Unbelievable. I discover myself standing in the kitchen not being able to move. I came back from serving my girls their breakfast. We are having a great chat when I went to put the milk away. The fridge handle feels hot under my right hand and my left is cold by the half-full milk jug. My heart is still. The calendar is at eye-level glaring today’s date. I have always known this day comes every year. I began today feeling perfectly okay for the first time before I knew what today really was. Stunned, I can’t believe it has been 30 years ago today that my mom died. For the first time in all those anniversaries, today is the first time I didn’t spend the morning crying.
I always hated the term ‘motherless’ ever since I saw Bambi’s mother got shot in the first minutes of the film. You knew it happened, but it still tore the heart. It reminds me of what I’ve been missing since I was 10 years old. My mom died of breast cancer at the age of 38 years old. My sister was only eight years old. My childhood ended that day.
Two weeks after she died, school started. As we walked to class it felt like there was an arrow sign above our heads announcing ‘Motherless Kids Coming Through.’ Kids would stop talking when I went to the gym or step up to wait my turn on the swings. I felt like a circus act when I would get to my desk, to the library and to play at recess. The only time I felt normal was when I was the first one home after school. My sister would come home a bit later, after she finished her fourth grade after school activities. I had a brief precious half hour to myself. I could pretend that life was okay for that short time. I walked through every room remembering mom in the living room or eating breakfast at the kitchen table. I never went to her bedroom. It is too hard to remember her there. Her stuff cleaned out days after she died. The only smell my nose recalls is her perfume, Chanel Number 5. The magic spell ended the minute I heard the front door open.
Friends would corner me in the playground by the hopscotch over the next month to tell me how they found out about the news my mom died. They would go on and on about how they felt and how they would hate to lose their moms.
Over the next few years were dark, going through the beginning of teenage hood without my mom was very hard. Sure, there were nannies and the stepmother, but it wasn’t the same. No matter what others told me, I always wondered what mom would have said.
When I got married, being motherless had grown into a thorn in my heart. After all the heartbreak, I don’t want to have kids. I can’t do that my potential children. Cancer took a lot of family from us too early. I also had endometriosis, which meant I couldn’t have conceived naturally. I was okay with that. There are many childless parents out there who deserve to find their children. My two girls changed that plan.
The minute the doctor confirm my pregnancy, my first, I was wrapped in fear. I took all the recommended precautions to make sure I would give birth to a very healthy baby. I took my grief it became motivated to be the best mom I could for my child, like mom did for me. I didn’t know what else to do to care for my baby, other than the books I devoured. When my first baby arrived the motherless grief return instantly. I had trouble breast-feeding. The baby would cry and cry. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t hear my mother’s voice anymore.
I became what is known as a helicopter parent before it was a label. I began to focus every ounce of energy for my baby. Every cry, every request and every wail, I am there at all hours of the day and night, whatever she needed. I know every breath, every giggle and every precious moment. I am all too aware how painful it is to want your mom, I will never let my child know that heartache.
On the good days, I do not hate being motherless anymore, I am going to do what Bambi did and move forward. But if I had that other life, one with her in it, would have I have met my children, I wonder. I might not have my stories, but I am making my own daughters by being here to live them together.
“MOM!!!” My thoughts are interrupted by my seven-year-old beauty is yelling from the kitchen table.
I jumped out of my thoughts and answered, “What is up?” My heart starts beating again. The feeling of my legs and voice returns.
She is looking at me with a look of curiosity in her smile. “Close the fridge. You are wasting energy, remember?” I nod as I close the door with a smile on my face, heart and soul. I am able to be the mom that my girls need me to be. I know that my mom was that for me for as long as she could. There is one exemption; I haven’t let my kids see Bambi, yet.
For the three decades that have passed since that ill-fateful day, this is the first time I don’t miss her madly. It occurs to me that she has always been here for every step of the way. All this time I worried about being a mom when the whole time I already had the best mom to model by. She wasn’t the best cook, me either. She wasn’t the best homemaker, ditto. My mom is always there for me, even in death. She is there in my parenting her grandchildren, with unconditional love.
I hug my girls with the familiar arms that I once craved after school or skating practices. I will always miss my mom. I now know that she will always be here. The best way to honor her is by being the mom she was to me. And that sounds like medicine to my healing heart. I didn’t need a parenting book to rely on, I just have my children’s hugs to remind me of what I need.
Being motherless does suck and that is okay to say. Motherless may be what got me here now, but it doesn’t define who I am today.