Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Best Friend

"Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother" - Oprah Winfrey

For the longest time fall was my favorite time of year. The crisp air, brightly colored leaves, football and the excitement of kids and Halloween just made me happy. Then, on October 23rd, 2000 my mother died of cancer at the age of 41. I was 24, newly married and had lost my best friend.

When I was 13 years old my biological mother melted down. Mental illness, prescription drug abuse and a codependent relationship with my father made it impossible for her to mother me any longer. Subsequently, I moved in with her sister and her sister's husband (my aunt and uncle). They had three small boys, ages 1 month, 3 years and 6 years. I moved with them from Virginia to Kansas and lived on the Army base with them for a year. It was then determined that my uncle would be stationed in Germany. Eventually, my aunt and uncle asked if they could adopt me and I became their daughter. They treated me as nothing other than their own and my mom and I were best friends. Since I was 13 and she 30 when they took me in, we were closer in age than a traditional mother/daughter team.
My mom was the most amazing mother, sister, Army wife and friend I have ever known. She was smart, witty, beautiful and caring. More importantly, she was sarcastic, dry humored and a straight talker. Everyone who knew her loved her and craved her presence. She practically single handedly raised my brothers and I since my Dad had to be way so much because of the military. She was the consummate volunteer. I honestly don't think I ever heard her turn down a request for help. She practically raised several of my Dad's soldiers wives as well.
My favorite memories of my Mom are ones that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. Sharing a 1 pound bag of peanut m&m's after school while I cried about boys, sharing gin and tonics at the beach and laughing until we practically peed our pants, shopping for antiques and spending way more money than my Dad knew about.
When my father called me to tell me my Mom had cancer he had to hang up three times and call me back before we could finish the conversation without bawling. I think we thought if we couldn't say it that maybe it wasn't true. My Mom was so brave and refused to start chemo until after my wedding. She wanted to dance at my wedding and she didn't want to be sick. Her cancer was already stage four when they found it but she was determined to fight as hard as she could. She wasn't ready to leave my brothers, who were 10, 13 and 16 at the time. She wasn't done with them yet, she said.
When my mom died, five months after being diagnosed, the grief was overwhelming. I felt so lost and empty. Our priest, who is also my father's best friend, tried to comfort me by telling me that my mother had been so good that God had to take her early to help him in Heaven. "She wasn't THAT good", was all I could think of to say. I just wanted her back.
Since then, I've had two kids, my father has remarried an amazing woman who has become my newest best friend, and my brothers have grown to college age and somehow have survived without her. My Dad took on the role of father AND mother and couldn't have done so with more grace. Every time we're together we talk about Mom. It always includes a funny story and we manage to laugh instead of cry. I still think of her everyday and my biggest regret is that she never got to meet my kids. She never got to give me parenting advice but the best thing she did give me was an amazing upbringing that taught me how to be a mother.
It makes me sad when I hear my friends complain about their Moms. I only wish I could do the same.
Several years ago on this day my dear friend Christy brought me a bottle of the most wonderful merlot I've ever had. We drank the wine in celebration of my Mom and of her life. I've done the same each year since.
For all of you out there who have mothers please don't wait until Mother's Day to celebrate them. Next time you see them share a glass of wine and laugh with one another. If you have a daughter, strive to be the kind of mother you would want to have.



My mother and I at my wedding...surely laughing about something we'd said about my mother in law.

26 comments:

so tired said...

I know how you feel. I'm not just saying that, I really do. My father died when I was eight months pregnant with my first child. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about him and wish that I had just one picture of him with my baby. If only he could have held on for one more month. All the time my husband and I come across something in life that we wonder what my Dad would have to say about it.

My kids know him through all the pictures I have of him around the house. And my son just had a dream that my Dad was in his room talking to him.

Jules said...

tears are pouring, that was so sweet...thoughst are with you.

Julie
www.ogmommy.blogspot.com

magnolia mama said...

Wow...what a moving post! You are in my thoughts today.

I will call my mother now!

Preppy Mama said...

Thanks for sharing. My mom is my best friend and I can't even begin to imagine what you have/are going through. Thank you for reminding me how important it is to celebrate our moms.

Rat Prof said...

I have been reading your blog for awhile now and was very moved by what you wrote today. I got your blog from one of my friends (20 minutes of my life" blog).

atlanta social said...

Very Moving. I can't stop crying My Dad died this year at 53 and it is still so raw.

southernsahm said...

Thank you for sharing! I KNOW I was a better mom today (can't promise it will be a daily event, but your words struck a chord; I do so want to be the kind of mom I would like to have).

The 5 Bickies said...

Supposed to be cooking dinner but sitting at my computer blubbering instead. Beer in hand I drink a toast to you and your Mom. What am amazing, and inspiring story. I love the photo of the 2 of you... captured only some of what was special between you. So wise of you to celebrate her on what must be a difficult day!

Ned said...

I was so touched by your post. What an anniversary for you. You are so strong to celebrate today rather than reflect on the negative.

Happy Homemaker said...

Great post. Can my mom adopt you now? You know she loves ya!

Somewhere Between Pinot and Pacifiers said...

Wow. That story brought tears to my eyes. My mom is my best friend too, and sometimes I worry that I am not making the most of each day I have with her. Thank you for that wonderful post.

sle said...

I was very touched by your post. I lost my Mom ten years ago to cancer. She lived 6 weeks after being diagnosed. I think I was in shock the whole time she was alive and just going through the motions of trying to help her anyway I could. I totally agree with your request to share some special time with your mom (or dad). Once they are gone they are gone. Thinking of you today.

Belle in Bloom said...

Your picture together says it all. She sounds amazing. Thanks for reminding us how precious time is. Thinking of you over a glass of chardonnay.

Paula said...

What a moving post. You were lucky to have had such an amazing mom. Sending you a cyber hug (()).

Tiffany (aka T, Tiffers, Tiffster, and Pally) said...

What a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to you mother. I will hug mine even tighter having read this.
PS. you were a lovely bride.

Steph said...

That is a precious picture! What a sweet post!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post . . . You have certainly been through a lot. Your mother sounds like she was a lovely person and an incredible mom.

Kricket said...

Very moving post. I am also a motherless daughter and a motherless mother. I feel your grief and pain everyday. It's hard to identify with others who still have their mom around. It feels awkward. You mother would be very proud of you and the mother and wife you have become.

Gretchen said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mom! I just lost my Grandmother last week, and even though it was a blessing, it's still so sad. Can't imagine losing my mom so young. What a blessing that you had each other...even if your time together was cut short.

pink daisies said...

that was so well written and such a perfect tribute. i can only hope that i will be as good of a mother as your's obviously was. i hope you enjoyed the merlot~you deserved it!

suburban prep said...

What a beautiful tribute to a woman who was such a loving and kind person.

MMM said...

Great post! You have me in tears and wanting to call my Mom and tell her how much I love her. Your Mother sounds like an amazing person and I know she is watching over you and your little ones.

workinthatpreppy said...

wow...thanks for sharing! i want to have that kind of relationship with my daughter. unfortunately, i don't have that with my mom.

SnappyCasualGifts said...

what you wonderful mom it sounds like you had. I know you treasure all the special moments you spent together. very touching post

sas said...

I just got around to reading this post. Your mom sounds like an amazing women. Your post made me cry...because I cannot imagine my life without my mom. Thank you for the reminder to not take her for granted!

Kimba Rimba said...

Very touching. God bless you! :)