This is the first Mother’s Day when I haven’t gotten to shop for gifts and a card to send to my mom, and when I haven’t been able to talk to her. She died on December 9. After years of dementia, the quality of her life had deteriorated so much that it was a blessing when she died. And yet, I still miss her.
But I do have wonderful memories. And I often think I especially appreciate what a treasure my mother was because for the first twelve years of my life, I didn’t have a mom, at least not one who was around. I thought I’d gone to heaven when my dad, the single parent of three daughters, married Miss Gertrude Case, his executive assistant.
Long before he married her, I adored her. When I spent two miserable weeks at a Girl Scout camp as a homesick ten year old, Miss Case wrote me every single day. And when she came for visits, she was fun and funny. She played cards with my older sisters and me, told our fortunes, and took us Christmas shopping. So enamored of her were my sister Marty and I that we made a pact to try to get our dad and Miss Case together.
I’m not sure we had much to do with it, but they did get married. My mom was 38 and longed for a family, and I longed for a mother, so we were a good match. I clung to her and insisted on holding her hand when we went out in those early tween and teen years. Never mind that other kids my age were pretending they weren’t really with their mothers in public. I was making up for lost time.
Every afternoon after school, I’d come home to a mother eager to hear about my day who ‘d made freshly baked cookies, usually just coming out of the oven—chocolate chip, M & M, oatmeal, sugar, and ginger. I can still taste them!
Of course, my mother did have her eccentricities. She was tight with a dollar. She always said this came from her Scottish background. So when she decided my addiction to orange juice was costing way too much, she surreptitiously began watering down my juice. I kept inquiring about why it tasted so funny. But she didn’t let on until years later when we laughed about her confession.
Even then though, she had a wonderful sense of humor. When I was thirteen, our apartment was robbed. Eager to be helpful in solving the crime, I told the police all my theories about the robbery. Apparently, they were quite credible, because the detective told my mom that I was undoubtedly behind the burglary, and it was better to “find out you had a bad apple” sooner rather than later. She burst out laughing and assured him I was not a juvenile delinquent in the making, but someone who’d read the entire collection of Nancy Drew mysteries she’d handed down to me.
Years later, when I was in college three and a half hours away, my mom would drive up and back in one day to celebrate my birthday with me. And she was the one who always came to pick me up to take me home for holidays.
One year, she arrived and I tearfully told her I couldn’t go home because I hadn’t finished my political science paper.
“Let me see it,” she said. Having done editorial work in publishing, she was skilled at editing. After reading through my paper, she announced that I should simply cut it in half and hand in the first part for my assignment, so we could get on the road. As I recall, I got a B+ on my half-a- paper. Plus, I got to go home for Christmas!
I could go on and on about my mom. She was an amazing grandmother, aunt, avid reader, volunteer, indefatigable shopper, and die-hard Democrat. In her late eighties, she made calls on behalf of Obama when he first ran for president.
I loved her so much, and I’ll never stop missing her. But she still lives inside me because of all she taught me about loving children and the amazing difference a mom can make in a child’s life. If I leave my children and grandchildren with half as many wonderful memories as my mom left me, I’ll have done my job.