My mother died when I was 9 and I never cried. Oh, I teared up a little here and there, but I mostly shut it down, closed it out, acted tough.
She got sick on Thursday and Friday morning my dad took her to the doctor. As he led her out of the house through the kitchen, I looked up from breakfast and saw her pale tired eyes. She would be admitted into care an hour later. In those days kids younger than 12 were not allowed upstairs in the hospital, and I went back to reading my cheerios box not realizing I would never see her alive again.
She died that Monday night. Tuesday morning my dad woke my sister and me. In a guest bedroom of a neighbor’s house, we sat on the floor, our backs to the bed, while he wept and told us mom was gone.
It was commotion from there; back to the house to pack, adults around looking sad, the plane flight to Indiana where she would be buried, just 50ft from the grave of my brother Chris, who had died years earlier, when only 4 days old.
The memorial service was closed casket, but before they asked us if any family wanted a last look. I proceed to give the type of oh so clever response that would be all too common from me in the years to come...." I prefer to remember her as she was” I said stoically. The adults all nodded in some sort of agreed denial. Yet when no one was looking, I walked back across to the visitation room and looked down to the far end, to my mom's casket still open. One last time I saw the profile of her gentle face, her button nose and pale lips. Then it was back to the crowd, back to the show, and back to that facade.
My Dad fell apart from there, it was a slow spiral, and I thought I was going to be strong, going to be the one to hold our little family of 3 together. I was 9, it was a mistake. My sister found her own path to be strong with no help from me, I never could help my Dad, and I started down my long road of being an emotional cripple; broken, stunted, with attachment issues and insecurities by the bushel.
Intellectually, I have known for years that I never healed, never grew, never learned from my Mom’s absence. I have said it to many of those close to me. I have talked about it as if that alone would change anything, as if acknowledging the complete mess your house was in would somehow make it clean, but what I have never done is bring that change into my heart. I have never committed to doing the emotional work it is going to take. When it has come down to it, I have always pushed her memory to the side, acted tough, said something clever. Well this is my commitment to a new beginning. It is the end of years of ignoring Mother’s Day. It is the end of me not learning, not growing. Happy Mother’s day mom. Welcome back. We have so many years to catch up on. I have missed you.