"And what about those who don’t have a mother?"
May 11, 2014 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Today is the first Mother's Day that I no longer have a mother to celebrate with. Honestly, I didn't think it would hit me this hard, but it smacked me in the face about three days ago. Every year without fail that I was in the same city as her, we'd go out for brunch and spend hours just talking. Oooooooof fuckin' hell. Heading to the cemetery in a bit.
posted by gman at 7:30 AM on May 11, 2014 [17 favorites]

My mother died right around Mother's Day 9 years ago. Some years it kicks me in the teeth harder than others for no reason I can make sense of and this is one of those years. Saw this article via a family member on FB - being unmothered is a good way to phrase it. It may be a Hallmark holiday but it still packs a painful wallop. Support and hugs to all who have lost their mothers!
posted by leslies at 7:33 AM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

My mom died almost seven years ago. Someone on twitter referred to this time of year as "the month when every web site you've bought something from ever reminds you your mom is dead" which is kind of accurate.
posted by dismas at 7:44 AM on May 11, 2014 [32 favorites]

Wow, I'm crying again, just like I did every time I picked up Cheryl Strayed's Wild in the bookstore and read parts of it....

My mother is still here and I have have been one of the careless people to say "oh if something happened to my mother I wouldn't be able to function" and also one of the careless people to not be appreciative enough in the day to day...at all.
posted by bquarters at 7:47 AM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I lost my mother to lung cancer 5 years ago and May always hits me right in the gut-- I have the double whammy of Mother's Day AND her birthday to contend with during this month. This essay was very helpful for me today. Thank you for making this post, carrienation.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:01 AM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

September 2nd, 1971. Lung cancer. Still haven't gotten over it.
posted by tommasz at 8:03 AM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah, my mother's birthday was yesterday. It's always a bit of a shot to the gut, this time of year. Even GCal's perennial suggestion of "Mom's birthday" manages to get me from time to time, and it's been eight or nine years now.
posted by lauranesson at 8:03 AM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

8 years for me, and who knows why, but this year it's hitting hard; possibly, yes, because of all those websites reminding me my mom is dead.

Thanks so much for this essay, carrienation; I met Edna Margalit once, but not her kids, and yet felt very sad for them when she died. A very, very loving person.

And the world keeps spinning.
posted by allthinky at 8:04 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm in the basement right now. My mom's ashes are in an urn inside a velvet bag on a shelf in the corner. They're waiting for my dad. When he dies we'll pour them both into the lake they walked around every day until she died a few years ago. It's probably illegal and might not be environmentally sound, but it's their choice.

Before I describe my morning I should probably tell you that I think my mother is birds now. When I have serious questions I would ask her if she were alive, or when I'm sitting reading or in the kitchen or pretty much any old time, I hear a bird and it's reassuring. I don't mean she's been reincarnated as a bird, but that when I hear birds I hear her voice, and when I face challenges or doubts I often hear a birdsong:

"Of course, Sam. You don't need me to tell you I'm proud of you, but I am. What you're doing is fine. I love you."

It's a blessing, I guess. Of course, it's my way of taking the confidence she instilled in me and the memories I have of her and mixing them up together so that I can find comfort and joy in her absence, something which I hope everybody finds their own ways to do.

I'm at my parents house, and my brother's 16 year-old schipperke is here while his family visits Chicago relatives for the weekend. I remember just after my mom died -- it was sudden -- my brother left him here to look after my dad for a month or so and he would run around in distress looking for my mom. Then he'd remember she was gone and go poke his face into my dad's leg until he looked down and smiled.

But the dog is old now and we have to get up early and take him outside before he pees on the carpet. He's stiff with arthritis most of the time, but this morning there was nothing to clean up and he was in puppy mode, full of spring vigor, so we went outside and marveled at the dawn chorus around us, hundreds of birds in full song.

Everywhere we looked, sunshine and trees. Everywhere we listened, the sound of birds. I miss her every day. Then again, every day is Mothers' Day when your mom is birds.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:08 AM on May 11, 2014 [103 favorites]

This is my second Mother's Day without my mother. I couldn't figure out why this Mother's Day seems harder than last year's, and then I realized that last year at this time, most of my thoughts were about my sister, who had terminal lung cancer and passed in July.

Yeah, probably shouldn't have clicked that link, especially at work.
posted by zorseshoes at 8:10 AM on May 11, 2014

I'm sorry for all of your losses.
posted by lollusc at 8:28 AM on May 11, 2014 [13 favorites]

Ice Cream Socialist -- may you always hear your mother's love in the song of the birds. Thank you for a moving comment. Hugs to you, and to all the unmothered.
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:30 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am profoundly jealous of people who miss their mothers, because that means they had good ones.

Mine is still alive, but I wish she wasn't. I'm spending my day being relieved that I figured out how to be a better mother than she was.
posted by MissySedai at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2014 [33 favorites]

Yeah, this day I usually spend thinking about how ok I am being several hundred miles from my mother. I'm sorry for all your losses.
posted by nevercalm at 8:43 AM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

My mother is still alive, but I am frankly terrified of losing her. When my dad died five years ago, I felt like a rope had snapped, one of the ropes that kept me tied to humanity, reality, the rest of the world. My connection with my mom has always been my strongest tie, and when that rope breaks, I don't know if anything else could keep me from spinning off into the darkness. And unless I go first, I know it will happen eventually. I can't say I wouldn't survive it or I couldn't handle it, because carrying on is the only option, but I know something inside me will break beyond repair.

. for all the mothers who have gone.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:45 AM on May 11, 2014 [13 favorites]

Blake Morrison's book And When Did You Last See Your Father? might be hard to find these days, but is a powerful book about a parallel subject.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:57 AM on May 11, 2014

January 23rd, 2009. Heart attack, coma, I let her go after a massive kidney infection. I was 23.

She never saw me fall in love, never saw me get married, and never saw me become a mother myself.

Her birthday was April 16th. My own little daughter was born April 14th. Those are dates I take comfort in. Good days, good months.

On bad days, the knowledge that I haven't touched my mother in five years as my baby curls her hand on my chest when she sleeps, is a quiet devastation.
posted by lydhre at 8:57 AM on May 11, 2014 [13 favorites]

Nine years this coming September and I still have those flashes where it seems that only a day or a week has passed since we last spoke - time becomes folded in on itself. How can she be dead, she was just on the phone not even bothering to say who it was, just launching into a question or telling me something she thought I needed to know right then as part of this ongoing conversation that started when I did and only stopped a few hours before she did. It's the talking I miss, and the way she always knew what to say, whether you wanted to hear it or not.

I miss my little, fierce, loving mom and all her words.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 9:02 AM on May 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

The weirdest thing about Mother's Day as the years go by, is how normal it seems now without my mom. I was almost 11 when she died - that was 23 years ago. It feels like a completely different life, especially considering I had only like 6 years of memories before the memories of her being sick. It's been a long time, so it doesn't make me that sad, it just feels kind of awkward. To me it feels kind of like Christmas, as someone who grew up Muslim in the US and never celebrated Christmas, even in a secular "pretty-winter-fun-time" sense. People wish you 'Merry Christmas' and ask you what you're doing for Christmas, like today you're bombarded with messages of 'Happy Mother's Day' and people ask if you're doing anything to celebrate. It's one thing to say you don't celebrate Christmas - people understand that. But it feels weird to say "I don't celebrate mother's day" because how do you not celebrate or acknowledge the person who gave you life or helped nurture you? People assume that my mom's still around because I'm still young(ish) at 34, but the fact remains is that I'm just one year away from the age my mom was when she was first diagnosed with melanoma. To make that extra awkward, her cancer was found in the delivery room when I was born. The thing that ended up killing my mom, was found about 2 hours before I was born. I have a couple pictures of my mom and I, taken just seconds/minutes after I was born. Sometimes I look at those pictures, and try and search for something in her face that shows fear or grief after just receiving word that she had stage 3 cancer. But even after staring and searching, I only see genuine joy in her smile and pure love in her eyes. I am very grateful for that.
posted by raztaj at 9:03 AM on May 11, 2014 [27 favorites]

Mother's Day. I recall when I was about 18 and on the West Coast, in the army. It was mother's Day and my m,om was in Ct. I called COLLECT. She laughed and said at least I called, something perhaps many other sons had not done...Mom: you should have lived (even though I am now nearly 85) and we could have Skyped. Free.
posted by Postroad at 9:09 AM on May 11, 2014 [32 favorites]

A year ago today, my mom was in the hospital recovering from colostomy surgery. She was dealing with her second round of anal cancer, and it had come back with a vengeance less than a year after her first diagnosis and treatment. She never made it home; she died of hospital-acquired pneumonia ten days later on May 21.

Over the past year, I have found myself developing a certain hardness. I have fought resentment towards others whose mothers have survived. I have struggled through every holiday and landmark. I have forced myself to smile into the void.

But today, in honor of her, I say: To those of you who still have moms on this Earth, do not be passive in your love. Connect and renew and be fucking vulnerable. Record her voice, her laughter. Ask her every stupid and profound question you can think of. And if you've never had the mother you needed, give that love to yourself today instead.
posted by mykescipark at 9:14 AM on May 11, 2014 [15 favorites]

Raztaj, I'm in the same boat as you. My mother was diagonosed with ovarian cancer when I was 15, and she died when I was 17, so my most significant memories of her are when she was sick. I never really got to know her as a person, so (for example) when people are asking each other at work, "So what are your mother's favorite flowers?" I stop and think-- "wow, I have no idea." It makes me sad, and bitter, but it's been so long, it feels like several lifetimes ago. I can't even remember her voice.

It sucks though, but what can you do?
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 9:16 AM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Pancreatic cancer. She was 60. She disapproved of Mother's Day and when I made my usual Sunday phone call to her on this holiday I would say, "This is not a Mother's Day call," and we would laugh.

I liked this essay. The references to "Mom" everywhere always make me sad this time of year-- and a little angry, because it still feels unfair, mainly unfair to her. Despite that she didn't hold with the holiday, I'm thinking I will visit her grave and take a photo for my sisters. I feel really lucky to have them, and also to have such good memories of our mother.
posted by BibiRose at 9:16 AM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I signed on intent on making a post about this recent Ask Polly/Heather Havrilesky column on losing a parent. One of the things she writes: When you lose someone very close to you, someone who makes up this essential part of your history and your future, your worldview shifts dramatically. You have a palpable feeling that everything and anything good can disappear at any time.

I'm just adding the link here instead. The tags would have been almost the same.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:23 AM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am profoundly jealous of people who miss their mothers, because that means they had good ones.

I know how you feel.
posted by clockzero at 10:00 AM on May 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

My Mother is not a bird now. My Mother is a lilac bush. Well, two lilac bushes. Here's a picture of us digging the holes for them at the base of the windmill where we scattered her ashes; we put a bit of ashes in each of the holes. It's on a farm in Nebraska, and there's nothing to hear but birds and nothing to see but rolling hills for miles and miles (along with the occasional tractor).

She always said one of her favorite things about growing up on the farm was sitting in the outhouse and smelling the lilac bushes that grew near there (seriously). Plus, lilacs come in to bloom around Mother's Day, so we couldn't have picked anything better.

She thought that Mother's Day was kind of a bit of bullshit to get people to buy more things, and the last thing this poor Earth needed was us consuming more, but I would still send her something and she would still like it (well, except for some years when things were difficult between us, 'cuz it's a complicated relationship). For the record, this year she would have gotten something related to the new Cosmos series. Happy Mother's Day, Mom.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:04 AM on May 11, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'm on year 4 postmom and it's pretty okay. Obviously I would have preferred a no cancer scenario to what we ended up with but my god, hell yes I would rather her be dead now then still suffering on indefinitely. In the end it was her choice, which was very important to me.

I miss having someone to talk with about my dad, and I miss having someone to laugh with about stupid things our family members did 30 years ago which will never be forgotten. I do not in any way miss having someone tell me in great detail how every decision I have made throughout my life has been wrong and selfish, and I am absolutely unashamedly happy that she is not here to tell me how all my recent health problems are undoubtedly and entirely my fault, me, personally.

I'm glad that many others seem to have mostly happy memories, or are at least able to let the good ones outweigh the bad ones. I assume one day I will be able to feel the same. But I don't feel guilty or sad that I'm not there yet, and I don't worry about getting there sometime in the future.
posted by elizardbits at 10:32 AM on May 11, 2014 [9 favorites]

my mother is a confusing panoply of awesomeness and wtf, what a woman. I'm very very lucky to still have her around. I'm very sorry for those who have lost their mothers because I'm not sure what I would do without mine.
posted by localhuman at 10:41 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

When my mom was in labor with me, I somehow flipped into an odd position and cut off her circulation. She flatlined and the doctor had to quickly get me out of her so they could try to restart her heartbeat. Fortunately, they were able to quickly revive her and she's still alive and with us today. But she keeps a close eye on me, as if to say, "Look, you killed me once...but don't get too cocky."
posted by ColdChef at 10:41 AM on May 11, 2014 [16 favorites]

Eight years for me. Cancer got her, the bastard. Her birthday is later this month.

I visited her husband my father on Friday. In a few minutes I'm driving to Cincinnati to see her last remaining sister, who's been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I can ill afford the money right now, but I also can't afford not to go.

God bless all of you, with or without mom's, this mother's day.

But does the holiday have to be in May, when the lilacs are in full bloom?

Yes, because my mom loved flowers. And whenever I see flowers bloom, I think of her, and how glad they made her, and their scent fills me with happy memories of her, and our families belief in the resurrection and life everlasting. May is PERFECT for Mother's Day.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:43 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mother's Day is a little less hard each year, mostly (except when it's not), but I still shy away from it.
posted by rtha at 10:54 AM on May 11, 2014

I am profoundly jealous of people who miss their mothers, because that means they had good ones.

I know how you feel.

Yeah, I should say that I try to not talk about how much I miss my mom much with people who I don't know well precisely for this reason. I loved my mom. She was a phenomenal human being, and since I've lost her, I'm lucky that the things I found frustrating or difficult about my relationship with her have more or less faded away. But I know many people do not have good mothers (or fathers), and I know it can be upsetting to hear people wax on and on about the greatness of mothers in general when, really, moms are just like everyone else and there are really great and really terrible ones and ones that are in between.
posted by dismas at 10:59 AM on May 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

My mother is still here. She does have breast cancer, but she's just about finished her treatment for it and seems likely to stick around for awhile. I have that to be thankful for today and am so sorry for those who have lost theirs, or, what's worse, who never had a mother who was good enough to mourn.

What I'm finding hard about today is that I am not nor am at all likely to ever be a mother myself. God, all those pictures my friends are posting today on Facebook of themselves with their kids. One of my friends posted some meme-type thing about how she was thinking of those who have lost their mothers or a child or who grieve because they weren't able to have children, and I burst into tears when I saw it. It is so seldom that a single childless person gets any acknowledgement of the sort from a married person with children. Usually they're so dismissive or unthinking.
posted by orange swan at 11:03 AM on May 11, 2014 [13 favorites]

Second year without mom but she had been mostly gone for a while due to advanced dementia. I so wish that I could call her up and complain about politics with her and hear about her latest adventures.
posted by octothorpe at 11:05 AM on May 11, 2014

Ice Cream Socialist, I love it when you talk about your Mom (previous comment I love). Thanks for sharing her memory with us. Love to all of you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:16 AM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

March 20, 2004. That first Mother's Day was far and away the worst: when I was checking out at a store, the cashier merrily trilled "Happy Mother's Day!!". I know she meant well, but I'm afraid I snapped out something about having lost my mother just weeks earlier and how there were a lot of us who did not appreciate hearing that kind of thing. It's gotten better; rather than that sharp stabbing pain at even the sight of a rack of Mother's Day cards, now it's a much softer dull ache.

(For those of you who are lucky enough to still have your parents: it really hurts when the first one dies, but I'm sorry to say it's worse when the second one does. Partly it's the grief and loss, and partly no longer having that parental 'security blanket' in the back of your mind. Sure, you may've grown up and moved away long since, but all of a sudden you don't have that psychological backup.)
posted by easily confused at 11:24 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I grieve for my mom, but her most common expression when looking at me tended to be puzzlement; we were never close in the way the author describes. She was a good woman but mothering me was not something she knew how to do. I hope me and my kiddo do better.
posted by emjaybee at 11:27 AM on May 11, 2014

"mom's dying is bullshit"-A quote from an ask.metafilter.com contributor which I was unable to locate.
posted by cynicalidealist at 11:37 AM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, I am insanely jealous
of every snaggle-toothed
lucky son of a bitch
who gets to buy some useless crap,
present it with flowers stolen
from neighbors' gardens,
make awkward conversation
that skitters around the edges
of old disappointments,
over overcooked beef and
mashed potatoes,
making no effort to resist
the barely understood
gravitational pull of
unconditional love.
posted by the bricabrac man at 11:38 AM on May 11, 2014 [16 favorites]

My mum died on New Year's Day this year. This time last year she was in hospital. Again. She lasted almost two years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I wouldn't want my mum of the last two years back, she was miserable and suffering, but I would sure give a lot to have one more Mothers Day brunch with the mum I had before that. I miss you mum.
posted by biscotti at 12:21 PM on May 11, 2014

Not clicking the link, nope. My mother is getting up there in years, and is the kind of pragmatic, non-emotional person who already makes me confront this all of the time, even as I try to shy away from conversations about her will/final directives, when she thinks she won't be able to care for her dogs anymore, which trips we should plan while she's still mobile, when she'll have to sell the house and move into a nursing home etc. I'm terrified of the days when, either incrementally or all at once, these things will come true.

My mom has been like most: she's given me a boatload of issues that I'm sure all of AskMe would tell me to seek therapy for; but she's also fostered in my a love of adventure, books, animals, curiosity, and self-sufficiency that have stood me so well and made me who I am today.

Hugs to all of you who've already lost your wonderful, difficult mothers, and hugs to those of us who still get to enjoy a (mostly) great relationship with ours for a while longer.
posted by TwoStride at 12:27 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I find Aurora Leigh pretty helpful this time of year, with this holiday and my mother's birthday coming in a few weeks:

"As it was, indeed,
I felt a mother-want about the world,
And still went seeking, like a bleating lamb
Left out at night, in shutting up the fold,–
As restless as a nest-deserted bird
Grown chill through something being away, though what
It knows not."
posted by a fiendish thingy at 2:20 PM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, "Unmothered". It took me 'til about 30 until I realized I had to be my own supportive parent to myself. She's still alive, last spoke with her about 8 years ago when she interrupted my father on the phone, screaming in fury that my most recent illnesses and surgery I would have the next day were all my fault. And my doctors were incompetent anyway.

The health problems are genetic. Thanks, mom.
posted by Dreidl at 2:38 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've spoken about my mother's illness and loss here before. We had a very complicated relationship and she was a very difficult person to love. Naturally, that was all I ever wanted and that I will live the rest of my days without her hard-won praise and affection is what hurts the most.

This is my second Mother's Day without her. Last year, I went to the Renaissance Faire and got drunk and stupid. It was fun, but didn't help. This year, I'm staying home and doing homework. It's not really helping either.

This essay though, is helping. Thank you.

Much love to those feeling loss, grief, anger and sadness. You are not alone.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:06 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

My mom died in 1983 at age 53 from metastatic breast cancer. I was 17 and I had just graduated from high school. Still miss her and so wish she could have known her grandchildren. I think of her often, this is her story.
posted by KOBKOBKOB at 3:16 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine mourning my mother very much when she goes. We just don't have that kind of a relationship.

It's only stage two cancer. Lung cancer. Weird coincidence that everyone at the beginning of the comments had mothers with lung cancer too.

I found out today that it was only stage two and not stage four because my sister phoned me and remembered to mention it. Okay, so no need to get too worried yet. She likely has between four to six years.

The glib way of explaining it all is to say that I am the bad daughter. I never visit. I never call. I live twenty blocks away. My sisters, from halfway across the continent, each dutifully call her once a week. I refuse to walk on the same block where my mother lives just in case she happens to look out her window, or go out on her doorstep. I can't do it. I feel sick to my stomach just trying to cross Orange Street five blocks from where she lives.

My mother used to have the funnest sense of humour and a mind that was as full of brilliance as the sky is full of light. Unfortunately... Well, these things happen, right? It's not even an unusual story. It's a hackneyed story. She has alcoholism and borderline personality disorder and the habit of splitting me to black and if she sees me or if my sisters mention me on one of their phone calls, she goes back to being obsessive about what a bad person I am and how badly I let her down.

It's hard on my sisters because the next few phone calls will devolve into her ranting about how bad I am and them just letting the rant go on until the obligatory times up when they can get off the phone. Me, I simply panic at the idea of seeing her. The family solution is to leave a Jane shaped hole where I'm standing. Nobody took sides, they just pretend as hard as they can that I never existed and secretly carry on gaming with me and calling me and sending me copies of their stories. I have good sisters.

Mother's Day, yeah.

When she gets drunk enough and starts splitting me to white she tells me how she botched the abortion. "One child too many." Do you know how sick I am of hearing that phrase? This is her, sentimental, trying to apologize for it or something. But she very rarely does that. Mostly I am the bad daughter. I prefer the bad daughter script over the one where she tries to cuddle me and explains how impossible I made things for her and how it was my fault she lost custody of her kids way back when I was a newborn. "One child too many."

I think that is the one most essential part of my identity. I am a botched abortion.


I'm a mother too. This is what I know. Food was on the table. Clean laundry was in the drawer. Month after month. Year after year. When she was sick. When she was not sick. When she was drunk. When she was not drunk. Month after month.

I know just how hard that is. Three children. Month after month. Well, not the part about doing it when drunk, but when sick, when well, when poor, when angry, when despairing, when resentful, when sloppily affectionate, when it was a habit. Month after month.

Believe me it counts for something.


It would piss her off to get a Mother's Day card or call or gift from any of her kids. She despised the holiday. But anyway, she'll never know, so Happy Mother's Day, Mummy. May the kind gods rock you gently to sleep in their arms, free from fear, free from shame, free from pain just gently, gently to sleep.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:39 PM on May 11, 2014 [22 favorites]

Thanks for posting this.

My mom's been gone since Dec 2000. Up until she went into the nursing home I called my folks every week, even if just for 10 minutes to say hi. I made friends with my parents once I was out of college. The 3 of us went to San Francisco together for a long weekend once & had a great time.

Mom was a super smart artsy creative wild thinker. Dad was a worrywart engineer open to new experiences. I'm a mix of them both.

My favorite story about mom:

Me, on the phone, grumbling about a business trip to San Jose: What the HELL am I going to do out there for TWO WEEKS??
Mom: Oh go! You'll be fine!
Me: yeah, I guess it could be worse; I could have one eye or something.
Mom: yeah, and it could be in your bellybutton, and then you couldn't go to the party as Smoke Gets in your Eyes because you wouldn't have anyplace to hang your smudgepot!

I laughed, I went, it was great & I found my feet & never feared new places alone again.

I miss her sense of humor. And I totally get Ice Cream Socialist's take on the bird thing. Both my folks are now red tail hawks. Once when I was driving to a meeting they were each perched on a streetlight on opposite sides of the street, like watchful gargoyles. It reminds me they loved me.

posted by yoga at 3:45 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am profoundly jealous of people who miss their mothers, because that means they had good ones.

No, it doesn't mean that at all.


I miss her, I love her, I forgive her, I'm grateful she forgave me.
posted by MoxieProxy at 3:54 PM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is my second Mother's Day without the mother who raised me, though she is still alive. The first time I cut off contact was in 1997. I relented a year later when someone died and she called to let me know.

Last August I had to cut off contact again after a particularly abusive episode. I am 44. She is 73. This is not about my childhood; it is about the present and her illness that prevents her from being a safe person to be around. I know today she is keening but also pretending nothing is wrong. I push the guilt away, knowing i do not own it. I grieve her illness and for the mothering I never received.

Until this year.

This is my first Mother's Day knowing my birth mother, who never wanted to give me up. I searched on and off for 25 years. To know her is to be mothered by her. (I also found aunts and 2 grandmothers, in addition to siblings and cousins. All completely welcoming.)

It's been a hell of a Mother's Day this 2014.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:57 PM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Six years on the 8th of May. A simple stroke on Tuesday. No problem. Another massive stroke on Wednesday and coma. Mom had already request DNR and we let her go. She died early Thursday.

Mother's Day has become my hardest holiday.
posted by jgaiser at 4:16 PM on May 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am profoundly jealous of people who miss their mothers, because that means they had good ones.

Mine is still alive, but I wish she wasn't. I'm spending my day being relieved that I figured out how to be a better mother than she was.

People would understand and not blanch so much if you had to tell them, "I don't speak to my father because he is too dangerous to deal with and I had to cut bait to save my own life, finally. He seems high functioning, but he was so ill that he was never able to love me or bond to me like I was his child, or even an acquaintance." There is no social estrangement (on top of family estrangement) quite like being the motherless child whose mother is still very much alive. You can almost hear the needle scratch off the record and the awkward silence if it comes up even obliquely (if nothing else, eventually people will ask why you only talk about one parent and even a light-toned but boundary-drawing "acknowledge and divert" casts a pall). Most people can't imagine the level of pathology it takes for an adult child to finally walk away. But you know she loves you, right? Sometimes they don't, because they can't. *shrug.*

I was fortunate to have an amazing father, and I adopted stand-in mothers along the way. But once a year I read these reflections and can't help thinking, 'Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never been loved by a mother at all.
posted by blue suede stockings at 4:25 PM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

lydhre, your mom and my mom shared the same birthday - my mom also died in 2009, end of april, a couple weeks after her 67th birthday, in a hospice from stage IV lung cancer that had spread to her brain and other organs - i had a conflicted relationship with her - she did the best she could with me and it's not like i was an easy kid - i still wish that i had been aware enough then to say some unsaid things and ask many questions while she was still fairly lucid and had some energy
posted by kokaku at 4:38 PM on May 11, 2014

This is another essay about a mother who is gone, which is both sad and funny.

My mother died the day before my husband's birthday. His mother died the day after mine. It's been a few years now but we still miss them, in all their complex sometimes bewildering ways (neither was perfect in any way but we loved them and try to forgive them.)

My mother has appeared several times to one or the other of us in dreams (my mother loved my husband well). Once my dreaming husband saw her standing at the foot of my bed just looking at me, with a black cat at her feet. What he did not know till after he told me that dream was that her favorite cat growing up was a black cat. In the two dreams I have had, she never speaks (as with my husband's dreams) but in the first one the room gets brighter and brighter with her presence, and in the second she touches me and her hands radiate with warmth (her other favorite cat is, of course, with her in these dreams). Though it is probably wish fulfillment and neither of us is at all religious, we can't help but hope it is her.
posted by gudrun at 5:41 PM on May 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

On missing less-than-good mothers:

My mother was not a great mother, and when she died after years of drinking we were grateful she did not suffer anymore, and that we did not have to worry about her burning her condo (and the surrounding ones) down by accident anymore.

She taught my sister and I that it is better to stay in a miserable situation that is familiar than to take a risk and move toward unfamiliarity.

She taught my brothers that men don't have to do housework, or write thank-you cards, or learn to cook beyond pancakes and french toast.

She taught us all that when a husband speaks to his wife as if she were a child, and forbids her from pursuing some small desire, she should go ahead and take it, and then snarl at him behind his back.

AND YET ... she loved me in a (not really healthy) way no one else ever will, and she needed me in a way no one else ever will. I, in fact, needed her in ways she could never satisfy ... but once she died even my irrational hopes that she might one day change had to die with her.

So, as it turns out, I do miss my less-than-good mother, and as well as I might learn to fill the hole that she left behind, some part of me will always be longing for her to have another chance. I still feel that one tender spot that we shared together, and after these years it's what remains.
posted by allthinky at 5:46 PM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

My sympathy to all those who are missing their mothers today. Last year passed without incident, so I was surprised at how much it bothered me this year.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:55 PM on May 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

A friend asked me today what it's like having a mother with metastasised bowel cancer. (My mum's currently enduring her second round of chemo; the cancer they cut out of her two years ago had apparently been lurking in her lymphatic system and popped up again, late last year, in her adrenal gland and lungs. A few months ago it felt like the end, but she bounced back and is now doing surprisingly well.)

I said it was walking down a corridor lined with doors, finally opening the door marked 'CANCER' (to which you'd never before paid any attention, and had walked breezily past a dozen times) to find a room teeming with people, many of whom you already know. As catastrophic as cancer is, it is also—it turns out—so common it might as well be considered normal.

This thread is like opening the next door along the corridor.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:05 PM on May 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

The mother of a high school acquaintance was buried a few days ago. I know this, because C. has been posting about her mom's illness, and about coping with it. Two weeks ago, C. gave her mother peace -- by calling a local priest (a stranger to her) and asking him to come to the hospital and perform the marriage rites for her mother and her step-dad. Mom was a lapsed but worried Catholic, and had long considered herself hell-bound in the wake of her divorce and remarriage; the priest, understanding what was at stake, came to the hospital that afternoon. He performed the last rites. Then the marriage rites. Her mother smiled, and then slept, with peace in her heart.

She knew she was losing her mom, and yet, in the middle of managing the logistics of meds and feeding tubes and protocols, this about-to-be-unmothered woman gave her mother an enormous spiritual gift.

I have struggled with what to say to C. Nothing seems like enough, and this act of care, like so many small things done for the dying, recedes further and further with every day. But it mattered. For the record: It mattered. So C., and all of the unmothered who have been down this hard road, all those who are on this road now... I salute you, and wish you comfort and strength.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:54 PM on May 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

People would understand and not blanch so much if you had to tell them, "I don't speak to my father because he is too dangerous to deal with and I had to cut bait to save my own life, finally.

From experience, no. My parents tried to kill me when I was 12. I'm 43 now, creeping up on 44, and I still get asked why I don't forgive them, why I don't mourn the death of my father, why I don't reconcile with my mother "before it's too late". They are horrified by the cold stare and flat intonation of "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

I deal with the pain of Mother's Day by asking for a peaceful day to read in the bathtub and nap with the dogs, then we go out for sushi and ice cream. It's low key and soothing, my kids understand why I need that. They're good kids.
posted by MissySedai at 9:12 PM on May 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

My mom died the day before Mother's Day two years ago. I miss her more today than ever.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:52 PM on May 11, 2014

My friend Patsy wrote about this at her site.
posted by bryon at 11:29 PM on May 11, 2014

Twenty years gone now, and I still remember the yowl I let out when the force of it finally hit me. I hope I never make that sound again. Thanks for posting this.
posted by newdaddy at 9:15 AM on May 12, 2014

I was never allowed to celebrate Mother’s Day as a child. My mother would have been angry and offended by flowers or gifts – the religion told us all that was a bad thing, you know.

I spent the day before Mother’s Day this year coming to realize how much I hated my parents. Admitting to that – and many other emotions – started to allow me to feel whole, like an adult, like someone who could finally heal.

Mother’s Day itself was spent with my wife and step-daughter, the two reasons I now have to actually enjoy and celebrate the day. It was a day full of gratitude and joy for the family I’ve chosen – instead of the relatives I was born with.
posted by Wyeldfire at 9:32 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Every Mother's Day, I go back and reflect on my eulogy for her. Nothing's changed since then, and I can still cry at will thinking about her.
posted by pjern at 11:32 AM on May 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

June 9th, 2012.

91 years old. An amazing person, she had a full and bittersweet life and was so loved.

I'm so grateful we both lived long enough to get to know each other and build wonderful memories. I'm so sad I don't have anyone to call while I'm walking to the bus or whenever. Someone who is happy just to hear my voice and know I'm thinking of her.

Thanks for the link - I was wondering why I was feeling so down these last few weeks....
posted by jasper411 at 12:54 PM on May 12, 2014

Our mother died last summer, but I grieved for years before her death, just as I did our father-- not so much for them, as for the parents I wish they had been.

Moral: Don't treat your kids like trash.
posted by ElaineMc at 9:55 PM on May 12, 2014

February 7th of this year. Not even four months. I am broken.
posted by rdc at 9:09 PM on May 16, 2014

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