Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Missing Her

I don't know if I ever talked about Mom. New Year's always brings this up for me. I was born on New Year's Day, and though I had some parties as a kid, it was always about Mom and I more than anything. We would always watch Dick Clark together, and at midnight, she would always haul out this lavish display of gifts. At midnight, we would eat cake and she would sing "Happy Birthday" to me. She would then let me stay up all night and play with my new toys. Just the two of us...

I was not Mommy's Angel by any means. My much older brothers and sisters recall the dysfunctional bits of our relationship. My tantrums and issues. They don't know about this. My mother's relationship with her kids was not collective. She was different to all 7 of us, and their memories of her are not the same memories I have of her. Yes, I was a brat. Marcia was the Good One. David was the Crazy One. Connie was the Middle Girl One. Mike was the Oldest One. Spud was the Troublemaking One. Rick was the Middle Boy One. Me? I was the Smart One. The Spoiled One. From the day I was born to the day I die, I was/ am/ will be The Baby. I got everything I wanted to a level of obscenity. When explaining this to others, my excuse for this is that she had already raised 6 kids by the time I came around and she was just tired and gave in. I did my share, too. The games Evan plays now to get what he wants? They are very familiar. I invented them.

Several years ago, this song came out. I was chatting with someone online and they were telling me about this song called "The Baby" and how beautiful it was. Thinking it was going to be some sweet song about being a mother, and being a mother myself, I looked up the lyrics. Before I even heard the song, I was emotionally wrecked. I actually looked up the writers because I was convinced it was someone who knew me. From the mention of Cincinnati, to the mention of a family picture, to the verse about not getting to say goodbye, it was my story. There was this one birthday of hers where my grown brothers and sister snuck and had us all meet with this photographer for a professional portrait of all of us kids together. I remember the little purple dress I wore with the ribbon sash. Remember my sister curling my hair. I was in second grade. The mention of a photograph in the song reminds me of that picture of us all. She was so proud of that picture.
Mom died on the night I returned to college after taking a leave of absence when she signed the "Do Not Resuscitate" order. I made the return trip with my brother-in-law driving 90 miles per hour, thinking she was sick, but not knowing she had already passed away. I didn't know until I entered a room full of my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews that she was gone. I can still hear in my head the phone call from my sister telling me I had to come home NOW. I heard from my those who witnessed her passing that her last words were to tell my father "Just make sure my baby is taken care of." I was 19. I was the one who still needed my mother more than anything. I was the only one she did not get to see on their wedding day or witness the birth of their first child. For some reason I thought this made it worse for me than it was for my siblings. Silly me. I am no longer 19, and I have the family, as they all did back then, and I still need her just as much as I did then.

I miss Mom. Every day. She was my biggest fan in life. She did what she thought was best for me, ensuring I had everything she wanted and needed and never had. She was tough and strong. I know my earlier adult years had to be a disappointment to her, if she is indeed watching from up there. I hope my life since then has made her proud. I wish more than anything that my husband got to know her. I turned out more like her than anyone would have realized. I have some of the same flaws and some of the same strengths. My brothers and sisters say I look more and more like her with each passing year. I wonder if she knows that I see her daily in the faces of my patients. That she is the reason I do what I do for a living. That I now understand the struggles she had raising me: the spoiled, spirited, gifted kid. I have one of my own now. I wish now more than ever that I could see her face and tell her that I love her, that I am who I am because of her, whether by nature or nurture.

No comments: