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Column: I know how to love because of my mom

  • An elderly mother holds hands with her daughter. (Dreamstime/TNS)

For the Valley News
Published: 5/11/2019 10:40:17 PM
Modified: 5/11/2019 10:40:15 PM

For six years, I hated Mother’s Day. Six years of Mother’s Days without a mother.

I am used to living in a culture where the Christmas season starts even before Thanksgiving, where we live from event to event, holiday to vacation, and the time in between doesn’t seem to be noteworthy or important.

Mother’s Day, too, is one of those bumped-up events of which I am constantly reminded. It is everywhere, which you don’t really notice until it reminds you of your loss and pain.

I remember my last Mother’s Day with my mom. My sister-in-law and my two nieces and I took her to her favorite plant nursery. We walked, very slowly, around the farm, peeked into the barn to see the alpaca, watched the spring lambs bleat for their mamas and romp with each other. She picked out a planter with a poppy in it and my sister-in-law got her a giant hanging basket of lobelia. What do you get a woman who is dying? Something that will die too, but the plants would live through that summer and my Mom would not.

We then took Mom to brunch. She ate like a chickadee, every tiny morsel of food thoughtfully selected, her portions miniature and barely touched. She did it more for us, the act of eating. Food no longer held any appeal. She had become so small and frail, weighing as much as she did when she was 12.

I didn’t know it was our last Mother’s Day together. Technically, I knew she was dying, but I didn’t know what that meant. I was 28 and didn’t understand what it means to be in your 20s — that decade of supposed freedom and adulthood, but really a time of continual uncertainty — and to be watching your mother die. To be the one alone caring for her while it was happening.

I still don’t understand what happened to us, why her life ended like that and why I am here without her.

Then, 16 months ago, I had my baby. Now I know why it had to be my mom who went first, why I had to lose her and not the other way around. It’s like the fire of being a mother that I have walked through — am still walking through — has burned away a layer of life and brought me to understand myself, and my mother, so much more now.

I get it. And I wish, on this Mother’s Day, that I could thank her for the effort, the grind of motherhood that she put in every day, for my whole life, for me.

My family and I recently went away for the weekend. For some reason I still think that traveling will be fun. But with a 16-month-old in tow it is not. He doesn’t sleep. He is off his schedule. He only wants me ... and this time he got sick.

So on the third night of none of us sleeping, at 3 a.m., my baby threw up. On me.

As the goo dripped off my face and into my hair, my sweet little boy, in the smallest, sweetest little voice, said, “Uh oh.”

And I laughed — because it was so gross and so funny and so awful and so beautiful — and I knew that this is what motherhood is. It is a collection of these awful and beautiful moments, when you love your child so much and you also just really wish you could get a full night’s sleep without someone throwing up on you.

I can’t give my mom anything for Mother’s Day this year except this: the realization that motherhood is hard, dirty, relentless work, and that she did it, and I do it, because we love. I know how to love — Love — because of my mom and the example she set over and over again.

From the time I was little, I would always sign cards to her like this: “Thank you for all you do, thank you for being you.” Please hear that and know and feel all that these words hold: Happy Mother’s Day.

And for me, as a mom now, even a mom without a mom, it is a happy Mother’s Day.

C.S. Hammond lives in Hartland. She can be reached at cshammond36@gmail.

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