“TODAY IS MY MOM’S BIRTHDAY”
Today, October 23rd, is my mom’s birthday but she has now been gone for ten years—seems like forever. She would have been ninety one. And on her birthday, I always sent her a dozen yellow roses for yellow was her favorite color and what woman doesn’t love roses? Started sending her these when I was about fifteen and working [while in high school] and onward and it became a tradition.
Lost my dad long before her and when she died, it hit me later on that I was an orphan. Guess anyone who has lost both parents comes to that realization as hard as it is to comprehend.
As an only child, I didn’t have a close relationship with my mom; she worked before I was born and afterwards—working was her life. Either I stayed with her mom, my grandmother or baby sitters until I was in the sixth grade for my dad also worked. I look back at so many times I wanted to be close to her but something in her make up put a barrier between us and that barrier lasted until the last three months of her life.
My mom wanted me to be like her but alas I was not—I was me. The things she liked were things I didn’t like and yet, she had given me lessons in everything from dancing to tennis to modeling but she was an executive secretary and there was no way I wanted to be one. She made me start work at fifteen [with a work permit] as a typist for the department of highways; this summer job lasted seven years. Did I like it? No way! I hated it but I did save the money I made and used while in college and afterwards for I became a teacher. I suppose she was proud that I chose that profession for she told me several times that she was.
As a grown up, I lived about ten minutes from her and tried to be the dutiful daughter; it was harder on my part for I had two sons and she only had one child—me. Anyone with two children knows how hard it is to work and take care of them and be everything and yet I tried. In 2001 she started getting a metal taste in her mouth and went to dentists and doctors; she told me that every single thing she ate tasted like metal. And then she got the bad news that that metal taste was cancer.
She knew what type she had as did I for it was cancer of the liver, lungs and adrenal glands but she didn’t want to know how long she had to live. One day I called her doctor whom I knew and was told that she had three months left of her life. I was in utter shock and didn’t say anything to my mom—no one did. Chemo was tried and her outlook seemed full of hope but she was in and out of the hospital so much that it ravaged her already ninety pound body into someone I hardly recognized.
That last few weeks of her life, I stayed with her-- took off from teaching and wish now I had taken off earlier. Her favorite place to sit in her apartment was in her kitchen: She would sit at the round glass table and peer out the window to see the street and the passing people. I sat there with her those weeks and it was during this time that she told me how proud of me she was and that she loved me. Never had said that to me in my entire life and yet I knew she did love me but to hear it was what I had wanted all of my life.
We talked of miracles happening before our eyes but avoided the talk of cancer; do remember her saying “We don’t remember what it was before we are born and won’t know what happens when we die.” Those words numbed me. No one thinks that their mom will ever die for they seem invincible even though we shove that back in our minds.
I was in the hospital with her that last week of her life. Things went from bad to worse; she was in horrific pain. Luckily, she had a living will and a caring doctor. Got in bed beside her and told her it was all right to let go [how I found the courage to say those words I don’t know] and she took her last breath on my face. It was over—I had lost my mom.
Weeks later I would find these little signs such as a butterfly landing on my face or arm—those signs went on for several years. Other unexplainable things have happened since her death and they have been good things on my part. I am left with so many unanswered questions to which I will never find the answer and perhaps that is how it should be.
Today I think of her and the birthdays past and wish her with me. All I have to do is to look at yellow roses and I am flooded with many good memories and a lot of missing. I’m glad I was with her those last weeks of her life—no one can take that back for it was the mother-daughter bond I so desperately sought and received.
*Rose picture from online: Apologize for don't remember source.