If I could spend today with my mom....
I would say, what would you like to do today, Mom? And she'd say, "Oh, whatever you want to do. I don't want you to go to any trouble."
My mom never wanted anybody to do anything for her; to fuss over her.
So, I would most likely take her out for brunch.
From the time I was about twelve, I'd order my mom a corsage. I didn't have a ready cache of money, but I could afford that; so I'd call up the florist a week or so before Mother's Day and order one for her. I'd tell them I'd send a money order to cover the cost. They always trusted me to keep my word.
Mom would wear it, too; even though I was too stupid to realize that it was kind of hideous and large.
There were six kids in our family, so a competition inevitably ensued; to see who could give Mom the best Mother's Day gift. My two sisters and my brother were older, and had actual income, so they could at least afford a presentable bouquet. My younger brother and sister had cuteness in their favor, so they could put crayon to paper and create touching masterpieces.
I had neither income nor cuteness.
I sure wasn't Mom's best friend. We, in fact, barely spoke to one another.
It took me about forty years to even make peace with my mom.
Even so, even when I was twelve, there was a grudging acknowledgment that I respected her, and that she accepted me; albeit with reservations.
I was not a good daughter. Kids view life through a very narrow prism. What are you doing for me? What are you doing to me? I had a hell of a time; decades really; coming to terms with my mom's inability to handle a daughter who was filled with resentments that she didn't understand, and that I certainly wasn't going to explain to her.
I turned around one day, though, and realized that she was a great grandma to my boys. She loved those kids unconditionally, just like she loved each and every one of her grandchildren.
The way to a woman's heart? Love her kids.
This softer Mom was a revelation to me. It gave me permission to extend my hand; to ask her to do things with me. We did some things. We went to bingo together. She loved bingo.
We went to the Garth Brooks concert together. All through my life, Mom had cloaked herself in a veil of disdain regarding music; my first true love. Who knew that she'd suddenly become a teenaged fanatic? She had way more fun at Garth's concert than I did. Granted, I was spending my time vigilantly watching to make sure she didn't collapse from a hypertensive episode; but Mom stood through the whole concert; there in the second row; and I could swear she even swayed to the music.
I realized that there were tons of things I didn't know about my mom; and there was no way she was going to tell me those things. My mom never once talked about her childhood. I don't know if it was that bad; or if she'd just been raised to not talk about herself.
I can count on the fingers of one hand the details my mom shared with me about her life.
If I could spend today with my mom....
I would ask her a bunch of questions. Not like an inquisitor, but gently.
What was her life like as a kid? What was her favorite thing to do?
What was her relationship with her mom like?
How did she meet my dad? What attracted her to him?
What was early married life like for her? How did she manage being poor?
What did she want to be when she grew up?
My dad wore his heart on his sleeve. My mom buried her heart under clouds of mystery.
The things I know about my mom:
She loved my dad through thick and thin. And trust me, there was a lot of thickness and miles of thinness.
Her heart filled with joy whenever one of her grandchildren bounded through her front door.
She was smart as a whip.
She didn't suffer fools gladly.
She was the best cook in the world.
When all others had cast me off as hopeless, she claimed me.
That last night, in intensive care, when we'd finally reached my hometown after a marathon drive, I didn't know what to do. Her breathing was labored. She didn't open her eyes.
I'd never really been able to talk to her. But now, in that dark room, I rubbed my hand up and down her arm, and simply said, "It's okay; it's okay."
It is okay. But that doesn't stop me from missing her.