I don’t normally get all sucked into the drama of Mother’s Day, but I’ve had to read a lot about it at work the last few days, and on Facebook. It seems to be advertised everywhere this year too. More than usual. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to turn off the TV.
But seriously, it’s not Mother’s Day that gets me. It’s random Tuesdays, when I see something that reminds me of my dear sweet mama, and I feel this pull in my heart, a pang of sadness that’s never, ever going away. I lost my mom in 2003 as a result of a fire. It was an awful time, most of which my crafty brain has blurred for me. I blurred a lot of it myself with random brain-cell killing substances.
My mom was my best friend. Best friends fight, and hoo boy did we fight. But I loved her like no one else. We were 20 years apart, and she used to tell me, “You’re the only thing I have in this world that’s truly mine.” She knew I’d walk through fire for her. And I wish I could have that day — taken those flames instead of her.
I’m working at the Food Bank this Saturday morning, and it’s empty save a few souls who are in other sections of the building. So I was walking down the hall, whistling “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison. I love whistling; my Papa taught me how to do it when I was little. My mom used to tell me, “A whistlin’ girl never gets a husband.” Not sure where that bit of wisdom came from, but since I’m 36 and have never been married, maybe she was on to something. Mom was married five times; I never heard her whistle.
My mom was full of sage comments like that. Something she picked up along the way in rural Oklahoma, I’m assuming. She grew up in the sticks of Henryetta, made her own clothes, lived on a farm, was the youngest of five, went to Sunday school, Sunday night services, Missionettes on Tuesday and Wednesday church. If the doors were open, the Thomases were at church.
She was not like anyone else in the family, I’m convinced, though probably closest to my Aunt Mary. Mom was funny, weird, into music and comedy, and oh-so-smart. She knew everything. She taught me a lot of what she knew… but not enough. She could do plumbing, carpentry work, masonry, electric work, build entire rooms… She was amazing. She didn’t know much about cars, but knew that nail glue fixed just about anything.
My mom always smelled good, but wore no perfume. She was always beautiful, but didn’t wear much makeup. Her food always tasted delicious, but I think she only used salt and pepper, never fresh herbs or olive oil. Mom believed that the only temperature worth using on the oven was 350 degrees. Mom LIVED on diet Coke, crackers, candy and Yarnell’s ice cream, but had a beautiful figure and the most amazing legs ever. (I didn’t inherit these genes…)
Mom died on July 11, 2003. My brother and I had to OK turning off life support. It was easy for me to do once I picked up her leg in the hospital room and I could wrap my thumb and index finger around her calf. Those amazing legs were wasting away. She didn’t know me anymore. A fever of 108 degrees robbed her brain of its usefulness. It was a hard decision. But I’m very glad I made it. She would’ve hated me to keep her alive.
Not a day — probably not an hour — goes by that I don’t miss my mom. She was such an integral part of my life, and I didn’t even know it then. I knew I liked her, and that she was incredibly important to me, but I didn’t realize just how much she changed my life, made me who I am. She was rock-solid and flexible. She was honest and knew when to stretch the truth. She was a friend and a mom… mostly a mom. She didn’t cave. She didn’t let me run wild. Because of her, I graduated from high school, college, and went on to do the job she would’ve done had she not gotten pregnant with me while she was in college.
She told me once that I’d lived out her dreams. She told me never to allow myself to be taken care of completely, but to do it for myself. She could never fully accomplish that in her own life. She didn’t become the journalist she wanted to become. I did. And now, I look over my life, and I’m pretty damn happy with it. I’ve done what my mother wanted, and what I, in turn, wanted too.
I get angry when people disparage their moms. I realize I won the Mom Lottery, that not all moms are as great as mine. But still, it’s your mother. Love your mother. Don’t talk down to her. She gave you part of her body for nine months, give or take. She kept you alive, or gave you to someone who could keep you alive. You don’t have to worship her, but for God’s sake, treat her right.
I’d give my whole life for five more coherent minutes with Mom. I have a memory of a soft white sweatshirt she often wore, and my head laying on her shoulder. The comfort, the smell, the complete abandonment of fear… that’s where my mind goes when I miss her.
Happy Mother’s Day, to all of you moms, mamas, mothers, mommies, nanas, meemaws and the like. You are loved.