It was the beginning of a long letting go.
Now, my son is 21 years old and has no memory of his grandma but knows, I think, that she was one of the greats. As in mothers. I tell him stories about her, try to bring her alive for him so he has a faint outline of her in his mind that can serve as a proxy for a grandma.
The fact is, Mother’s Day isn’t for everyone. I well up in tears a lot during May because I lost my mother when my son was not yet three years old. I mourn the loss of him never having heard her gut laugh, or been fed by her or been able to turn to her with secrets that would be kept from me. He was born on the cusp of a mind slipping away, but during the months she was still present, she loved him fiercely. She wanted to hold him though her hands didn’t have much strength left in them. She tried to balance him on her hip and I crossed the room just in time to catch him before he hit the hardwood floor. It broke my heart. It broke hers. We just tried to love as much as we could before the fog crept in and muted everything.
I have failed in so many ways as a mother, countless really, and have spent thousands of moments asking myself, what would she do in this moment?
If you are like me and have scar tissue that gets pulled in painful ways today, just focus on the lessons you’ve been given —by men, children, animals, nature, art — and feel blessed you’re learning and being taught, and mothered in some way by life. And extend this back to your circle. Maybe that is to someone who needs help in a lineup or a tourist who needs directions or is a younger co-worker lost in a miasma of twenty-something angst. No matter. Just be mothering. Be loving. This might make Mother’s Day less specific and hopefully, a little less Hallmark hell full of should’s and thickly sweet Facebook posts of intact families.
To all of you without mother’s today, be overly kind to yourselves. Forget calories. Eat something you love. Wear something soft and enveloping. Write something loving with no expectation of hearing anything in return. Listen to a piano concerto. Or birds. Lie down and watch sparrows. Find some innocence— the world will come back tomorrow and ask you to be a grown-up. Love the minor note you feel playing inside you today. Whistle it out loud, even if no one is around to hear it. And of course, be a good mother to your self.