Happy Birthday Mom

I have not seen my mother in 14 months. For most of you, I know that this is a similar story. For many of you, I know that you have not seen your mother in far longer as she has passed on. I dread the day that I join you.

In so many ways, my mother is my best friend. She was the person who brought me to salvation. She nourished my love of art. She read my poetry when it was just folded up pieces of paper stuffed into my blue jeans. Note, she also washed those jeans and I lost poetry. Boy, did I ream her out on that one.

Mom is the person who has forgiven me the most and to whom I still owe hundreds of apologies. Her compassion and love translates into forgetfulness. She doesn’t remember my worst moments. I do. I replay them and remind myself that I have caused a lot of pain. But when I bring them up to my mother, she dismisses me. She just doesn’t remember.

I don’t know how she can forget. I feel like my words, my screaming was that egregious.

I have gone through the year of corona talking to my mother on an almost daily basis either through phone conversations or video chat. I feel her words. I hear her warmth. But I miss her. I miss hugging her. I miss walking beside her either on the sidewalk in Florida or on German alpine paths and laughing with her, sharing memories, or gleaning from her wisdom.

Mom was my first cheerleader. She was there when I managed to be the star of a Dutch dolphin show. Hell, she is the reason why I was selected to be the kid who rode in the boat pulled by dolphins. Mom was the person who shoved me through the doors of the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art when it first opened: making me the very first person (other than President Carter) to enter the museum. My one real claim to fame. Mom bought me special pens when I decided to be a writer. And she was my comfort when the rejections poured in.

She stops Italian traffic to let pedestrians walk across six congested lanes. She honks her horn to salute protesters. She volunteers in a food pantry and just wants to do good in the world. She has her flaws and can be defined by her flaws. And yet, in spite of her flaws, she is an incredibly good woman who has simple needs and simple goals.

She loves others. Sometimes, it is hard to recognize what the love looks like. Sometimes, her love can feel smothering. And yet, in the end, she is the voice I love to hear.

I have listened to my friends and colleagues who have lost their mothers. I heard the terrible grief in their voices when they realized that they couldn’t hear their mothers’ voices in the memories. My mother’s heart beat was my first sound. And I have her voice on my phone and computer. I have saved her telling me she loves me to carry me through dark days I know will some day come. I pray those dark days are far in the future. But I don’t know. She had Covid last year. She sounded horrible as she hacked and coughed and struggled to breathe.

I love my mom. With a simple, pure love. No strings attached. Just love. I love how she tucks herself into my life and strives, always, to find a way to improve it. Sometimes, I want to pitch her, tell her to stop telling me how to redo my kitchen or the different ways I could go about publishing my books. But, in the end, she’s come up with those ideas to help me, to give me joy, to help me accomplish my dreams. And, I guess, in the end, that’s the same exact thing I want to do for my children as well.

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