Why Moms are Forever

Yes, I am turning into my mother. And after years of avoidance I now embrace it like the good thing it is! Here is why.

As we baby boomers age, more and more of us are joining the ranks of the motherless. In just the last two months, four of my friends have lost their moms. Two more friends have had the kind of near misses that are precursors of the end game. Until recently, a common conversational topic was how to care for aging parents. Now, the conversation turns to what it is like now that parents have passed.

Losing a mom is something I have experience with. I lost my mom early in the game, over 15 years ago, while I was in my mid 40s, so I have had many years to "get over" the loss. As in all things, there is good news and difficult news to share.

I can say this, nothing prepared me for the level of loss I faced. The death of one's mother is surely one of the most profound losses any of us ever experience.  It is a gut punch, visceral and deep.  Even when the event is somewhat expected (when is that, really?) it leaves you breathless and quivering. That was certainly my experience. You never do "get over it." But things do get better, the gut punch of grief less frequent, and there are compensations I never expected.

I still miss my mom and think of her almost every day.  Not that my mom was perfect - far from it! Let's see....sarcastic, controlling.....and did I mention the five husbands?  Never mind, she was my mom and I loved her.  I know she loved me.

At the time of her death I was terribly afraid of how my memories of her would fade, that she would truly be lost to me.  These many years later, nothing has faded, not even the remembrance of difficult times, like the fact that she rode me constantly about my weight, right up until the day before she died. What has faded is the pain. Instead what is present is a deep appreciation of the many gifts that she gave me. 

Perhaps the best gift of all was that my mom taught me the art of gratitude.  She told me endlessly to count my blessings twice and my troubles once.  And then to say thank you to anyone who made the blessings list!  She was ahead of her time in recognizing that she never felt better than when she was grateful and shared that gratitude with others. She was right. Now there is a science of brain chemistry that backs her up.

But wait! There is more!

My mom defined toughness. She regularly displayed fortitude in the most difficult of circumstances. Six pregnancies, early widowhood, cancer.... In my mom's life you got knocked down and then you got right back up and did it again. There was no whining in our household because whining was unthinkable.  

My mom always found a way to laugh and to get others to laugh with her.  She believed that laughter was healing. Usually her humor was slightly off color. Once she entered the retirement home, she made it a point to have jokes ready to amuse those around her.  She told me once for the "folks from the third floor" (that would be memory care unit) she could tell the same jokes again and again and still get great laughs. This thrilled her thrifty depression era soul no end.

I never saw her go against her gut instinct.  After my dad died (she was only 48 at the time) there was a whirlwind of changes, many of which could have had singularly bad out comes. Mom stuck to her guns and listened to herself first.  And as a result almost everything turned out all right.

If you have met me, you may recognize some of these gifts  Of course, I am only sharing with you the good stuff.  There are other gifts from my mom - like a hair-trigger temper, natural bossiness, backseat driving and a predilection for chocolate - that I am less likely to tout.  But all of these things come together to make me who I am, and because they are a connection to my mom I cherish them all.  

This has taken me a while to figure out, years in fact. When I was younger being compared to my mom would set off the famous temper. I have now come to recognize that I carry her with me all the time. It is inescapable.

Sometimes I blurt out little sayings of hers.  "Off like a herd of turtles" is a classic.  In photos I can see her in myself.  I wear black a lot. My husband thinks it is very cute to point out all the resemblances. This has become an endless source of amusement to him, unfortunately.

But the fact remains that I am becoming more like her every day.  It is like she is with me, riding shotgun, showing up in the things I do or say. Thankfully, I am now wise enough to treasure this.  So, what does this mean? Here is my take: while I theoretically lost my mom,  I really did not. Because she is always along for the ride. Moms are forever.