The last time you saw your first-born grandson, he was just 4-months-old. Adorably alert with the bluest of eyes, quick to smile, and just getting to the pudgy stage of baby that was your favorite. In those 4 short months, you were the best grandma that any child could ask for. We brought him home to your house because you knew that you were just too sick to come help at ours. You set up a crib, with the cutest lamb mobile, and stocked my old bedroom for everything a baby could want. You insisted on installing a car-seat in your car as well as ours, and I am pretty sure that you knew his cries better than I did. You bathed him with me, helped me nurse, and you bought him anything you could get your hands on in his size. You sang him every song you knew from your life as an early-childhood educator, and you marveled at everything he did.
If we went home to Baltimore, you complained that more than a day without Jack “just wasn’t going to work for you,” and insisted I bring him right back. As your health declined, you couldn’t hold him anymore, and you, the consummate fighter, became bitter and angry – kicking and screaming at the idea of leaving this life you loved so much – Jack and the grandchildren to be that you would never know. Still, a visit by Jack to your bedside could always elicit a smile, could always soothe you for just little bit. In fact, on the very last day that you had a voice, you recorded “Good Night Moon” to Jack and all of your future grandchildren in your best preschool teacher voice. We treasure that book, but I fear I still cannot listen to it without breaking down. I look forward to the day that your voice brings me more happiness than pain.
Anyway, Mom, our third Mother’s Day passed without you last weekend. Despite having two beautiful children that are simply the best (Jack is now 3 going on 35, and Adina, the girl you were hoping for, is 1 and full of love and joy and a million snuggles), I have grown to hate Mother’s Day more than any other. It still feels like the world is mocking me. The cards, the perfect sayings on pillows and mugs and picture frames in the cute boutiques you always loved, the barrage of Facebook tributes. They all just hurt so badly. I can see you holding court at the head of a brunch table with your thousand-watt smile, enjoying this, your favorite season, surrounded by your grandkids (you have FOUR perfect, gorgeous grandkids now!) with your huge smile. I can hear you reflecting on how lucky you are, because you never missed a moment to thank the universe for your blessings. And yet you are not. You are just no longer, along with a piece of me, but on Mother’s Day, I feel the loss in the most profound way.
But this year, I spent the day in bed, hopped up on painkillers, and mostly asleep. I got to skip Hallmark, the restaurant scene, and I didn’t even have the energy to check Facebook. Frankly, it was the best Mother’s Day I’ve had in 4 years. I am only half joking here.
Lest you think that I have a pill problem, I should tell you that the pain meds were to help me as I heal from a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. Yes, like you, Mom, I carry the BRCA2 mutation. I like to think that I inherited more than a few of your wonderful traits, but I could have done without this one. But, as the ultimate gift to my children, I took a page out of the book of the most selfless mom I know, and opted to remove my breasts in hopes that I will spare my children the 80+% chance of developing breast cancer that the gene mutation means for me. It hasn’t been the easiest road, but I am well on my way to recovery now, 17 days out of surgery. I would do it again in a heartbeat. (Next up is a hysterectomy, but I will wait a few years for that.)
So, now, Mom, I am signing off as I have a sleeping boy next to me breathing peacefully – yes, I know he should be in his own bed but today I got my drains out and he can cuddle a little closer than he has been able to in weeks so I am being a mommy-rebel. Hearing his breaths and smelling his smell is just the best thing in the world.
Today, he told me that when he grows up he is going to be the same kind of mom that I am to him (he is clearly still working out the boys become dads and girls become moms thing). I smiled and told him that I am the mom I am because of my mom, Grandma Lolly, who taught me all about being a mom. He thought for a minute, and said sadly, thoughtfully “but Grandma Lolly died so she can’t teach you anymore.” I caught my breath and fought the lump in my throat to tell him that although Grandma Lolly died, she was such an amazing mom and such a great teacher that I know just what to do as a mom even with her gone too soon. He thought for a minute and smiled, and then said “If Grandma Lolly were here, I would give her the biggest hug.”
And with that small conversation, my 3-year-old gave me the perspective I needed to snap out of my pity-party, at least for a little bit. I sit here with deep gratitude for you, Mom, and thank you for preparing me to be the mom that I am and for giving me the strength to make the tough choices that given the opportunity, you would undoubtedly have taken- and will hopefully allow me to be with my kids and grandkids for many years to come.