It’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday today. It’s also my mom’s. She would have been 56 today.
She died October 23rd, 2014. A day I will never forget.
It was sort of a shock. She was diagnosed with extensive lung cancer late August/early September 2014. By the time her cancer was discovered it had progressed to her femur, hips, spine and brain. Her lungs were almost unrecognizable.
After she was diagnosed while under a large number of pain medications, she told me she wouldn’t live until Halloween. I told her that she would, of course, that was silly.
But she didn’t.
Halloween was always her favorite holiday. She would rake all the leaves into gravesites on our front lawn and mark them with huge tombstones that she made herself that read “Here lies Drop Dead Fred.” She would make a scarecrow out of a pair of old overalls that would sit on our porch. And she always had a lavish costume. She loved to pass out candy and enjoyed frightening the kids that would come to the door.
Most years, I would trick or treat for only 20 minutes and then run home to hide in one of the gravesites and jump out when kids came to the door for a good scare!
She loved to throw parties for all the adults when trick or treating was over. She also loved playing pranks. One year, she “cut” her finger, squeezing out what seemed to be a gallon of blood to scare her friends. I can remember her laughter when her friends started panicking.
Her laugh is something I will never forget. She had this outrageous, infectious cackle. She would throw her head back and her laughter would surround you until you couldn’t help but laugh too.
When I was a kid, she was my idol. She was my best friend. I wanted to be just like her.
She was strong and independent and smart. She could do anything she set her mind too.
My parents divorced when I was two years old and I don’t remember seeing much of my dad. When I was five, my mom bought a house that needed a ton of work. She fixed that house herself. She had help here and there, but I remember her putting shingles on the roof, drilling down new baseboards, installing a new water heater.
She hardly ever called a repair person. She just learned how to fix things herself.
She was unstoppable.
But as we all learn as we grow up, our parents aren’t who we thought they were. My mom was a dreamer. No one could tell her what to do. She was a rebel. She was terrible at being an adult.
When I was 21, she lost our house and from that point forward, I became the caretaker. I paid her bills, I had the job, I was the grown up.
For a long time, I resented her for it. I was so angry that she took away my adolescence. I had to work two jobs to support her. I didn’t go away to college like I had planned, I didn’t travel like I had planned.
Even up until the day she died, I was angry. I was so angry that she let herself live the way she did. That she didn’t ask for help. That she didn’t apologize, ever. But that’s not who she was.
After she died, I stayed angry for a while. I was so mad that she left me to take care of her mess. To finish what she started. She continued to make my life difficult even though she lost hers.
It’s true what they say: “time heals all.” I miss her. I miss all of her. I’m not angry any more. Not even a little bit.
None of it matters anymore. What matters is the good memories. Spending every Mother’s Day at the zoo. Listening to Forrest Gump on road trips. Getting White Castle and throwing our french fries out of the window until the car was surrounded by seagulls. Searching for the ugliest lamp we could find at the Salvation Army. Those are the memories I treasure. Those are the memories I want to share.
Now that I’m beginning into my own motherhood journey, I have so many questions for her. I wish I had known what to ask when she was still here, but we never think we are going to run out of time.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. Many nights, she visits my dreams.
And I can only hope that she knows how much I love her.
Happy Birthday, Mom.