Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mom in Retrospect

My mother died seven years ago in September, one month before Daylight Savings time ended. I always thought it was an appropriate time for her to leave us, if there ever was an appropriate time. She was a morning person who loved the light. When the last rays of sun vanished from the sky she became someone completely different, tired, moody, almost lethargic. By 8:30 she was asleep, completely, irrevocably, until the first blush of dawn woke her, completely energized, to face the day.

For a long time I didn’t miss her. The last years, when her Alzheimer’s controlled everything, were difficult ones. She was a strong woman, capable and intelligent, the child of immigrants who earned a masters degree when most of her generation didn’t finish high school. It was that intelligence that made us hesitate and hope that our suspicions were groundless. She stayed in her home long past the time when she should have had care, fiercely asserting her right to do as she pleased, until that was no longer possible. Those memories, raw and painful, are hard for me to put aside.

Although my mother and I weren’t close, we made our peace in the end, mostly because she was my mother and we had our moments. When I was little, she sang in the mornings. I liked that, and she couldn’t keep a straight face when scolding me, breaking out in laughter before the admonition was complete. I liked that, too. There were no curfews or bedtimes in my family, no serious rules or chores. Everyone just did what needed to be done. I didn’t like that. I was part of the first TV generation. I wanted a mother like Mrs. Cleaver or Donna Reed, mothers who wanted to know where their children were during the day, mothers who inspected teeth and checked over homework.

In retrospect, I realize she cared deeply, demanding excellence in her own way with high expectations, strong opinions and an unwavering belief that fairness should prevail.

She wasn’t the easiest of mothers but she cared about people, she loved animals, she worked hard, we could count on her in a pinch and, as my daughter recently pointed out, she knew what was appropriate no matter what the circumstance and always behaved accordingly. Not too bad a legacy for a mother, or for anyone. Happy Mother’s Day to all.