Today is my mom's birthday. She would have been 73 today. She died over 23 years ago.
I was six years old when she died. I remember that day very clearly. She had been sick for most of my life...well, all of my life. I've been told she had cancer while pregnant with me. I've also been told she was on chemo while pregnant with me and that I was a "miracle baby". Allegedly the doctors told my mother to abort me because I would most certainly be fucked up due to all the radiation being poured into my developing fetus. But she refused and out I came as perfect as can be. I say allegedly because this all sounds pretty far fetched and I'm almost certain it is a story my family made up to make me feel better about things.
She died just a few days before Christmas on December 20th. My eldest sister gathered us around the kitchen to break the news. My brother took it the hardest. He was about 12 years old. He was really into eating baby food at the time. He took the jar and threw it on the ground, then ran upstairs to his room. I remember hearing him pounding on the floor and wailing. He was always a momma's boy. He was her only son.
I took the news fairly well. My niece was with me. She is more like a sister to me. We are about the same age and grew up like sisters. We snuck away from the table and went to watch tv. We had a bag of chips. I remember eating them so slowly and thinking that I should be doing something. Crying, screaming like my brother...but I couldn't do anything. At one point, I recall my niece asking me if I was okay. I think I just nodded my head and went back to watching tv.
Later that day, my dad and I drove to the hospital to see her. It strikes me as odd, now, that they just left her in her room. Being that I was only six, it may just be my poor memory recalling exact details. But, I swear, my sister told us she died that morning, and dad and I drove to the hospital that night. Either way, once we were there, everyone left dad and I alone in the room. She was laying on her hospital bed and her eyes were still open and very yellow. I'm starting to wonder if this took place the night before she died....that would make sense. I crawled up on the bed and said my goodbye. I remember feeling a little scared. Then dad started crying and I walked to the otherside of the curtain. Dad was openly weeping at this point - bawling. I had never heard him like that before. He kept telling her how much he loved her. I left them alone.
That was the last time I saw her.
My dad would not let me go to the funeral. This infuriated my sisters. But, I'm thankful for it. My last memory of her is not in a coffin, but in a hospital bed. That's a lot better then seeing your mom in a coffin. I think my sisters still hold it against him to this day.
I have a lot of other fleeting memories of her that I try to hang onto.
She volunteered at my school library when I was in kindergarten. I have a very quick flash memory of her smiling at me as we walked through the library. I was so proud of her.
She used to let my niece and I do horrible things to her hair. We called it "Beauty Shop". I'm sure she had other names for it, but she let us do it.
She was stern. My dad was the one I could get to do what I wanted. She was the disciplinarian.
She was always singing. She would sing to me and rock me to sleep up until she died. Her favorite song was "Amazing Grace". She would sing to me the song that goes "You're the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold..."
There are other memories. Random ones of her doing laundry or making dinner. But they do fade more each day.
I miss her. Very much. I wonder how different my life would be if she had lived.