My mother was a study in contrasts. To describe her to anyone who did not meet her is a near impossibilty for me. She had a hefty dose of “the crazy,” which left quite the mark on me and my siblings. However, at the same time, she was this vibrant, social, amazing woman who gave us many beautiful gifts as well. On her birthday, I will try to convey some of those.
When she turned 40 years old, she gave herself a party and invited “75 of her closest friends.” There were actually people who got their feeling hurt because they did not make the guest list. Perhaps you all have a different experience, but I’m not sure I could get 75 folks to show up even if I advertised free beer and strippers.
When she went to a semi-formal event she forgot her dress shoes, so she wore her pink Reeboks with her dress. People thought it was the new trend, because it simply couldn’t have been screw-up if Anne were the one wearing them.
She sewed like a madwoman to make up for the fact that we had little money for clothes. She made 2 formal dresses for me that were as gorgeous as any worn those evenings.
She taught me a strong sense of personal responsibility. The things I do and choose have consequences, and I learned this from her at an early age.
She called me well after midnight one night to complain to her nurse-daughter that her “jaw hurt from crunching on too many root beer barrel candies.” She got just a tad bent out of shape when I told her to take some advil and use a heating pad…and to show some self restraint next time she broke out the candies.
She claimed that my sister and I had stolen her “olive socks.” This when we all had socks to match every sweater that we owned. Turned out she never had any olive socks for us to steal. When she confessed, she said, “You all will not let me live this down until the day I die.” Turns out she was right.
She had at least 4 women who considered her their “best friend.” She was always available to listen and support those she cared about.
Her funeral took place at a large Catholic Cathedral in Atlanta. I did not realize this at the time, but it was “standing room only.” I learned after her death of many lives she had touched that I knew nothing about.
Just before we sold the house that we had grown up in, my sister and I had this crazy idea to have one last party. The house that had hosted so many parties needed just one more. We called about 20 of her closest friends, and said, “You may think this is crazy, but we want to say goodbye to the house with one last party. Can you come tomorrow and bring an hor deouvere?” They agreed it was a bit odd, but all but one of the people we invited showed up–and it was right.
The good stuff in no way erases the crazy. She was ill equipped to be a single mom working for minimum wage at age 30. Some of the things she did and said left me very unprepared for finding healthy relationsips later in life. Much time and money has been spent in therapy to try to figure out how to rise above the coping skills that worked at the time but serve me poorly as an adult.
All that said, I miss her every single day. I am past those horrible days that had me waking and then remembering what the new reality is. I haven’t forgotten that she is dead in many years. However, when my sister or I have a terrible day and call the other to vent, the litany of troubles is often punctuated by the statement, “and Mother is still dead.” Time heals, but it is never okay. I think of the beautiful faces of my nieces and nephews. I am saddened by the weight of knowing they will never know her–except for the portraits that we continue to paint for them. I have trouble with the fact that the man I was dating when she died is the last significant other in my life who had a chance of knowing her–good, bad and ugly. I feel the weight of responsibility to keep her alive for her beautiful grandchildren that she never met. I feel the years sneaking up on me quietly…but not unnoticed. I look like her. I havedifficulty imagining myself being older than she ever was. It seems impossibly wrong for that to be the reality, but it is less than 2 1/2 years away.
Please forgive the rambliness of this post. A jumble of thoughts that seem whispy–difficult to catch and put to paper. She was crazy, yes. But she was also vibrant, adored, and full of life in a way I may never be.