Monday, October 3, 2011

My toughest day....

My Mommy <3

Seven years. That's how long it has been since I could call her on the phone and tell her Happy Birthday. The last time I made that call was 2004. The year she turned 48. Going off of experience, six November 2nd's worth of it, today (yesterday) is going to be a rough day. When she first passed there were four days a year that seemed unbearable. Four specific days a year that seemed nearly impossible to make it through and the entire Christmas season. To say that they have all gotten better would be a complete lie. It hasn't gotten a bit better any day of the year. Every day she is still gone. Every day I wish I could ask her advice or share a story of something that occurred during my day. People say that time heals and when they say it, you are under the impression that they mean that it will get better. Maybe that is what they mean. Maybe, if they have been through it, that may be the way they have found to put into words how they feel over time. I disagree. Adamently, in fact. The notion that the death of a loved one gets better is a lie! It does not get better. You simply learn to better deal with the loss and your feelings regarding it.

There was always so much anticipation leading up to the day we were born as kids. When we were younger, there was always party planning taking place. As we got older, the parties stopped but Mom always baked the cake of our choice for us to have when we opened our gifts. My favorite cake was of course the most tedious to make since it used egg whites and required hanging it upside down to cool, but there was never a complaint about making me my Angel Food Cake. I remember one birthday where Mom was sick with pneumonia. She ran a daycare and I had never seen her take a single day off. She was never unable to be less than energetic for the kids that were left in her care. The night before my birthday she had called all the parents and asked them to make other plans because she was literally unable to make it off the couch other than to use the bathroom. She woke me up for school and said goodbye as I left to go and get on the bus but she did not say "Happy Birthday". I went through my day completely thinking that she had forgotten it was my birthday and how could I not understand with how she was feeling? When I got home, there was Mom laying on the couch bundled in a blanket with a box of tissues within reach. I put my stuff away and whatever else was my normal routine after school in those days and then I walked into the kitchen. Smack dab in the middle of the kitchen table was the most beautiful Angel Food Cake I have ever seen. At that exact moment I realized how crazy I had been to think that my mother would ever let anything keep her from making my cake, let alone remembering my birthday. These expected acts of love made this a very difficult day to get through once Mom passed. The special loving things she said and did on that day were never going to happen again. On my birthday, I have learned to look forward to the company of my friends. I have used the love that is showered upon me by those that care about me to distract from the fact that I don't receive that one phone call. I have even been lucky enough to be able to look forward to the Angel Food Cake that was made for me every single birthday. The best part is that I think that Kimmy is fully aware that when she bakes my cake, she is not baking it alone. The fact that she puts so much effort into making it and worrying that it is just right is the most beautiful thing someone could do for me on that day. My birthday didn't get better, it got different.

Mother's Day was hard. The first one especially so since it took place four days after her death. Thinking back on it now, I am amazed at the resilience of my brothers and I. We had dinner reservations for us all including my mom. We went and took advantage of those reservations minus one attendee. She was there, there's no doubt about that, but there was no need for a seat at the table. We shared memories and laughed and joked and picked on every staff member who approached our table.   By "picked on" I surely mean "flirted with" which is a fine skill the three of us learned from somewhere. Since I am sure that this was not learned from Mom, I will take full credit for not only my own skills but those of my two younger brothers, as well.  Had Mother's Day been a week or two later, this may have been a bit of a different story. Shock enables you to coast through some pretty extraordinary events. The combination of shock and the need my siblings and I have to make sure others are taken care of, enabled us to hold our heads high and do a great deal more laughing than crying in the week immediately following Mom's death. The amount of smiles exchanged, even at the funeral, was nothing short of amazing. It took a few hard Mother's Days before a friend pointed out to me that although I had lost my own mother, I was a mother myself. This day was my day as much as it was hers. Immersing myself in joyful activities with my own daughter made it impossible to sulk the day away about the fact that I couldn't spend it with my own mother. I had to change the way I viewed the day and focus on the good instead of the bad. Mother's Day didn't get better, it got different.

Thanksgiving dinner, for as long as I could remember, had been held in our home. This meant that Mom would be up all night long cooking and cleaning. We would be joined by early afternoon by my grandparents and any number of other family members who were able to join us. My great grand mom, otherwise known as 'lil grand mom' due to the fact that I can't imagine she was a fraction of an inch over four feet tall, was also a yearly guest. There were countless different dishes to choose from. Every possible Thanksgiving dish you could possibly want was followed up by a wide variety of desserts. Each and every single one prepared by our mother. That is the pretty side of it. The aftermath is probably part of the reason that I am so horribly against
 the chore of doing dishes to this day. I would prefer to clean ten toilets than to do a sink full of dishes and I think this, can at least partially, be attributed to the massive mountain of dishes that awaited me each and every Thanksgiving just about at the same time that the triptophan was kicking in. Our dishwasher was never once, in all of my memory,  used as anything but a place to store any snack food.  This meant that each and every dish needed to be hand washed and put in the strainer. Please do not be fooled into thinking a full strainer led to a break of any kind, unless you consider drying and putting away dishes to make more room for washing to be a break. As we got older and members of the family moved further away, we did a few years of reservations at a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. I cannot tell you how cool we thought this concept was. I don't even think that we realized that places were open for business on Thanksgiving. After Mom's passing, it struck me that I was not sure where I was going to go to eat for Thanksgiving dinner. I did the only logical thing. I stayed up all night and prepared countless dishes and desserts to feed any family or friends who wanted to join us. The closeness I felt to my Mom as I cooked for hours on end was a feeling that no number of sinkfuls of dirty dishes could diminish. I remember enjoying every single second of preparing that dinner and the time spent with family directly after. It was only then, that I understood exactly why Thanksgiving was always held in our home. Thanksgiving didn't get better, it got different.

The end of Thanksgiving tradition was closely followed by the Christmas season. This was a magical time of year in our family where the focus was always on giving, sharing and time spent together. Christmas Eve was spent next door at my grandmother's house every single year. When Nanny passed, a funny thing happened. It got different. It became evident that the organization of it all was Nanny's doing, since people came and went as they pleased on their own time schedule. That's what it seemed like at the time, at least. It was only after the passing of my own mother that I realized the lack in interest had a lot less to do with planning and a lot more to do with heartache. It was quite a lot of strength to summon to participate in holiday events in a home where the person who belonged more than anyone was not in attendance.The feeling that making others happy carries with it, is something I have learned to seek out on a daily basis as the years have gone on.  Although I enjoy the visiting with family members at holiday time, it is the personal rewards that come with giving to others which has brought me the most joy during the holiday seasons following Mom's death. The Christmas season didn't get better, it got different.

There are two more days that would need to be mentioned. One that has never been an issue and one that simply always will. The day my mother didn't come home was a Wednesday that happened to be the fourth day of the fifth month in the year of 2005. I will never forget the date and I am well aware that the date of death is something that many people struggle with every year in their own personal circumstances. I seem to have escaped that fate and eliminated a day from my list of ones that needed to become "different". Somehow, each and every year, May 4th comes and goes without a second thought. I am often left realizing on the 5th or 6th that the 4th has already passed. The only explanation for my fortunate avoidance of  this extra day of sad thoughts, is the fact that it never held importance in my life before that year, so why should it after? I don't miss her any more on any specific day.   

To the contrary is the second day of November. It's not any better, it's not any different, EVER!

After two days of working on that last paragraph to tell you how I feel on Mom's birthday, that's all I have. I mean, I had about fifty different paragraphs worth of crap. Each one not adequately describing the day and being erased. As it turns out, two sentences is all it needs!



  1. WOW...this is Brilliant and so heartfelt...I can only say how proud your mom must you Ali..Dan

  2. Sherrylyn McGinnisNovember 3, 2015 at 8:03 AM

    Beautifully written. I only hope my four children remember Me in the same way ❤️