Ode to my Mother

My best friend’s mother passed away two years ago.

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We were taking a break. It sounds odd to say – “we were taking a break from death” – but that’s what we were trying to do. Lying in my bed at my parents’ house, laughing over something only the two of us would find funny. Like we’d done countless times since we were twelve, and probably like we’ll do countless times into our old age. Our laughter didn’t sound the same, but we laughed anyway. The phone rang, and I remember wishing she didn’t have to answer it – maybe we could just stay in the moment in between moments. But of course we couldn’t. It was the news we expected – Joyce had gone – and I felt a sensation like falling. I tried to hold on to Steph’s grief for her, but she slipped right through my fingers. I watched her go into that other landscape. Come back, I wanted to yell. Stop. Wait for me. I don’t want you to go by yourself. But I couldn’t go with her. After all, I still had my mother. I didn’t know what that was like. I prayed that I never would.

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On one of those nights, I slipped into my parents’ bedroom, just to make sure my own mother was still alive. That sounds silly now, but at the time it seemed absolutely imperative. Like I’d die if I couldn’t see her breathing. I crawled into the bed on her side and I let my mother hold me. Maybe I was too old for that, but I didn’t care. I thought to myself, “There’ll be a time when I’ll give anything to get this moment back.” Because I can’t keep my mother forever. None of us can.

To those of you who have lost your mothers, you are braver than me.

My relationship with my mom is complicated. Everyone’s is. To those who say their relationship with their mother is simple and uncomplicated and unfettered, you’re tacky and I hate you. My father once said to me, “You fight with her all the time and you tell her everything. You don’t tell me nothin’.” (Which isn’t true, by the way, I do too tell him things. But he was right about one part of that sentence.) My friends are amazed by the way I talk to her, sometimes in a bad way. The familiarity both amazes and scandalizes them. “You talk to your mother like that?”

I have favourite things about my mother. Likely you have favourite things about your mother, too. She watches the Space channel. A lot. Would I say too much? Not here. One time she tried to watch Battlestar Galactica on my computer and accidentally downloaded a porn virus. Her curiousity about the world around her. “You guys, what does ‘getting jiggy’ mean?” I like watching her at parties, I like watching her talk to my friends. I like eating her toast and taking her books. I like the way she laughs when I tell inappropriate jokes, like she really shouldn’t be laughing but she just can’t help herself when faced with the ingenuity of my wit. I like listening to her boss people around on the phone. There was a time when she came along as a “chaperone” on some sort of “youth trip” – one night we were behaving like teenage girls do at 3 am, and I heard her footsteps coming. I dove into my sleeping bag and pretended to be asleep. The others didn’t follow suit, didn’t notice I had dove for cover. Maybe I should have tried to warn them, but after all, bitches gots to learn. The next day, they said to me, “Megan, your mom is scary.” I smiled grimly, but proudly. You’re goddamn right she is. When caught up in a crisis, I’ll remember that my mother exists and I can call her and her advice will ground and center me. I won’t be drifting anymore. I like her dorky jokes and her sarcasm. Her care for others. I like how her face turns red when I yell “TAMPON!” at her. I passionately hate anyone who criticizes her (who’s not within my immediate family).

When I was a child, I tried so hard to imitate her. When I was a teenager, I tried so hard not to imitate her. In my twenties, if anyone accused me of being “just like my mother” my reaction was surprise and slight pride, mixed with a wry acceptance. Sometimes I look down at my hands to see if they’re like hers, but they aren’t. She often says, “Megan doesn’t want to be anything like me”. That’s not true. It’s complicated, Mom. I’m you and I’m not you. Sometimes I look up and there you are. And sometimes I can’t find you at all.

I went for a walk with Maren the other day. She was unsure about it at first.

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Maren is famous, Maren is diplomatic, Maren is insightful, Maren is beautiful, Maren is one. We are not biologically related, but someone tell that to my soul, because I love her with everything that I have. Without purposefully deciding it, we ended up walking around in Sunnyside Garden Centre. Maren waved her arms ecstatically about. Babbling in that way that she does. Flowers, Maren, flowers, I told her. These are important. And then I realized, somehow, I’d turned into my mother. My mother always took me to garden centers. She had a penchant for doing so, in fact. Countless times I’d trailed after her at Dunvegan Gardens. It’s become part of the furniture in my memory. You repeat the best parts of your mother without even realizing you’re doing it.

There is a picture of me as a toddler looking down at my mother from a window. I had seen her and recognized her. Mom liked this particular picture because she says it “spoke to our connection.” It is, indeed, the expression of someone who has seen her mother and knows her.

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I hope that when my turn comes, as I know it must, I can be brave too. I hope that I possess just a fraction of the grace and resilience as my friends whose mothers have passed. In the meantime, I’m lucky, fortunate, blessed beyond comparison. My mom is still here. I’m thankful for the time that we still have together, the things we’ll do, the memories we’ll create. The hours you could have spent with your mother, it’s a lifetime in itself.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I wouldn’t have wanted any mother but you.

“When you still had your mother, you often thought of the days when you would have her no longer. Now you will often think of days past when you had her. When you are used to this horrible thing…then you will feel gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you. Wait til the incomprehensible power that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you shall always keep something broken about you. Know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, and that you will constantly remember more and more.” –Marcel Proust

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