Today is my mother’s 90th birthday.
I think it’s still your birthday, even if you aren’t here to celebrate it. Looking back over these pages, I see that Mom was not here to see most of my entries about her birthday, since she died after a mere 73 years on the planet, after a long and courageous battle against breast cancer.
She was tough, and she was a survivor. Life dealt her a pretty rough hand from the get go. Her birth mother abandoned her on the orphanage steps as a newborn. She suffered from mental health issues her entire life and never got it under control. I think she had serious post-partum after my sister Megan was born. She spent the whole summer in bed, which at the time (I was 9 years old), I thought was what happened when you had a baby. Dad left her* after 25 or so years of marriage, and her second husband, a complete jerk who was about half her age, also left her after he spent all her money. She ended up on welfare, living in a trailer on my sister’s property.
I see a pattern of abandonment in her life which must have been really painful for her. I wonder if she had been born later if there would be better psych drugs and treatment available to her to make her life happier and healthier. Maybe she shouldn’t have had children or gotten married. Maybe she should have had more freedom in her life and her life choices.
We always had a complicated relationship. I don’t think she was that crazy about me, and I am OK with that. Like John always says, if you have one good parent, you’ll be OK. Now that I’m older, I understand that this was about her, not me. She always seemed kind of distant to me. If she was awake when we went to school, she was having black coffee and a cigarette. It was never suggested that she drive us to school or even to the school bus stop, a good half mile away, a long walk in the snow, when we would follow the path we had made the day before. Dad did the cooking, read to us, and took us grocery shopping and to the library on Saturdays. Mom was kind of a ghost in our house.
I wish she had experienced more joy in her life. I wish her death had not been so long and painful and terrible. I’m glad I took care of her at the end and did everything I could do for her. I do love her, and I do remember her smile, her love of music and appreciation for beauty. We share our green eyes. There are good memories, too.
Happy birthday, Mom. I wish you were here to celebrate with us.
*Fun, Jerry Springer style fact: he left my mother for my boyfriend’s mother. Extra credit: boyfriend’s mother is still alive and well at 90 years of age and we are good friends. We email each other often.
A YEAR AGO: My brother Jonathan’s road trip adventure.
FIVE YEARS AGO: Mom’s 85th birthday.
TEN YEARS AGO: Mom’s 80th birthday.
TWENTY YEARS AGO: I still hate the heat. Pretty sure I always will.