As Mother's Day is fast approaching this year, I have found myself reminiscing fondly on some old family traditions. My Mom and Nana were always taken to dinner, or celebrated with cookouts, and both always received flowers. They both loved fresh cut flowers. They did not have to cook and were allowed the opportunity to catch up with their families. To not have to worry over the family meal, as we mothers are want to do, and actually get to enjoy being the center of attention, along with school made trinkets and cards were a perfect way to spend the special day. My mother was a lover of beautiful things, and we loved showering her with presents. To watch her squeal or exclaim with glee and absolute joy at whatever new pretty we had bought just for her, was always so much fun! She was like a kid on Christmas morning! But it wasn't all about the presents. It was all about coming together to spend time together s a family.
Every year the Saturday before Mother's Day was my annual dance recital. The dance instructor gave the mother of each dancer a red rose, and dedicated every performance to his mom and all the moms in the audience. This was a yearly tradition that lasted for ten years. I thought of this the other day as I watched my own daughter dancing, during dance class, getting ready for her first dance recital. A fond memory of the time and money spent on me, out of love all those years. She was always so very proud of me. She would have been so very proud of my little dancer as well.
My mother and I spent several Mother's Days in the hospital. I would read to her, we would visit and chat, and I would bring her all around good cheer and humor. That is what I became to my mother in the end, her lifeline of hope and laughter. It was my job to cheer her up. I was her unflappably sunny girl who helped convince her to hang in there and to never give up, even in her weakest moments. In her private moments of despair, she turned to me, and I was her reassurance and her safe place. I was the one who would listen without judging or lecturing. I was glad to be able to have the opportunity to hang out with my momma for hours on end, by her bedside, even if it was only to listen to the labored sound of her breathing interrupted every so often by her talking in her sleep or the occasional snore. Oh how I wish I could be by her bedside just once more and hold her warm hand in mine. Just one more time to gaze upon her beautiful countenance, bathed in slumber, as I was simply in her presence, near her.
Our last Mother's Day together, was three years ago. It is a day I will never forget. My momma did not feel like going out to eat. She had been in and out of the hospital, she was very sick. She had round the clock care at this time, and so my two and a half year old daughter, husband and I went to be with her for the day. We gave her helpers the day off. I cooked pasta for dinner and we ate. She visited and played with her "doll-baby" as she always called my daughter. We were having a good day, except she did not feel one hundred percent. We enjoyed each other for a few hours and then she became ill.
She did not make it to the bathroom before becoming ill. I felt so bad for cooking pasta that upset her tummy! At this point, I realized that things had really changed. What had started out as small, subtle changes, were now, as of this day, concrete absolutes in my mind. A monumental shift had occurred in our relationship, and I don't know exactly at what point it happened. Had I been in denial?
I was now helping to take care of my mother. I was now her caregiver. Long gone were the days when she had taken care of me, and in were the new days that had positioned me as her caregiver. As I scrubbed my mother, cleaned up the mess, bathed her and dressed her, as she was too weak to do it herself, scrubbed the rugs, floor, carpet, hallway, walls, trash can, and sink, I realized that I would literally do anything on earth for this woman, just as she had done for me. It showed me a new level of my mother's humility in accepting help, and having to depend on me. Never again would I balk at the letters M.R.S.A., if she needed her hair washed, I would make it happen. If she needed help in the hospital to shower and clean up, I was there. She always got so excited when I would help her take a shower, to get "all purtied up" for my daddy. I have never met a woman who liked to smell good, or wear perfume like my mother. She was always so thankful to have me help her, not anyone else. She was more comfortable with me, and that's how it should be.
After I got her all tucked into bed, and my brother arrived to spend some time with her, I gave her the biggest hug and told her that I loved her. My baby came in to say goodbye, and then we got ready to leave. She kept trying to apologize to me, and I wouldn't hear of it. I told her that was my job, that she wiped my butt for years and now it was my turn! I have never been a squeamish person, I was raised in a medical family, and it is next to impossible to gross me out. I told her to not speak one more word, that I loved her and I was so sorry she was sick on Mother's Day! I loved her so much, and with everything I had in me, I put that into my smile, hugs and kisses that day.
I cried the entire way home. The baby fell asleep in the carseat, and I sobbed and sobbed. I think for the first time, I let myself see how bad off my mother really was. I let the realizations sink in, where before I just always kept up the good and positive attitude fight, and trudged along. After staring my mother's poor hemorrhoids in the face that day, I had my breaking point. There was no longer any hiding from it, or remaining in denial. I went to bed bawling my eyes out
and stayed there the rest of the day. Thank God for Hubbie the Dearest.
One of my favorite memories along those lines, is an ordinary day when I helped her to get a shower in the hospital. I remember taking a giant 7-11 heavy plastic cup to rinse her hair with. She was moaning in the shower it felt so good to her, to have a hot shower! She was not strong enough to rinse her hair, so I rinsed her hair free of soap, and helped her wash her legs and feet. I handed her washrags, and shampoo, and towels. In a lifetime of memories, it is this one that strangely brings me the most comfort. It is the small things like a shower, that most of us take for granted.
So from my worst but strangely cathartic Mother's Day story to my other Ma Day ramblings, Kiss your mamma's! You never know!
Happy Mother's Day to all!