"Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity." ~ Gilda Radner

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Survivor


Oct. 21, 1969.

It was a Tuesday. A bright, beautiful October morning. And it was three days before my 13th birthday...

I remember sitting in study hall at Sellman Junior High...the school secretary called me out to come to the office.

I had a sick feeling in my stomach...I knew. I was hoping against hope I was wrong...but I just knew.

There, in the school office, stood my very sad looking father and my even sadder looking sister...

"Mom's gone," my dad said.

They called it "a therapeutic misadventure," but the truth is, my mother died from an accidental overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills. She had been in the hospital since Monday morning after I found her passed out on the living room floor...

Mom's funeral was Oct. 24...my birthday. My first day of being a full-fledged teenager...

How to describe the past 40 years without my mom? I think author Hope Edelman, in her book, "Motherless Daughters", describes it best.

" I am fooling only myself when I say my mother exists now only in the photograph on my bulletin board or in the outline of my hand or in the armful of memories I still hold tight. She lives on in everything I do. Her presence influenced who I was, and her absence influences who I am. Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay. Loss is our legacy. Insight is our gift. Memory is our guide."

After four decades, I can no longer recall the sound of my mother's voice. I can no longer recall the sound of her laugh.

What I do remember is that she had a great sense of humor, and her friends regularly turned to her for advice. My mother was a registered nurse. Her favorite soap opera was As The World Turns. She boycotted lettuce in support of the underpaid lettuce growers in the 60s. She loved reading and acting. My mother never learned to drive. She enjoyed playing bridge and Monopoly. She was a good cook.

I remember she let me stay home from school once when I was in the fourth grade. I wasn't sick, she just let me stay home with her. I think now that I was her safety net that day...

In my mother's absence o'er these many years, I have been blessed with the love of and nurturing by several special "other mothers", including my wonderful mother-in-law... the most wonderful friends... and of course, my guardian-angel-on earth, my ever lovin' sister. So I have much to be thankful for.

Granted, I have struggled with several emotional issues. All motherless daughters do, to one degree or another.

And then, of course, there is the issue of Mother's Day. Until I had Daniel, Mother's Day was THE worst day of the year. Every spring, surrounded by reminders of how special the mother-daughter relationship is, but unable to spend time with my own Mom or give her a gift...

According to Ms. Edelman, however, we motherless daughters have our own "gifts".

We have, she says, the courage to "journey alone." Courage born of necessity, I would add.


Actually, truth be known, I come from a long line of motherless daughters.


My mother lost her mother when she was four years old. My grandfather later married a woman who had lost her mom when she was five.


Even my stepmother (my dad remarried a year or so after my mom died) lost her mom at a young age.


Both my sister and I freaked out a little as we approached the age our mother was when she died -- 47. When we each made it to 48, we breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Psychologists say that for motherless daughters, living beyond the age our mothers died is "living dangerously," and we often feel driven to make the most of that time. Hence, many of the most celebrated and driven women of our time are motherless daughters...

Me? Suffice to say, I'm a tish neurotic, but with a creative bent...

And so tonight, in loving memory of my mother, my heart goes out to all those daughters, near and far, who have lost their mothers. Celebrated and driven, or creatively neurotic, we are all survivors!

Love you, Mom! Miss you...

4 comments:

Billy Brandt said...

Hey, blogger chick:

You are a survivor. I was touched by your candid re-telling of your mother's story. The best way to honor your mother is to be a good mother - seems like you've got that down. Happy Birthday!

Billie

Trish said...

I also remember that fall at Sellman Jr. High School. It was after the best summer of my life with my three best friends.
My parents thought I was too young to attend a funeral. I remember that I didn't know what to say to my dear friend in school then next time I saw her, she was surrounded by other friends and laughing. She did that a lot.
I never said I was sorry and have always carried that with me. That may sound like it is all about me, it's not. I have learned over the years that saying I'm sorry is healing, so much better to say something and acknowledge a loss than to be uncomfortable and say nothing.
Ann, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Annie said...

Dear Billy: Thanks for visiting, and for the birthday wishes! Lord knows I have tried to be a good mom and be there for Daniel in ways my mother, bless her heart, was not and could not be there for me...'tis a bit like journeying without a road map...but maybe, in this case, not traveling my mother's road has, indeed, been the better claim...so good to hear from you!

Annie said...

Dearest Trish:
Now I am at a loss for words...but the tears are flowing rather handily...we have been friends thru thick and thin...good and bad...happy and sad...you didn't have to say anything back then, honey....we were just kids...nobody knew what to say...not even the members of my own family...we just all clammed up and went on with our lives...

I am sure I knew at the time that my friends felt badly for me...I am sorry you have carried that with you all these years...that is so sweet and thoughtful for you to share now... and yes, we had just had THE best summer of our lives...the summer of '69...the sky was perfect blue...

I love you!!!!!!