I miss my Mom. In the 8 years that have gone by since her death there isn’t a single Mother’s Day that I haven’t felt both sad and regretful. Sad that she’s no longer physically here for me to hug and regretful that I spent many years feeling burdened and inconvenienced each time I had to spend time with her. Although I was afforded the chance before she died to apologize for my behaviour and repair my relationship with her, I frequently think about the times I was unkind and insensitive and I feel a tremendous amount of sorrow that I didn’t have more time to show her that I loved and respected her.
My Mom and I weren’t best friends and I wasn’t the easiest daughter to raise. Instead of frilly clothes, make-up, and Home Economics, I was in to jeans and t-shirts, baseball and basketball, and Wood Shop. It seems as though we fought constantly about one thing or another; she wanted me to keep my hair long and I wanted it short. She wanted me to wear skirts and heels and I wanted to wear Levis and high-tops. She wanted me to be quiet and demure and I was loud and abrasive. I think many teenage girls go through periods of despising their mothers but my rebellion lasted well into my twenties and I know that my Mom spent a lot of time crying over mean things I said and did.
When I was 30, a close friend told me if I didn’t get some help dealing with the huge chip on my shoulder, she was no longer interested in continuing our friendship. I was extremely overweight and decided I would go to therapy so I could get to the root of my weight issues (because I just knew that would fix everything). Once in the therapist’s office I quickly blamed most of my issues on my mother and after 30 minutes or so, the therapist looked at me and said, “Look – you’re not going to come here and be a victim. I can help you repair your relationship with your Mom (and Dad, too) but you have to decide if you want a relationship with her (them) or not. If you do, you’re going to take responsibility for your part in that relationship.” I almost threw my Diet Coke at him and left but instead I decided that I wasn’t willing to give up my relationship with my Mom and I stayed and listened to what he suggested. That decision changed my life.
I gradually got better at allowing my Mom to be who she was and I found that we didn’t yell at each other nearly as often and were able to spend time together without both of us leaving in tears. That summer, I joined a bowling league with my folks and every Friday night after we were finished bowling, we’d go across the street to Cocos and have coffee and just chat. It was during one of those nights out that I came out to both my parents and I’ll never forget my Mom saying, “[Sara], I don’t want to hear about that.” I gave her time and allowed her to deal with it in her own way and gradually (although she would never be able to say the word “gay” or “lesbian”) she accepted me for who I am.
By the time I graduated with my undergraduate degree, my Mom was too sick to attend the ceremony. Just three months earlier she discovered that the breast cancer she had successfully fought twice before had returned with a vengeance and she decided that she didn’t want to put her body through another round of chemotherapy and radiation. Although she and my Dad couldn’t attend the ceremony my friend made it possible for them to attend the small party I had afterward. My Mom was in a wheelchair but managed to stand next to me (as I held her elbow and allowed her to lean on me) for what would be our last family photo. For graduation, my parents bought me the Plaut Torah Commentary and to this day it remains one of my most cherished possessions. It is signed by both my parents on the back of the last page as one opens the book- right to left (the Plaut Commentary opens left to right). I never said a word to them about it and every time I use it I look at the sentiment written by my Mom in her unsteady hand and feel a catch in my throat as I see the small smiley face she drew at the end next to the postscript, “Keep Smiling.”
I miss my Mom. I miss hearing her say, “What? [Sara], I can’t hear you,” a million times during a conversation. I miss watching her rock in her chair watching her favorite show. I miss seeing her latest read with its smiley face bookmark sticking out from the middle. I miss seeing her head on my Dad’s shoulder (a very rare show of affection in front of their children). I miss watching her water her lilac bush that’s still in the backyard and still blooms every spring despite having been unattended for 4 years after she died. But most of all, I miss her voice.
Sometimes as I look at one of my favorite photos of her I begin to think that I can no longer remember what she sounds like and I feel a twinge of sadness knowing I won’t hear her voice again. Then as I carry on with my day, I’ll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and hear myself call out for Scully’s Mom and I suddenly realize how much I look and sound like my Mom – and despite my best efforts not to, I chuckle. I know somewhere she’s probably chuckling, too.
Carol Kay Danger – 12/25/39 – 9/6/02 – Zichrona liv’racha.