My older brother and I were fortunate to have a great mom. Growing up, I thought my mom was amazing until my obnoxious teenage period, when she couldn’t do anything right.
And, except for those years of my mouthy disrespect, Mom and I were best friends.
Like many quasi-traditional families of the 50’s and 60’s, Mom was the Go-To parent for everything.
One of her vast repertoire of expressions included the description “Chief cook and bottle washer” and she was all of that.
As our domestic engineer, in today’s socially acceptable vernacular, Mom cooked, cleaned, did laundry, helped us with our homework (my math-brained genius brother was pathetic at grammar and spelling so he needed a lot of help).
She made my brother Jerry and my Halloween costumes (the witch’s hat she constructed for me when I was five was so awesome I still remember it).
She cradled me when our kitty died. She chastised me when I killed Jerry’s fish in retaliation for him taking the caterpillar I had found (it had spun the coolest cocoon and he took it to show his science class but never brought it back).
Mom perfected fudge, pastries, popcorn balls and more.
Unlike most of my friend’s mothers, however, my mom worked “outside the home” as it was referred to back then.
Mom was a teacher. She had earned her Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry from Purdue University in Post World War II 1945, but went back for her Masters in education.
Eventually she taught high school math with some calculus thrown in! Honestly, I thought it was cool that Mom worked and I always had the impression that the very few of my friend’s mothers who did also, needed to financially.
Despite the endless “things” she did for and with us growing up, I’m embarrassed to say that when I became a mother–of twins, I did not acknowledge everything she had masterfully accomplished (and seemingly without effort).
When I lay awake at night listening for the call of my sick child, I did not recall all the times my mom had done the same for us.
When I schlepped out to the store in a blizzard for the missing ingredient that we needed to make Christmas cookies, I did not immediately remember the night my mom ran out during a heavy rainstorm to get milk to enjoy with my made-just-for-me warm cinnamon sugar pie.
When my daughters pushed the limits of their curfew and I anxiously awaited their arrival with mixed feelings of worry and angst, I did not flash back to the nights I had done the exact same thing to her and my dad, eventually strolling in at the wee hours of the morning with an elaborate story of mistruths to deflect the blame of my late arrival on someone else.
For many years now, I have been remembering Mom’s endless, selfless acts of motherhood.
In 2005, mom started showing signs of paranoia, agitation, confusion, recycling the same question over and over, and no longer being able to absorb the responses.
This was not long after both her husband (my dad) and her son (my brother) died in 2004. I believe she went into protective shock and never came out.
As she slipped further down into Dementia, I stepped up for her, grateful for the opportunity to give back to the woman who gave so much.
As I approach my second Mother’s Day without her, I feel her energizing spirit envelope me with positive memories and I grieve less for my loss.
Alzheimer’s claimed yet another victim, when it choked Mom’s kind, brilliant, talented spirit to dust in July 2011.
I can hear my Mom’s kind voice once again, not the ranting of a possessed woman. I can feel her slender but strong arms hugging me, not her foot kicking me in the butt.
I can see her beautiful blue eyes and warm smile, not the strained expression on her face conveying unadulterated confusion.
Wonderful memories of her are emerging from behind the dark clouds of Alzheimer’s, an insidious disease that robs us of our parents, spouses and loved ones.
On Sunday, Mother’s Day 2013, if your mom is with you, embrace her and give her a hug from me.
My mom will be smiling down from heaven, no longer confused or in pain, with her “Boys” next to her and I will embrace that fact — even if I can’t embrace her.
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