My mother celebrates another trip around the sun today, and it really IS a celebration.
Mom has been through a lot in the last three years. On December 13, 2006, she woke in the pre-dawn to a room full of acrid smoke. An electrical fire had started in one of the walls and all but destroyed the house. Mom doesn’t get around very well – we suspect an undiagnosed case of MS – so we were all happy that she was, with the help of her husband, able to get out of the house at all.
Round about March of the next year, that husband announced that he didn’t want to be married anymore. They hadn’t been able to move back into the house yet, even, and he was picking up and heading out. Bastard.
Running on the assumption that bad things happen in threes (I don’t believe that, but whatever – it’s a saying), soon after the husband ditched, Mom was having trouble with a tonsil. She was diagnosed with throat cancer and began a year-long dance with chemotherapy and radiation – all while being mobility-impaired, unemployed and entirely uninsured. When the politicians talk about the nuances of health care policies, I want to make them live for a month with my mother. Add up the bills and there are three numbers before the comma is what I’m sayin’ here.
Through it all, this woman has been what she has always been – strong, smart, and optimistic. She has an extremely pragmatic outlook – what she’s got is what she’s got, and no amount of bitching and moaning is going to change that, so she butches up (hi, Auntie!) and deals with it. I’ve watched her with pride and awe as she has navigated through her life over the last few years with humor, grace, and fortitude, and I’ve come away from the experience even more grateful that the Universe gave us to each other (as if my being more grateful for that were even possible in the first place).
For all that she is, though, she is much more than that to me. She took me in when I was teetering on the brink of literal destruction. She taught me how to trust again, how to open up and love – even at the risk of being hurt – and how to stand up for myself. She taught me how to fight fair, how to think things through, and how to say no. She was gentle and tough in just the right intervals. She was – and is – exactly what I needed in a mother.
Through a soft mist of tears, mom told me the other day that she was proud of the woman I’d become; that I am a worthy wife, a true and good friend, an amazing mother, a great teacher, and all that she’d ever hoped for in a daughter, and that she was so grateful that I found her. The truth that she’s not seeing is that I’d be none of those things without her in my life – both then and now. Quite literally, I’m here because of her, and that’s a gift I can never, ever repay.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.