My mom died when I was 28. She had issues—hell, she had a lifetime subscription, but I always knew she loved me. She wasn’t always good at showing it in a way that spoke to me, but I always knew that it was there.
When I was a teen, I became furious with her. Why hadn’t she taught me all the things that I would need to know as an adult? Why hadn’t she said the words I needed to hear? Or did the things that I needed her to do?
In my twenties, I figured out that she would never teach me these things, and I would have to muddle through. Some of the things, I seriously had to unlearn what she taught me, before I could move forward as a functioning adult in this society. Most of the things I had to teach myself how to do from scratch. Some of them I’m still not so solid on. (Housekeeping comes to mind—and to my house every month.)
The year she died was a bad one for me. It started with me being #4 in a five-car pile-up (#5 hit and ran, and so the insurance companies were trying to blame it all on me, until the inspector came and saw the steel frame of my car literally bent in half), and ended with the double-whammy of deciding to separate from my then-husband, and two days later, my mom passing from cancer.
Untethered, I traveled for the first half of the following year—sofa surfing some, and staying in hotels and hostels for some. It was kind of a blur, although I do remember staying with some dear friends, one of who was Very Pregnant. She went into labor, and they asked me to watch their toddler while she was giving birth at the hospital. I was so angry that this kid, crying on my shoulder because she wanted her mommy, got to have a mom (and such an awesome one, at that) while I didn’t have any.
Eventually I settled down to live with my grandpa and get myself sorted out. When my money ran out, I got a job answering phones for a service. I was in the pilot program for a potential client. We were going to take calls during their busy time, and if we did well enough, they’d hire my company on a permanent basis.
I trained for weeks, not knowing who the client was. It was top-secret, you know. And in the last week of training they announced… that we’d be taking orders for a major flower company! For their Mother’s Day rush! Everyone was so excited. And I was…not.
So I spent my work days listening to people tell me how awesome their mom is—or at least how obligated they felt to say so. I spoke with the people who bought the largest basket with all the bells and whistles, but didn’t know what their mom’s favorite flower was, and I spoke with the people who, when they heard what the delivery fees were, needed to get a smaller arrangement, but as long as there were some of this particular flower, it would still be good. Because all of them loved their moms.
It sucked, but it was a crash course in not hurting every time someone mentioned their mom.
Eventually, I left the job to take care of my grandpa full-time. He mostly just needed a physical presence, which gave me plenty of time to gaze at my navel, and it was in this period that I realized the important thing. Her whole life, my mom did the best she could. It wasn’t always what I needed. It often wasn’t what I wanted. But it was everything she had. And when she didn’t teach me something, I realized, it was because she didn’t know it. And when she didn’t say the right words or do the right things, it was because the way her world had molded her, she didn’t have the tools to support me. But she always wanted what was best for me. And she loved me. And at the end of the day, I turned out okay. Fait accompli.
To all the moms out there, doing your best at whatever capacity you can, I see you. I admire you. And I thank you for taking on the mantle and responsibility of influencing humanity’s future.