10 Motherless Years

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November 2, 2018 by 8junebugs

Me, reaching for something on a shelf just out of Grayson’s reach: “Don’t worry, buddy. Eventually, you’ll be taller than I am.”

Grayson: “Right, because you’ll be dead!”

Well. Let’s hope you grow past me before that happens, kid.

Five-year-olds, man.


I’ve been dreading today a bit, if only because today deserves more attention than I can give it, and because I’m really scattered about how I feel about it.

It’s been 10 years since Mom died.

It seems like an impossible number. That’s a lot of life to live without her.

Put another way, she’s missed four whole lifetimes. I mean, those lives are still pretty brand new, but it adds up — her grandchildren, in the aggregate, have had nearly 16 years without her. But here we all are, building a life moment by moment, day by day, as some of my memories start to get a little hazy around the edges.

My kids would have adored my mom. It’s a tricky assumption, but I know it’s true. I know, at least, that they would have adored the version of her we most like to remember, before life got a little heavier than she was prepared to carry, as it does for so many of us.

Mom at the beach, or in the pool. Mom behind the plate, or on the volleyball court our garden became. Mom mowing the lawn and making chocolates; Mom tacking up a horse or demanding a bigger Christmas tree, every single year. Mom laughing at the kitchen counter.

Not so much Mom worrying about mortgage payments and platelet counts.


Every day, there’s something I want to tell her. I’ve decided it’s not that you always need your mom. You just never don’t need her.

I know. It’s a double negative. But I’m an editor and I’m here to tell you that the meaning is ever so slightly different enough to tell the usage rules to fuck right off. I’ve done all right in the last 10 years — I’ve built a career and a family, found an unlikely passion for a sport, and survived skinny jeans, all without my mom around. Some of it would have been so much boring background noise in our conversations, but…

I always wish that I could call her, that she was present for it, even from far away.

“Mom, listen to the boys laugh when I speak ‘ob.'”

“Mom, the boys love to dance to Rocky Top.”

“Mom! Alex and I had our first duet!”

“Mom, I made the boat I wanted.” / “Mom, I survived another round of layoffs.”

“Mom, I just scheduled a hysterectomy. Want to spend Christmas in Oakland this year?”

(That last one’s a toughy because I know we’d spend HOURS on it. One of the oddest things that happened in 2002 was my brother’s wedding to his now-ex-wife. It was a last-minute affair at Mom’s house before the bride shipped out to Basic Training. My hands-down best memory from that night is when Dad went out to the front porch for a cigarette and his ex-wife and second wife booted him back indoors because they were out there comparing hysterectomy stories.)

I look back on all the choices I’ve made and I know Mom couldn’t — or wouldn’t — have liked all of them. She would have preferred to have me stay in Vermont when I was 16. She might have preferred Syracuse to DC when I was choosing where to finish undergrad. She liked my ex-husband just fine but probably knew he wasn’t the right partner for me. She would certainly have preferred to have fewer than 3,000 miles between her and the rugrats I birthed, and she wouldn’t be happy about my determination to stay put at Christmas.

(She would, without question, love the rowing and really love this haircut.)

But what I’ve never, ever doubted is that she was — and would still be — proud of me. Regardless of whether she liked or agreed with my decisions, regardless of whether they were good decisions, she was always proud of me for making them.

It’s sort of like how she could be proud of me for confidently driving us through a city, even though she couldn’t let go of the oh-shit handle.

It sticks with me to this day, a testament to what kind of mom she was. It’s baked into my basics, bedrock-deep in my soul — Mom would be proud of…all of it. Everything. Even though she’d swear a blue streak about not being here for it.

Never questioning that is a gift I think I took for granted until I had kids who would someday be without me (“Because you’ll be dead!” – my firstborn, to reiterate). Family and friends are always willing to tell me that it’s true, but knowing it without having to think about it…

That carries me through an awful lot, and through the occasional bit of awful.


Thanks, Ma. I love you so much, and I miss you all the time. I wish you could be here, but I’m grateful that you gave me the tools to carry on without you.

I promise I’ll still get you to Hawaii someday.


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