My mother has been gone now for eleven years, five months and nineteen days. Before you assume I’m completely neurotic, allow me to explain that this is the first time I’ve ever tallied it to the day. But I was curious. And also a bit nervous about my first blog post.
Eleven years is a long time. Long enough to transform photographs of ourselves once deemed “hideous” into, “wow, why did I ever hate that photo?” Long enough, really, to assume I’d have all of my motherless issues behind me. And most days I have accomplished exactly that. Most days. But I can honestly admit, even after all of this time, time that has flown by at warp speed, time spent raising three vivacious, life-loving, Payback Time teenage daughters, there remain days when my bullet train jumps the track and my heart aches with longing to have my Mom back.
I’m fifty years old, born in 1964, the tail-end of the Baby Boomers. Like many in my generation, I have never been in any great hurry to grow up. So from time to time, I can honestly admit, I would love to be mothered every once in a while. And I got to thinking, during one of my daily runs with my two dogs, when I tend to do all of my best thinking — wild, uninhibited ideas that always start off with me as a lead singer in a band that plays B-52’s cover tunes to a wildly appreciative audience— outrageous scenarios that completely entertain me during the run, but are usually all but forgotten by the time I return home—
I had this one big thought and it stuck with me: What if there was such a thing as a Motherless Shelter? You know, like a Homeless Shelter, only more like your childhood family room. A place we could visit when we were droopy, in need of comfort and mothering. A place whose very scent emanated tender concern mingled with a perfume older women wear but younger women deem too matronly. A place clean enough to eat off of the floor. A place we could complain and feel sympathy and understanding. A place where someone asked us a hundred annoying questions about our health and well-being. A place where someone held our face in their hands and gave us a deep, soul penetrating looking-over. A place where there was a refreshing freedom in releasing caged up secrets. A place so relaxing you would swear Ambien was piped in through the air vents. A place where you could viscerally sense that, without saying a word, you mean the entire freaking world to someone and they to you.
I never really thought I was lucky enough (or pushed myself hard enough) to enjoy the enviable and much-touted “runner’s high.” Instead, I am always acutely aware of how much farther I need to go before I can stop, how my feet hurt and how I would likely be so much more fit if I could just give up my evening Chardonnay. But despite all that, this mystical Motherless Shelter I’d created was sounding pretty dreamy and idyllic, no doubt thanks to the contributions of the few endorphins I managed to produce.
I pondered how many visits an eleven-year motherless veteran would actually need, while at the same time fell in love with the concept of offering it up to others who are nowhere near settled in their new unpleasant reality. Initially, after first losing my mother, I would have been living there. Over the years I gradually adjusted. I realized it was foolish of me to save her purse. She wouldn’t be coming back. It took me a long time to find the inner strength to do this, but eventually I forced myself to start carving out my new normal. Shelter visits would become less and less frequent, but still necessary on occasion.
So, I thought, why not create a virtual Motherless Shelter, by way of a blog?
My eleven year quest to define the new normal has been both tumultuous and tranquil. Traffic snarls and Friday Light, just as one might expect. Mother’s Day remains traditionally off-putting, like an ill-fitting pair of slacks, but at this writing it had probably been a few years since I had shed actual, drippy tears over missing my mother. But this year brought forth the breast cancer diagnosis. And let me tell you, any motherless soul who can face that news without instantly wishing they felt the firm and soothing grip of their mother’s familiar age-spotted hand in their own, should probably consider a career in the military, or a ghost hunter, or the lightbulb changer on top of a skyscraper, or any other profession that requires superhuman bravery.
My Motherless Shelter would be crammed with plush, comfy sofas, with plenty of mismatched throw pillows to hug on, and crocheted blankets that assure you if they can transcend the humiliation of being resourcefully crafted from the remnants of every ugly color remaining in the yarn box, then your problems are surmountable as well. One thing that can be found all over my virtual Motherless Shelter: boxes of Kleenex. Because often, we go on about our busy lives and assume the tears have all dried up. But then something catches us by surprise — perhaps it’s a heated argument with our spouse or our teenager; perhaps it’s an uncontrollable urge to crow about an award you or said teenager won; perhaps it’s the desire to confide that the latest news from a doctor has you scared to death — and we realize, with a pang of startling sadness, that we’ve never stopped missing our Moms, we’ve merely been distracted.
It’s kind of weird for me to think I can still cry over my mother at age 50. By 50 we should have it all together, right? But also by 50, shit starts happening to our bodies that we never thought would happen, or never thought would happen yet. And it all feels like, right when bona fide adulthood should be coming together, instead it is all falling apart. And Mom, Mom could make sense of all this. But our shepherdess is gone, so we are forced to navigate on our own. And we will eventually succeed. But it’s not pleasant. It builds that enigmatic something known as character, but so do wrinkles, and screw character. We’d rather just have our moms back.
And that, my friends, is but one example of why you will never be the same person, or live the same life, after you lose a mother. We never get over it, but somehow, we get on with it.
Note: This post was actually written May 11, 2015. It has taken me 11 months and 12 days to muster the courage to hit the “Publish” button. Just in time for Mother’s Day 2016.