Mother’s Day is this weekend. I keep forgetting about it. Not having a mother will do that to you.
My email is full of helpful “reminders” of the day from internet companies I have bought gifts through over the past year. Even before my mother died I always wondered about people who had terrible relationships with their mothers: what was their experience of the in-your-face advertising on TV, in email, and on signage at every place we might ever stop to pick something up?
My mother’s mother died when she was twenty-one. While my mother had a slight advantage of not having email and internet at that time in her life, I was aware that not everyone might appreciate the not-so-gentle reminders of Mother’s Day when they didn’t have one around. She was a mother though and may have been able to turn Mother’s Day into a day about her and I, rather than about her and her mother.
We never talked about Mother’s Day. Now that she’s gone, this is one of those questions I wish I could have asked her. She was cranky for a fair amount of Mother’s Days. I always thought it was because as a child I insisted on waking her up to give her a present at the crack of dawn because I was so excited to surprise her. When she rebuffed me, I thought it was because I annoyed her (I mean, yes, it was super early so I get it) or because she didn’t like me. Now I wonder if the reminder that she didn’t have a mother whom she greatly missed might have been a part of that response.
The first Mother’s Day I spent without her, I was living in Richmond with my dad. He watched a fair amount of TV and I would either sit and watch or work. When commercials came on I just rolled my eyes and avoided the TV. I had forgotten about Mother’s Day altogether until I saw them. My father was a little more aware of them, surprisingly, and more aware that I might be sensitive to them. The only thing I did was post my eulogy to this blog.
I went somewhere that day to run errands and grab something to munch on, and whoever waited on me wished me a Happy Mother’s Day. I just smiled. They didn’t know that I am not a mother yet, or that my mother was newly dead. I can’t blame them for getting caught up in the hoopla of the day.
That first year, I decided that I would write a card to my mother. It lives with other cards I wrote for her in a purple box under my bureau. Writing it was therapeutic and helped acknowledge that the day still had some meaning in my life.
I also wrote a card to a close-family friend who had grown up with my mother and was a second mother to me. I thanked her for being that mother figure and for being part of my life for thirty-eight years. It helped to express gratitude to someone who had been there and with whom I had a mother-daughterish relationship.
The second Mother’s Day was a bit sadder because it was a more permanent reminder. I was curling at Arena Nationals (the national play-offs for the curling clubs that played on hockey ice). Mother’s Day was that weekend and we were staying in Pennsylvania for the week. That was the first “vacation” I had had in over a year, and by “vacation” I mean a time when I didn’t have to work, pack, sort, run errands, or drive for hours. I was looking forward to it because I had not had the chance to just sit since my mother died. I needed to have a still body and a clear head and to just grieve for a minute.
We had one game a day and were on our own for the rest of the time. One morning after breakfast, I overflowed with emotion because I finally had a moment to grieve for what felt like the first time. (This is one of the reasons not to intentionally avoid grief with distractions: grief is just waiting for you to be done.) The Mother’s Day ads were becoming overbearing as they ramped up for the weekend and they were getting to me. I decided to take a shower to help myself relax, but I was crying uncontrollably and couldn’t stop.
One of my teammates was in the room next door to me. She was staying with her infant daughter and her mother. I messaged my teammate and asked if I could come over to see her mother. I really needed a hug and it had to be from a mother, a friend wouldn’t do.
One of the things you worry about as a Griever is whether people will understand your behavior and give you what you need. My worry came because I was surrounded by family and family friends who didn’t want to understand my behavior and told me I didn’t need what I needed. It forced me into a Catch-22 of “I need to ask for something, but I am judged by whomever I ask, so I end up just dealing with alone because I will end up doing it alone anyway and this way I am spared an argument.”
That morning I took a risk with someone I didn’t know all that well. If she thought I was nuts, I never had to deal with her again.
I warned my teammate that I was a mess and she wrote to come over anyway.
I barely made it in the doorway when her mother just hugged me and let me sob. The funniest part of the whole event was that my friend’s daughter sat on the bed across the room and stared at me like, “You people do that too?!”
After I had cried myself out, I stayed and talked with her mom about mom-things, like my boyfriend who I had totally fallen for but which wasn’t going to work out because we had different life goals. She told me not to worry, it would work out better than I thought. That hour was the best gift I could have and I am still so grateful to her for it. That day she became my “curling-mom.”
(Note: My curling-mom and my teammate were guests at my wedding a year and a half later. I hate it when mothers are right.)
Last year, I completely forgot about Mother’s Day. I didn’t really watch TV and I was busy getting my dad’s house ready to sell, plus working, commuting, wedding stuff…I never had time to notice the day.
This year I forgot about it again. Email reminders of the day are clogging my inbox and I just delete them with other messages I don’t need.
It’s hard to avoid Mother’s (or Father’s) Day because of their over-commercialization.
The best advice I can give is: don’t ignore the day, don’t pretend like it doesn’t exist..that just makes it worse. Acknowledge the day, and know that even though your mother is gone, you can still remember her. Create a ritual (no matter how small) that you can repeat for this and subsequent Mother’s Days, or until you no longer feel you need it.
If you don’t have kids, take some time to remember your mother this weekend. Write her a card, go somewhere you used to go together or do something that acknowledges your relationship. Take a walk and remember the times you spent together…even when you were annoying each other.
If you have kids, this may be a day to talk about your mother with your family. Tell your children about the times you used to wake your mother up with freshly made coffee at seven in the morning on a Sunday…or maybe that was just me.
If you have a mother-figure in your life, spend some time with her or send her something to acknowledge the role she played in your life, even if it’s a short email telling her thank you and that you are thinking of her.
If you have other motherless friends or family, get together with them and do something, especially if it is early on in the process for one of you.
I just remembered: I do have a card I need to send. I have a mother-in-law this year.