My mother and I have a strange relationship. When I was little she was the sun, stars, sky and moon. During long road trips she knew all the words to every song, and when I asked the names of every cow standing in every field, no matter how long I asked, she always had an answer,
“What’s that cow’s name?”
“But the other cow’s name was Betty too!”
“I know… Betty is a very popular cow’s name.”
And then she’d turn up the music while I stared out the window trying to figure out whether she was kidding or not. My mother was the worst at practical jokes. She’d tell me something completely insane, convince me it was true, and not fess up until months or even years had passed. For instance, she said that our car was so little that if we didn’t roll the windows down while crossing the bridge on windy days, we’d roll into the ocean. And then she rolled the windows down. Every. Single. Time. I know she got a kick out of it, but c’mon now, how hard can it really be to trick a five year old? My mother was all things at once to me. The person who made the boo boo’s go away, enforced the rules, protected me, and caught me out in seemingly every lie. She was one of the strictest mothers I knew, and as a result when The New Kids on the Block were big, I had no idea who they were, and instead was rocking out to Wilson Phillips as they were one of the few ‘approved’ bands. I remember my uncle catching me listening to them, when I proclaimed them as the newest coolest thing ever, he responded, ‘Umm, you’re kind of a dork.’ I knew he was right, but did he have to kill the dream?
My teenage years were tough. While I was attempting to branch out, my mother clamped down hard. Harder than I think she needed to, and as a result I counted the days until I could escape. I didn’t want to go crazy, but I did want to make mistakes. Mistakes that were my own. I felt that there was a big big life out there, and I knew none of it, and could know none of it until I was free. My mom pointed out all the monsters lurking in every corner and I thought, good, come get me. I knew life was out there, I knew it could be great, it could be terrible, it could be a million things, but it would never be satisfying if I experienced it behind the wall of safety she had built for me. So I escaped, and for years, I lost my mother. I lost who she was, the person that I enjoyed, instead she became the person that I battled against to create my own identity. I can’t tell you how sad it was for me to lose the person I thought knew everything and could do anything. You see, I saw something as I grew older. I saw the chinks in her armor. I saw that sometimes she didn’t know everything. Sometimes she was just winging it. And when I messed up, really messed up, I saw her lose faith in me. And for a moment or two… or five, she lost me just as much as I lost her. Through the years we’ve rebuilt our relationship. With highs and lows, we found a new balance, one that allowed me to grow up, to come home, to become somewhat of an equal. It wasn’t always easy, but I found my mother again in unexpected ways. Tired after working too many hours and struggling to keep my home clean and frustrated over other people’s carelessness I found her words spilling out of my mouth.
I called her and said I was sorry. She laughed and said, you should be!
My mom was diagnosed with stage three cancer late last year. When she told me she held my sister and I while we cried and our dad took a suspiciously long time in the the other room. I cried for a million selfish reasons and then, after I got over that, I cried because my sister is 12. Not even thirteen. And what would we do without her. Our sun, our stars, our sky, our everything. How selfish I was to cry for us and not her. I was struck by how very little I have grown up through the years. I am about to turn 30, my mother has cancer, and she is comforting us.
We are big jokers in our family, we believe that nothing is not funny, and so one day while complaining about something I said to her, “Mom! You’re such a hypochondriac. You never let up. You weren’t happy until you had cancer were you?” It’s funnier in person, but I can tell you that we laughed forever that day. I can also tell you that I cried at night. I cried in the morning. Occasionally I cried in the afternoon, for no reason at all other than the sun was shining. I cried and I cried until I decided that I was tired of being the baby. All my life my mother’s taken care of me, and for once, it was time for me to return the favor. She had surgery in February and I was at the hospital every day until she came home. When she came home my grandmother flew out from Texas to take care of her those initial two weeks. During that time I tried to wrap up as much work as possible and since then I’ve been there every day trying to give back some of what she’s given to me. An unexpected surprise? Cancer has made my mother real. I have not spent this much time with her since I was a small child. So much time has passed and I tell myself that I know her, but in so many ways, I don’t. My aunt comes by with special Puerto Rican food, and although I know most of her likes and dislikes, I am constantly surprised by new information. Asking me to do a million things one day, I eventually told her no, only to see her stung by her inability to do it herself, captive to my whim, I saw how low it brought her, how miserable she was to be dependent on someone else. Of course I did it, but even after I had, I could see that the revelation I could say no, and had said no, had hurt her in a way I had never expected.
This mother’s day my own mother is up and walking again. She is able to take short car rides and doesn’t need quite as many naps. She is going through chemo for the next 6 months, but she expects that she will not need me daily any longer after next week. Her surgery removed her tumor successfully but also brought the most joyful news that it had not spread. I am not the best daughter by far, but I excel at washing dishes, taxi service, and small misc. household chores. In short I try. I try and I thank God for all the many many blessings he has given us. Our family who loves one another and cares for one another as best as we possibly can. I thank God that the tumor responded to chemo, was successfully removed, had not spread, and is seemingly treatable. My mother is not the all knowing super-being that I thought she was, but she is real, and that’s more than anyone can ask for.
Today my mother was spoiled by an infinity necklace and yard work. I hope your day was spent as equally relaxing and blessed. Happy Mother’s Day.
My sister and I took this great pic of us right before we jumped in the pool and I thought I’d share. Sure, I should share the pic of my mom and us… but… um. Well. I look awful in it so no way. ;p