Friday, May 7, 2010

My Mothers

I have to talk about my mom this weekend. But also about my aunts and other mothers I've had. They mean so much to me.

Mom died June 20, 1988. She was merely 58, far too young to die, to leave me.

Cancer got her, the big dummy.

She'd been battling it for many years, had gone into remission a couple times, battled valiantly, but it won in the end.

I was much too young to lose her, only 29. I wasn't officially a child, but I was crushed. I wasn't ready to let go. I still had so much to say, so much to do with her...for her.

I'm an only child, and according to Mom's dad, a very spoiled one.

Perhaps I was.

Not only was I an only child after ten years of marriage, I was born with a cleft lip and palate. I had to have a lot of surgeries before I started school, several before I was a year old.

Mom couldn't nurse me and she couldn't feed me with a normal bottle. She had to use a special bottle with a long tube because my mouth wasn't formed properly. Indeed, for awhile I had a huge hole in the roof of my mouth.

A lot of children born in 1959-1960 had cleft palates. There was a boy in my class at school whose cleft palate repair was not nearly as good as mine. But then I was a guinea pig. My plastic surgeon liked to show me off to his students, mostly international. Those huge old lightbulbs used to blind me all the time in his office. He was proud of the job he'd done on me.

Mom used to also take me to Miami University for speech therapy about three times a week for several years before I started Kindergarten. It couldn't have been easy on her, driving me to so many therapists and doctors every week. On top of that, she had to coerce me to practice my speech lessons in front of the mirror for a couple hours every day which I hated. But it paid off. I can speak well and my voice isn't nasal like some others with my condition.

And then I had the audacity to crash into a tree when I was learning to ride a bicycle at age six, and try to ruin the job he did. Mom and Dad were frantic. Had their baby ruined all the plastic surgeries, and was there more to be worried about? I broke my nose, knocked loose a few teeth, and gave everybody, especially mom, a terrific scare that summer. Fortunately, I didn't hurt myself too badly, but it meant Mom had to take me to the doctors even more often.

Also, my parents feared I'd be shy around people because of my facial disfigurement so they tried to take me out in public a lot. That had to be tough on her.

We did a lot together. She loved to bowl, watch movies (in particular John Wayne westerns and musicals), and eat out at restaurants. She really loved to sew and make crafts. Whereas I inherited her love for bowling, musicals, and eating out, I didn't get the sewing gene. I had her to sew for me. My cousin, D, inherited the sewing/crafts gene from my mom and her sister, L. (Now I wish I had it.)

Mom also took me to many lessons: organ, horse back riding, roller skating, swimming, ballet, tap dance, etc. She let me have slumber parties in our basement several times a year. She took me to my grandparents', aunts' and uncles' houses a lot, too. And she sent me to YMCA summer camp.

When my parents divorced when I was 16, I stayed with my dad for the first year. Because things were so tense between them, I rarely saw mom for the next year, nor her family. Looking back, I see how hard that was on her, how painful. And I really miss that time I should have spent with her. How stupid I was! What I wouldn't give to get that time back, even half.

It was during that year after the divorce that she had a hysterectomy and breast cancer. By the time I moved back with her in my junior year of high school, she was in remission.

She made my wedding dress. It was a beautiful creation with a lot of intricate beading on the bodice and beautiful silk. In order to do so, she moved to where I was. At that time I was in the Air Force, stationed in Omaha, Nebraska. Then she went out to California to set up my wedding as my soon to be husband was stationed near Sacramento.

After I had my second baby, she moved in with us for a year. We had a 60' x 14' mobile home with two bedrooms. I hadn't known Mom would be moving in when we bought it. So it was rather cozy.

She said my oldest child was her baby. She doted on him and spoiled him. Unfortunately, he barely remembers her. What a shame. She really loved her grandkids.

Then she got engaged and moved out to California. It was there the doctors found her cancer had come back and was now in her bones: too late. We were then stationed in Mississippi and I was in college working on my bachelor's degree.

The same month I graduated, and my husband was released from the Air Force on a medical discharge, she died. We came home from our sons' t-ball game to a voice mail that she was gone. 1988 was before cell phones. She'd been supposed to visit us for the summer. She hadn't told me how bad she had gotten.

I was a wreck for the next year. We took our three young children to see the first "Land Before Time" movie at the theater, not knowing anything about the story except that there were cute talking dinosaurs.

What a mistake!

The little dinosaur lost his mother in the movie and was seeking his grandparents. I sobbed through the whole movie.

During that time, I again wished for siblings to share this with.

Although I had no siblings, I had wonderful aunts, uncle, and my dad.

My aunts and uncle took me under their wing, although they'd always been wonderful to me.

I was 29 and had three children of my own, but I still craved a mother figure. My aunts were very loving, very concerned, and wonderful. I don't know what I would have done without them.

My kids called Aunt H and Uncle B "Grandma and Grandpa". Aunt H is the only "grandma" my youngest two children knew on my side of the family. Although I was sad my mom wasn't the one they call "Grandma", I know she'd be okay with it. I know they will get her back one day when we're all in Heaven.

Mom's older sister, Aunt L, recently joined her in Heaven. She died this year after a long battle with Alzheimer's which is just about as cruel a disease as cancer. In some ways, worse.

My dad's older sister, Aunt D, died a few years ago, also from cancer, the bitch. (Cancer, not my aunt.)

My only remaining aunt is Aunt H. And Aunt R, who is really my mom's cousin, but she's more like an aunt than a cousin.

Uncle B is still here, too. And Dad. And my mother-in-law.

I've been blessed with so many wonderful mothers in my life. I'm still blessed.

And yet, I miss the one I called "Mom", the one who fed me with the awkward feeding tube, who stayed with me throughout so many hospital visits and speech lessons.

What are your memories of your mother? Aunts?


  1. Stopping by on the hop - - - we should all be thinking about our mother's this weekend.

  2. Thanks for hopping over.

    I think about my mom often, but this is one of those days that brings back the most memories.

  3. Elaine,

    It's good to reconnect with you through Blog Jog Day. I enjoyed reading about your mother.

    Lillie Ammann
    A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye