Mother’s Day, 2017


Why I hate Mother’s Day. 05/14/17

When I was 5-6 years old, my mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  As a 30-something, that means I can barely remember a time when MS wasn’t a part of my life; when I didn’t know what it is.  Over time, “what MS is” has changed so much, for me, and remained a mystery.

I could go into gory details, right?  I could explain my mom’s decline over the years – over about 17 years.  I could tell you other people’s stories of how they knew something wasn’t right before any diagnosis.  I could tell you what “remission” meant to me as a young girl and how long it took before I realized “remission” was not a gift we would get.  It was not a gift mom would get.

MS is never good.  I would never wish it on anyone.  But, see, there are different varieties.  Some are “luckier” than others.  Many are luckier than my mom was.  Not only did she have the most aggressive, least forgiving type of MS, but she was diagnosed when MS research was still in infancy.  We don’t know much about it now.  We knew even less in the late 80s.  Looking back on everything and listening to others’ stories of what happened and when, my mom’s MS treatment could best be described as, “Let’s just throw all of this at it and hope something helps.”  There is still no cure today, but there are treatments.  There are ways to slow it down or even arrest it, temporarily (sweet remission).  There are treatments that allow those with an MS diagnosis to live full lives of real quality for much longer periods of time than they would have 20 years ago.  I often see, “You don’t look sick” in reference to persons who have MS.  My mom looked “sick.”

It was too late for my mom.  The MS that got her was unrelenting.  Over 17 years, the progression of her MS was all downhill.  I am told and believe I remember the progression slowing down while she was pregnant with my half-sister.  I have read here & there that pregnancy is known to slow MS progression.  When mom was pregnant with my half-sister, I was an ignorant, self-absorbed child.  I really don’t remember the disease progression during those 9 months.

I hope you aren’t still waiting around to read gory details.  They aren’t coming.

My mom passed away in December of 2006.  That reminds me: I’m not terribly cracked up about the Christmas season, either.  Over a period of about 17 years, I watched my mom waste away.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  A slow burn?  Some unusual, long-running trauma?

Since her passing, some Mother’s Days I have spent alone.  Whether anyone else likes it or not, I need to take care of myself on that day.  It’s not personal.  It’s not that I don’t care about any of the other phenomenal “mother figures” I have in my life.  It’s just not the same.  I want my mom on Mother’s Day.  I don’t want to talk about her.  I want to remember her in my thoughts.  I want to take care of myself for her on Mother’s Day.  I want to text my older sister and make that connection to her for mom.  If only for the time it takes to make that exchange with Lindsay, we are both thinking of mom and each other at the same time.  In some weird way, the 3 of us are connected.  And I don’t want anyone else involved in that.  There isn’t room for anyone else in that.

I have spent some Mother’s Days with others.  I should, right?  I know so many incredible women who are mothers and those phenomenal mother figures in my own life who I mentioned earlier.  I can shove my own mom out of my head to be “normal” on Mother’s Day.  Maybe I can spend the whole day not thinking about mom, except when Lindsay & I text about her.  Jesus.  Lindsay is a mother.  I can’t imagine what Mother’s Day is like for her.

I hate shopping for Mother’s Day cards and gifts.  It’s an unfair challenge.  I feel guilty and angry and frustrated.  It is so difficult to do this kind of shopping without my mind wandering into, “If things were different, what would I buy for mom…?”  That is not a good place for my mind to go.  Then I am reminded of how little I know about my mom.  The unfairness of not knowing what questions to ask her when I had the chance.  The unfairness of being a child and, by nature, being self-centered while my time with mom was running out.  The unfairness of being a child and not realizing that our time – her time – was running out.  I took so many things for granted.

After my mom passed away, I heard someone say that on their own birthday every year, they sent flowers to their mom.  What a genius idea.  I don’t get to do that.  I could put flowers on her grave, though, right?  That’s fulfilling (it’s not).

So, I hate Mother’s Day.  I hate advertisements for store sales, brunches, whatever.  I feel so envious of anyone who can go to a Mother’s Day brunch with their mom.  I don’t like “mom and me” activities.  I know I did activities with my mom, but I don’t think we ever wore matching outfits.  I know we never got our nails done together, we never bought/shared make-up.  We never went out for coffee or brunch.  I never drank a glass of wine with my mom.  She didn’t teach me how to cook or how to take care of myself (make-up, hair, etc.).  The only time she was able to watch me graduate from anything was my kindergarten graduation.  She missed the other 3.  The two times I went to the prom, my date & I went to her.

I do many things with mom in mind.  I thought about her during both half-marathons I completed.  I think about her anytime I run, especially when my legs get tired.  Sometimes when I complain about running at the gym, she creeps into my mind.  I may not be happy about running, but I am physically capable of running and what a blessing that is.  I’m not terribly concerned about getting a close parking space.  It’s a nice perk, but so is being able to walk independently.

I often think about mom while I’m at the gym.  “Do it for mom.”  Thinking that often helps me find a hidden reserve of energy or strength.  Half-way through a plank, I can finish it for mom.  I may not always do a great job.  I’m never in the lead, so to speak, but I finish the work.  Slowly and maybe sloppily, but surely.

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