I hope everyone is having a wonderful Sunday.
We were driving to the park today to enjoy the sunshine and we passed a cemetery.
“Gigi’s dead. Is she in there?”
Laila must be pondering death these days. A few weeks ago, Mark was driving me to the start of the OKC marathon at some ungodly hour.
Laila started in then, too.
“The sky is big,” she said. “Heaven’s in the sky.”
“She’s in heaven. She’s watching over us.”
She is so blunt and morbid at 4, we had to lolz. But then she’s so sweet. And we like to think the geedge really is watching over us.
Mark got paranoid Laila had become an itsy portent of death and that something bad was going to happen at the marathon.
Nothing did. My knee crumbled at mile 1 — but, c’mon, there are worse things, by a lot.
I wanted to share a column I wrote about my mom, aka Gigi, a few years back.
Today, it is too sad for my taste. While I still agree with much of what I wrote, saying the day is “bittersweet” doesn’t reflect how I feel at this moment in time. I mean, I am a mom. Yes, I’m celebrating the Mother’s Day holiday without mine — however, rather than focus on my family’s loss, I’d rather focus on the present. I had a great day today with my family. I did things to remember my mom. I wore my favorite ring of hers. I had a Chai tea latte and splurged on a pedi. I gardened with Laila. Then we all went to an adorable garden in downtown OKC. Myriad Gardens had set up as The Secret Garden. That was one of my favorite books as a little kid.
However, I’ll still share the column, because, maybe someone else out there is going through their first Mother’s Day without their mother. Maybe they take it to the Internet looking for a break from gushy Facebook posts about mom, kids (guilty, guilty … ), Maybe there are a lot of people reminded today of what they don’t have, in one way or another.
Plus, cancer sucks. I think we can all agree.
That being said, I had a great day with my little family. Life goes on after cancer. It gets easier. Grief is always around when you lose someone like my mom, who I was very close to. But the good memories stay, too. Let’s make a pact to make lots of those while we still can.
Here’s what I wrote back in ’12:
Today is Mother’s Day, and it’s bittersweet.
In October 2011, my mom’s’s life force left the building. I held her as she died. She was 59.
But I had my daughter, Laila, who was then nearly six months old. And now, a year. My ma, Gayle, got to meet her. And love her.
I wish things were different. That I was bringing flowers to her instead of to her grave site on Mother’s Day. The loss stings extra on days like today.
But my husband is warning me: This column is getting way too sad. And that’s not my point.
When she died I had no regrets. And that was lucky. Because she knew what she meant to me. I told her often. We talked every day.
I’d like to think we made up for the years that I wasn’t, always good to her, from about age 13 through early 20s. Fights about school. Fights about boys. Fights about plans, about life. Eye rolls, dirty looks, the occasional screaming match and a whole bunch of inner conflict on my part.
It’s like that one indoor soccer game. Which I forgot about until the months before my mom’s death, when I had become a mom and we were reminiscing back on those tumultuous teenage years. I was 15. And she came to watch my game. And I ignored her, and shot her a look that could have turned her to stone when I noticed she was there. Probably, because some boy was there. And moms were, like, lame. And annoying. And, like, whatever. She told me before she died that dirty look broke her heart a little. And I felt so bad.
When my baby looks at me and says ‘”mama,” I melt. And if she spurned me like that I’d hide my tears and definitely guilt-trip her about it years down the road, when we were on better terms. When I’d raised her right and finally we were friends on equal footing.
I always needed my mother and wanted her oft-unsolicited advice to accept or reject, but there was no way I’d admit it for nearly a decade after that soccer game. I gave her that look, but I bet I would have been upset if she’d not shown up. My daughter has already started down that path. When I’m playing with her and want a hug, she runs away. When I try to get something done on my lap top, she wants to be held. Oi. God help me 12 years from now.
When we found out my mom had late-stage, incurable esophageal cancer in April 2009, I moved back home. And we had fun. A lot of it, in the next year and a half she lived it up with the disease. Our goal: to think about today, and not a lot about anything else. The only fight to be had was with the cancer.
And like I said at her funeral in October 2010, it took her body, and that was it. It never defeated her spirit. Not for an instant.
People wondered how I could make a speech the day we buried my mother. But it was the easiest thing I’d ever done.
Letting her go was the hardest.
I’ve got a point, and this it it: babies, be good to your mamas. Today, and every day that you can. And go ahead and fight, but make amends quickly. Grudges aren’t worth it.
Hopefully your mama’s a good one. I like to think most are, or try to be. It’s likely they’ve just got your back. To a fault, they’ve got your back.
I get it now what a mama’s love is and the depths it reaches.
Today, I’ll take flowers to my mother’s grave. Grave sites, I’ve found, are surprisingly 1-year-old friendly. No traffic. Well-kept grounds. Very little the baby can pick up and choke on.
Laila has no idea we’re on hallowed ground. She thinks it’s a playground with large gray blocks everywhere. We like to say hi to her “Gigi” there on weekends. I admit once I brought her a chai tea. But my mother is not really underground. She’s elsewhere. Her life force has left the building. But it’s in me.
Guiding me away from the purchase of linen pants – they will wrinkle in 30 seconds. Feeding me the perfect come-back – 20 minutes too late. Peppering advice with folksy sayings that hinted at a Southern up bringing. Telling me to keep my mouth shut and think. Listen. And then filter. Still working on that. And encouraging me to forge ahead, forge ahead, always, no matter what.
This is my second Mother’s Day with Laila. I’m hoping for a long and happy life with her. That one day, we’ll be good friends, on equal footing. And I’m wishing all you mothers out there the same.