What I'd Tell My Mother
In the seven years since she passed away, my love and admiration for my mother has continued to grow.
My daughters and I love hypothetical questions, a passion my husband didn’t understand or share when he married into our family of three females. He soon became accustomed to our dinnertime queries ranging from the mundane, such as “What would you do if you won a million dollars?” to the “no way to win” variety- “What if the only way to save the entire world was to kill your own family, would you do it?” Then, of course, the popular “If you could choose one person, dead or alive to have lunch with, who would you choose?” My answer to that question ranged from the expected, Jesus Christ to my hero Diana Nyad and my favorite First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. If that hypothetical question were posed to me now, I wouldn’t waver; I would choose my mother. I would love to take her to lunch on Mother’s Day and pour my heart out to her, tell her all the things I left unsaid.
If I were magically granted one more hour with my mother, I would begin with telling her she was right about so many things. My aging skin reminds me she was right, I should have worn sunscreen all those years I baked in the searing Oklahoma sun. My less-than-robust savings account reminds me of her good, but unheeded, advice about saving money from every paycheck. Going through a divorce was a painful reminder she was correct; a woman should always be prepared to take care of herself emotionally and financially. How did my mom know so much about so many things? I wish I could tell her I respect her wisdom.
If only I could sit next to her one more time, I’d apologize for not being more helpful with my intellectually disabled brother. Now that I’m his guardian, I have a completely new empathy and appreciation for the burden she carried and the never-ending, heavy responsibility. The longer she is gone, the more my role with my brother has morphed from a sibling role into a pseudo-parent role and with that, a new understanding of my mother. I’m ashamed I wasn’t more of a support for my mother in this difficult role. How did my mom stay so strong? I wish I could tell her how much I admire her strength.
My mother was a highly intelligent woman; in fact, my husband affectionately called her “the knower of all things." Although some women of her generation managed to take another path, she succumbed to the generational expectations and became a teacher before becoming a mother. She possessed the intellect and analytical skills of an engineer or an architect, and I often suspected she was unfulfilled in her choices. If I could be granted one more meeting with her, maybe I could listen and learn even a fraction of her knowledge. I wish I could tell her how in awe I am of her abilities, skills and intellect.
If I could have lunch with her just one more time, I would try to get to know her as a person, not just as my mother. I always looked wistfully at the best friend relationship so many of my friends had with their mothers, but our relationship never evolved to that level. Could we have made the leap to a Hallmark card-worthy bond if I had asked her more questions about her past, her dreams, her thoughts and her feelings? I would love one more chance to get to know her as a person, to see her beyond the mom I loved but took for granted. Who was she at the core? I wish I could have one more chance to know her on a deep level and be able to call her my friend.
I don’t think anyone can be prepared for the void created when their mother leaves this earth. I know I was shocked by how strongly I grieved and how much I continue to miss her presence. She’s been gone almost seven years, but in those seven years my love and admiration for her has continued to grow. If your mother is alive, call her and go out to lunch. Say all the things you need to say; if there are amends to be made, make them, for as Buddha says- the trouble is -we think we have time.