For the first time in my life, Mother’s Day will not include my mom.
It has been nearly a year since her passing. My father died in 2002 so I guess that makes me an orphan.
Mom loved getting cards and almost expected them from me and my brother. Mine were usually funny and my brother’s came with a personal touch. She treasured them, putting them on her dining room table for about a month.
God gave me nurturing parents and I miss them both dearly. The last two years of my mom’s life was spent in my home with me and my wife and it came with difficulties because of her diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 88.
Most of the caregiving fell to my wife, who changed dressings on Mom’s wounds, cooked “best-I-ever-ate” meals, washed clothes, went to doctor appointments, solved television remote problems (again and again) and looked after her every need.
Mom’s breast cancer came with some unpleasant complications. Wound dressings had to be changed every couple of days and modesty went out the door. She called my wife “the best nurse she ever had” and I would have to agree.
It’s difficult watching your parents grow too old to take care of themselves and especially battle sickness that necessitates tending to unhealable wounds. My father died from brain cancer and that was just as difficult to watch. We never thought Mom would make it without him, but she surprised us, living about 15 years on her own before the breast cancer diagnosis.
Parents love their children unconditionally and it’s our responsibility to give that love back when it’s needed later in life. It wasn’t always easy taking care of Mom but I’m sure glad we did it. I counted it a privilege. We did everything we could to keep her comfortable and happy.
Mom was always bragging on me, almost to the point of embarrassment. Her praise wasn’t always warranted. One night when my wife was dressing her wound, a task that was never pleasant nor modest, Mom looked at me and said: “You have the prettiest legs. Much prettier than your brother’s.”
Talk about a loss for words. “Uh, thanks mom?”
As a son growing up, though, there was never anything better than being able to make your mother and father proud. That could mean good grades (sometimes), playing sports or doing household chores. My Mom was proud of me for landing my wife, too. “I’m not sure how you ever got her!” she would say (I’d have to agree with that one). I was a Mama’s boy as a tike, clinging to her leg or skirt wherever we went. When you’re young like that, moms are your world.
I’m blessed though. I’m surrounded with some of the world’s best mothers. My mother-in-law is like a second mother to me and I love her and depend on her like my own mother. My wife is a terrific mother (and now a wonderful grandmother) and it’s a thing of beauty to watch my daughter as a mother to our 2-year-old grandson. I see traits of her mother and grandmothers in her.
Those who remember my mother will recall the smiling face they met once, and then she never forgot their name, when she worked as a receptionist at Ashland Oil, or the pride she took in her boys and (especially) her grandchildren, or her forever love of my father and a doll addiction that bordered on, well, insanity. She liked to have her way and she usually got it, including collecting about 2,000 more dolls than she ever needed (Don’t get me started on that one).
Mom lived to be nearly 91 years old and she loved her family to the very last day. She is dearly missed on this Mother’s Day weekend, but her never-ending love lives inside me, my brother and the rest of our family and it’s there for keeps.
Maybe next year I can flip through the Mother’s Day cards again.
MARK MAYNARD is managing editor of Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org