 

At one time, my mom had two boyfriends. Keep in mind, this was back in the 50’s and relationships were much different back then. My mom was “going with” two guys that she liked, which meant she would see them every so often, in group settings. Chaperones were alive and well back then, and required for girls who wanted to keep their reputations.

One of her beaus was my dad, who I’m pretty sure didn’t know he was competing with anyone. According to my aunt, my mom had a picture of each of her sweethearts. Whoever she was mad at, was put face down in the dresser drawer, while her favorite beau stayed visible. She would switch pictures, depending on who she was upset with!

Eventually, my dad won her over and they eloped without telling my grandparents. I have often told my aunt that I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall THAT night. My mom was 21 so she wasn’t doing anything wrong, she just wasn’t doing it the conventional way.

And that would describe much of her adult life – she just kind of had her own way and stuck to it.

When I was a teenager and taking driver’s training, my mom would drive me to and from the high school, to class. One day, she thought it would be a good idea to let ME drive, and get some practice. I did not have a permit yet, but her theory was that if it was okay for me to drive with the instructor, then with she as my mother, it would be okay too.

In her mind, the title of Mother pulled rank over Driving Instructor, and she was convinced she could handle it just fine if we happened to get pulled over.

The plan was that we would pull over and change seats, when we got near the school. She would drop me off as usual and no one would be the wiser. Imagine my horror and surprise, when we pulled up to a red light, and the driving instructor pulled up next to us. I panicked and began slinking down in the driver’s seat, praying he wouldn’t see me and expel me from class.

Mom was giggling, and I was sweating bullets.

Thankfully he was on her side, the passenger side of the car, and never looked over.

I passed driver's training with flying colors (thanks mom!)

My mom wasn’t perfect by any means and neither was I. (Nor will I ever be).  We had our moments and we certainly had some conflict. Everyone does. Life wouldn’t be normal if there were no challenges. You cannot have two different people living under the same roof and have them get along all of the time. If they do, something (or someone) is seriously out of balance.

Parents and children will always have their times of seeing things a little differently. Whatever conflicts we may have had, never overshadowed the love and bond I had with my mom. Our life wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, sprinkled with gold confetti.

We had our tears, our disagreements, and our humbling moments where we hashed it all out. One thing about my mom is that I could talk to her. I had the freedom and liberty to share my thoughts and opinions. She taught me early on to speak my mind, have a backbone, and stand up for myself.

One of the things I miss the most is talking to her. We talked about everything.

The only thing we didn't talk about, is how this would feel.  Me here, and her there.  We didn't talk about what comes next, or how I fill in the empty spaces she left behind.  I have to navigate this new chapter of my life, with only the memories of what she taught me.

May I do her proud.

  *The Precious Memories posts you read here, are dedicated to my mother, who lost her battle with Alzheimer's. I share snippets of our story in these posts, and some things I learned along the way.

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