4 Things I Didn't Understand Until I Lost My Mom
(I understand that Mother’s Day is filled with accolades and outpourings of love for moms, but not everyone had the gift of a loving mother. This saddens me, and if this is you, I truly hope there was someone in your life that encouraged, uplifted and loved you. The title ‘mom’ doesn’t have to be written in blood to be meaningful.)
I was born when my parents were older and my three other siblings were either grown or almost grown. My experiences, and memories, were slightly different from theirs based on these time frames. I am confident when I say we all shared extreme respect and love for our mother; Alma Suis.
She has been gone for 12 years now, and I am still discovering the tremendous impact she had on my life.
I Took Her For Granted
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my mom tremendously. I did not intentionally set out to take her for granted, but looking back; I can see where at times I did.
I took for granted when I walked over every morning that she would be at the kitchen sink. I think for most of her life she stood in front of a sink. Her and my dad had a restaurant back in the late 40s; way before I came along. Then, she went to school to become a hairdresser and stood at a basin washing people’s hair until she became too sick to do so. And, of course, her kitchen sink. Where she made my dad breakfast EVERY morning until he passed, countless lunches and dinners and it wasn’t until the day she couldn’t stand at that sink any longer that I began to realize how sick she really was.
I took for granted when my kids got off the school bus, she would be there. I was extremely fortunate to have lived next door to my parents when my children were growing up. The memories (and the help) are more than I can recount. Family is not always perfect, but I have been very blessed when it came to mine. My mom was 45 when she had me. (I know, makes me shudder now too.) So she was in her sixties and seventies when my two came along. She seemed so strong and invincible, even at that age, that I didn’t fully appreciate how exhausted she must have been at times.
At 54, I help with my 2-year-old grandson and some days it’s all I can do to keep up. She had twenty years on me when she was doing the same thing. She loved those girls, and they loved her, but I know there must have been days when she didn’t feel like doing it. But she did. She always did. That's what moms do. And I will be forever grateful and humbled by her sacrifice.
The Holidays Would Not Be The Same
In an obvious sense, I understood the holidays would be different without her, but I don’t think I completely understood what that meant. Since I was a single mom, Santa Claus didn’t want me to have all the fun by myself on Christmas morning, so he delivered the toys next door to my parent’s house. (They had the chimney anyway.) So when my kids got up, we would run to grandma’s house to all be together. Those are really some of my very best memories.
Thanksgiving was unique because, when I was very little, we did the traditional turkey thing, but as she got older and the family was spread out more, spaghetti was always on the menu that day. I have no idea why she picked that particular meal, but I now associate marinara sauce over cranberry sauce with the pilgrims.
New Years Day was her birthday. So that day is always flooded with memories.
Oddly enough, April Fools Day is the day that stands out the most for me in terms of my mom’s enjoyment. And that isn’t even a holiday. My mom took her Christian beliefs very seriously and felt very strongly about lying. In fact, she didn’t even use the word lie because she felt it was a harsh word. She would use the word ‘fib’. But on April Fool’s Day, she had creative license to ‘fib’, and she would do so with great glee. She derived much pleasure in ‘tricking’ me into various sorts of dilemmas, and it was my immense pleasure to always be fooled. If you are not already doing so, create traditions with your mom. They will comfort you for years to come.
How She Cooked Banana Pudding
Or pretty much anything she cooked. I didn’t pay attention. I will say, by the time I came along, my mom’s patience for training had probably dwindled a bit. I remember her whizzing around the kitchen when I was a kid and BAM, food was on the table. As an adult, I tried to pin her down on recipes, but there weren’t any. She cooked by memory, by feel, by taste. As such, I’ll never again have a biscuit as good as hers or home-made-from-scratch banana pudding. My children suffer the most from my lack of the traditional passed down southern delicacies. I had forty years to enjoy her magic in the kitchen; they had so many less.
I believe my relationship with my mom went full circle. I was not an easy teenager to deal with. I was sent to go live with my sister in St Louis during my senior year of high school. When I returned, I soon ran away from home with a cowboy from Oklahoma (true story) and brought back a baby.
I tested her patience and love, but she never failed me. Ever. She led by example and taught me grace, forgiveness, humility, compassion, and complete unconditional love. I hope I redeemed myself in her eyes, as that became my life’s goal as I finally began to grow up.
As she faded from this world, both in mind and in body, I did my best to return the favor. I didn’t do it alone, but it was important to follow the journey with her to the end. That trip next door looked different as the cancer stole my precious momma, but I am eternally thankful I was able to make that trip every day until she moved on to find my dad in heaven.
So if you are still able to celebrate Mother’s Day with your mom this year, here is my advice. Don’t take her for granted. Cherish the holidays (and every day). Get her recipes. And enjoy the gift of her unconditional love.