You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone: An Ode to Moms

When I was a kid I had a teddy bear. His name was Teddy, because evidently my imagination hadn’t quite kicked in yet. I can’t exactly remember the details, but I think my great Aunt Garnet got him for me when I was about 4 years old. At any rate, Teddy was my constant companion in times of fear, like when a big ol’ thunderstorm would roll in. Yes, I can admit it now…I wasn’t exactly a mini Chuck Norris growing up. I had to have Teddy by my side every night, clutching him in my nightly slumber like the prized possession that he was. Over time his original outfit got all tore up, and all of his little paws got torn off…not due to anything sadistic I did, but just because of wear & tear. Fortunately my Grandma Pigott was a wiz with needle, thread, & a sewing machine, and she performed many a cosmetic surgery on Teddy. I probably kept him a little bit too long (if you know what I’m saying), but eventually the time did come when my smoldering machismo started to kick in and I knew it was no longer cool to sleep with a stuffed animal. I guess the transition wasn’t too traumatic, since it isn’t really etched into my memory like so many other life events. I look back on my time with Teddy and smile, appreciating that small chunk of my childhood…but I can honestly say I don’t yearn deeply to somehow hop in the ol’ DeLorean time machine and bring him back.

 

It is a far different thought process when it comes to my Mom.

 

I’m not a big fan of Mother’s Day, for kind of the same reasons why I loathe Valentine’s Day. VD (ha!!) is a pretty pointless holiday when one is single, and only serves as a gloomy reminder that, for some reason, I am not cool enough, hot enough, or rich enough to satisfy the shallow needs of the average 21st century woman. Similarly, Mother’s Day is a melancholy reminder of what I have lost.

 

Nearly 13 years ago…on a temperate February night…my Mom slipped away. I was living at home at the time, and I still remember it well. The 911 call…my Dad’s worried look…the fire department & paramedics working on her. She held on for a few days in a vegetative state, and what will haunt me for the rest of my life are her eyes, tears flowing, as she apparently understood everything that was happening but couldn’t speak. Mom had a living will and did not want to be kept alive by machines for more than a few days, so eventually my Dad had to make the tough decision to honor her wishes and have her taken off life support. She was 52 years old, but had been in poor health for two decades, including having a lung removed due to lung cancer 5 years earlier. At the end her heart simply wore out. The day we buried her was an unusually sunny, warm day at the end of February. I wrote a letter that was placed in her casket, and I’d like to think she read it once she got settled in up in Heaven.

 

I realize that I was blessed in many ways. I had my mother until I was 27 years old. I got to spend every day of the last five years of her life living in the same home. Since she’d had so many health problems for such a long time there was a tacit understanding that it was unlikely she’d live to be wished a triple digit happy birthday by the weather guy on the Today show, so there was a subconscious preparedness. And most of all I was blessed to have been raised, taught, taken care of, and loved by an amazingly strong, kind, and selfless child of God. I have always said and will continue to say that any positive traits I may occasionally display are entirely due to the way I was raised by my parents.

 

Having said that, I must also concede that every day of the past 12+ years has been…different. The old cliché is that “time heals all wounds”. I’m not sure that is completely true. I sometimes feel…with all due respect to our men & women in uniform…like a soldier that has been wounded, that even though life moves forward and I do what must be done on a daily basis there will always be a scar and a noticeable limp. It’s just that my scar & limp aren’t manifested physically. I do not say that to elicit any sympathy. Not at all. I am forthright for two reasons. First because I know that my feelings aren’t unique. Lots of people have experienced loss. Many many people will “celebrate” this Mother’s Day not by buying a present for or taking out to eat their very much alive mother, but by visiting a gravesite or shedding a tear. Secondly, I wish to give a friendly nudge to those whose mothers are still on this Earth. When my Mom died one of the most overwhelming emotions I experienced was the desire to be able to talk to her just one more time. I could not…still cannot…remember the last thing I said to her. It haunts me, even though I wrote that letter. So if your mother is still around, call her. Visit her. Give her a hug & kiss. Tell her you love her. One certainly cannot go around thinking in morbid terms like “this may be the last time I ever see you”. That’d drive a person nuts. However, I would recommend keeping the thought somewhere in the subconscious. If nothing else it is good motivation to be good to people and not act like a complete idiot.

 

As for Mother’s Day…I try not to let my own gloominess affect others’ appreciation of the event. Mother’s Day was actually founded in my home state of West Virginia, just about a half hour down the road in Grafton, by Anna Jarvis in 1914. Therefore I suppose I should feel a bit of home state pride. And of course the whole idea behind the holiday is splendid. Mothers should be recognized & celebrated for all they do. In 21st century America we have been conditioned by equal rights, women’s’ liberation, and the near economic necessity for two incomes to not revere motherhood as a job in & of itself. But I suspect that if modern mothers would compare notes with their maternal ancestors the conclusion would be that, despite the wonders of technology, amazing advances in medicine, and evolving societal norms, it’s still as tough a gig now as it was then. So kudos to all the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, etc. out there that have ever raised a child or are in the process of doing so. We live in a world with many pitfalls, temptations, and opportunities to royally screw up. Your child may not grow up to be rich, famous, or successful by the world’s definition, but if you help them navigate the many twists & turns of life without too much collateral damage, instill some good values & morals, and guide them toward being a reasonably productive member of society then I don’t think it is unreasonable to set aside one day a year to say “job well done”.

 

 

 

 

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