I’m a pretty fortunate woman. My best friend is asleep less than ten feet from me. Her feet are curled up under her; she’s a tiny ball on the couch on the other side of the room from me.
She’s my mom.
I have several best friends, people to whom I can unzip my life and spill out all of my secrets and ask them for help, ask them to listen and help me unravel all the tangled messes I have created, or just talk and talk and talk about my life, my dreams, my aspirations, my failures, my wishes, my frustrations, my griefs.
I don’t know about the women of my generation. I don’t know how many of them are best friends with their mothers. Tragically, I have several friends who have lost their mothers and can not imagine stepping into their shoes, lacing up their memories, and wearing those emotions as a daily experience.
I love my mom.
She drives me crazy.
She has a white carpet that, frankly, has become my nemesis. Because Mom is intense about keeping everything pristine and clean and I am a walking mess. I’ve gotten bloody noses by sneezing, have tripped while standing still.
Really? A white carpet for a person whose nickname is “graceless” because of her talent for breaking things or falling down?
But I love my mom so I walk with gentle, careful trepidation across the carpet, frequently resign myself to the fact that I can’t be trusted and have my mom carry my food to the tables because it gives her peace.
Note, my children and I gave her Snakeez as a joke in order to give her peace.
This morning, Mom and I drove about twenty minutes outside of town to a little dive of a restaurant perched on the corner of two busy roads for apple fritters. And for nearly two hours, we talked. About life. About death. About what will happen after she dies.
About her parents and what happened when they died.
How to deal with remaining assets. What to do if she dies before my father.
What to do if my father dies before her.
Mom is not quite seventy. But she told me recently that many of her family members hit seventy-two and start deteriorating at an alarming rate. Mom is also powerfully healthy and I’m really not that worried that she is going to die in the next three years.
But, at the same time, we talk about those types of things. Not because we are morbid and depressed.
But because death is the inevitability that we share and do not deny. It will happen and to ignore it is to do nothing more than to perpetuate a dismal, terrifying reality.
Mom and I talked about anxiety and what causes people to worry.
We talked about technology and how fast it changes and how she has her grandmother’s voice hidden in a digital cloud in some cyber world somewhere.
She talked about making her grandmother’s bread, about powerful memories that will collapse time and give her a few seconds back into her childhood when she was seven and standing by her aunt’s car and reading a billboard. I can almost see her, this little girl with her head tipped to the side, studying the letters and taking in the message no matter how unimportant or significant it might be.
Mom and I talked about health issues, about the thyroid issues that I and my daughter have likely inherited because every woman in the last four generations of my mother’s family have had problems with their thyroids.
My mother is a woman who has not limit to her generosity but can barely handle the generosity given to her. She freaked about the iPod. But she doesn’t know that, right now, I have two gift cards waiting for her, one to her favorite ice cream parlor, one for a local movie theater. And I’m going to buy more.
Because my mother deserves to be shown love constantly.
Mom is so terrified of everything that it’s easy to tease her about her fears in the attempt to show her that her fears are baseless. Last night, my son pretended that he was going to jump over the edge of the balcony. While I was coaxing my heart out of my throat, my mom begged the Boy to stop playing because she was “going to pass out.”
In some respects, I wanted to roll my eyes at her histrionics, but I was still too busy re-learning that art of normal breathing.
And sometimes, my kids and I forget that Mom is still human, is just as human as all of us. And today, when she and I were talking, she briefly alluded to her dog, Stormy, to her grandfather, Nick, both of whom she loved. Both of whom died. And because of them, she learned the art of fear, the curse of loving people.
Because people die and will leave one behind and the pain will be there and will be a terrible burden that will suffocate the heart and burden the system.
I love my mother. I hate her fears. But my love for her is much stronger than my loathing of anything related to her. I wish I could peel away her fears and anxieties, gently tease away at the edges and strip them away from her, like the dead skin left over from a bad sunburn. Just a light pull, crumble the strips into balls, toss them into the trash can. Forget about them.
But those fears are the edges to my mother’s shadow. They are a constant reminder of who she is and how much she loves everyone. Her goal is to give my father, my brother, myself, my brother’s and my children as much love, peace, and joy that she can possibly give. And then she wants to give more.
It’s hard to see the boundaries of my mother’s love when it’s ribbons and accessories are her shrill cries to “look both ways” when we are crossing streets or to hold her hand when all of us are well past the point that we need to hold her hand.
She still reminds us every time we walk through a parking lot that people use the sensors and back-up cameras for going in reverse and will not look over their shoulders to see if people are behind the vehicles.
She still carries all of my dishes so that I won’t trip and fall and drop something on the evil-white-carpet.
She still carries my heart in the palms of her hands, nestled in the love lines that arch across the top of her hands and just below her fingers. She still sews her name into my words, even now while she sleeps on the couch, a quiet bundle of memories and love and compassion.
I love my mom. I try to show it. I frequently don’t seem to do the right thing. But I’m so lucky, so blessed that my best friend is my mother.