It’s Mother’s Day. Someone said to me last year that I now belonged to a club that no one wants to belong to – those whose Mother’s have passed. They were right. I get a hollow feeling from the first sight of the cards appearing in stores to the buckets of flowers outside the market just waiting to become last-minute gifts. I miss her and yet she even would agree that she was not a soft soul. I had always dreamed that there would come a moment when we would both let our guards down and we’d have that “Terms of Endearment” talk. It never came as I dreamed and in hindsight, I wouldn’t want it any other way. My mother treated me, really all her daughters, like an art project that desperately needed tweaking. “Do you really like your hair THAT way?” Lisa often tells of the story of getting off the train in the dead of winter and dashing to my mother’s waiting car. She just about settles in when my mother says, “I don’t like your haircut. Do you really like those shoes? That lipstick really doesn’t go with your skin color.” Lisa looked over and said, “Anything else?” My mother replied, “I don’t know, you haven’t taken your coat off yet.”
During one of my last visits with my mother I was giving her a sponge bath. It was hot and she could barely breathe let alone speak. I was doing my best to clean her up and yet appeal to her modesty. Suddenly she starts to clear her throat and speaks. I couldn’t hear her correctly and so I bend down and ask her to repeat what she said. In a soft whisper she says, “You know your top really doesn’t go with that skirt.”
That’s when I knew I wasn’t getting a movie ending with my mother. That’s when I realized even now she was trying to perfect me. Colleen and I started calling these statements her last 100 zingers. She was dying and she felt there was still a chance for perfection. She continued to tell all of us what to do, how to be, what was working and what wasn’t with our hair, clothing and lipstick. In hindsight, she was mothering us until her last breath. It was a role she felt most comfortable in and I confess, I liked her in it.
Since her passing, I’ve worn some pretty wonderful and then some horrible outfits. I know this by the photographs that immortalize these choices. What would she have said? As this Mother’s Day comes to a close I will freely admit, I miss her and most of all I miss her mothering. No one cares as much as she did how I present myself to the world. Two weeks after she died I told my plastic surgeon that there was nothing now stopping me from becoming a topless dancer. My surgeon had enough sense not to point out I didn’t have breasts anymore to do the job. Instead, she sweetly laughed and said she was sure my mother’s influence was still with me. It is.