By Becky Andrews
Mother’s Day will never be the same. You see…I’m a motherless child. A wave of sadness runs over me when I start seeing signs for Mother’s Day or when I see the Mother’s Day card displays.
Amazing how a person who fought for independence for 18 years from the woman who created her, turns into an orphan after that mother gives her child the most absolute independence… Death.
She died on a Thursday in August after a prolonged battle with diabetes and a lifelong battle of being pulled into a thousand different directions by her 6 children, husband, mother, brother and work. Death meant something different for her. Death meant peace, solidarity and a chance to teach those she loved how to live a life of meaning by learning from her mistakes, but more importantly their own mistakes.
I got the call around 1am. It was my older sister. It was her turn to stay with mom. When I picked up she was a lot calmer than I’d imagined. When you watch someone suffer with a prolonged illness it’s sort of a macabre loop that plays over and over showing the way the end will be revealed. On that note, I expected my sister to be in hysterics. This was our mom for crying out loud. But she was calm.
“She’s gone. Mom’s gone, Becky.” If I thought her reaction was strange my husband thought mine was startling. “What do I need to do?” It was kind of a rhetorical question. I wasn’t being morose. I just didn’t know… anything. Nothing prepared me for this. Before we hung up, my sister, starting crying and instead of professing a tearful exchange of how much our mother meant to her she said this, “I knew she would do this when I was alone. She knew that would freak me out. Hurry up and get here. I’m alone with her now and I can feel her laughing at me!”
When I think about mom her gams come to mind. If I didn’t know better, I’d think ZZ Top was talking about her when they penned the song She’s Got Legs. It was true. Growing up, she didn’t inspire me to become a wife and mother, but I wanted those legs. She had dancers’ legs. Long in comparison to her petite height, with muscular calves and lean thighs. She didn’t work at it either. But like a fast metabolism, her leg trait passed me over.
Mom had the worst timing. And if what most of my friends say about their mothers is true, I’m positive, one day, my children will say the same about me. Two days before my wedding a devastating tornado ripped through middle Tennessee. The day before my wedding I got a call from the facility where we were set to exchange vows. They said something about ‘giant 200 year old trees being down front and how the city was in shock over how much damage this historic mansion had.’ Before I could say, ‘What the hell does this have to do with my big day?’ The woman’s voice on the other end asked me if there was any way we could exchange vows somewhere different. Since they ‘didn’t have electricity, and this historic tree that housed the original owners tress swing had fallen down and Waa Waa Waa!’ After I told her there was NO WAY we were rerouting our wedding because: (A) we couldn’t have a wedding and reception in a church because they kind of look down on the whole ‘open bar’ premise and, (B) half of our broke college friends took off from their jobs waiting tables because we promised a few appetizers and free booze. My mom could hear the conversation and yes I was acting a wee bit irrational going on and on about how my life will be ruined and how hard I worked to make this day happen and why me? That’s when mom said, “You know Becky things could be worse. What if you didn’t have legs? Then it wouldn’t
“What does not having legs have to do with this?”
“That’s the first thing I could think of. Now quit acting like a spoiled little brat.” Turns out, we didn’t have to change venues and even though it was cold and rainy, it was the perfect day.
Mom also had the best timing. One morning a few weeks before she died my sisters and I were taking turns staying overnight with her and dad. On a Saturday night I slept over. The next morning, I was giving her a bath and making a ‘fuss’ over my now very thin and weak mama. As I brushed her hair talking to her like I did my children when they were babies after a bath, she looked up at me and said, “I never thought my Becky would be making such a fuss over me. You are such a good mama, my girl. Don’t ever question that.” There I was with my mother. The woman I adored as a little girl and abhorred as a teenager. The woman who became my confidant in college and my champion when I was lost. I was trying to soak up every little bit of her while she was still here. Trying to make her feel better. Wanting to let her know we’re all going to be ok. And she was trying to make me feel better.
Mom was funny. I mean really funny and didn’t even know it. I like to think this is where my brothers and sisters get their sense of humor.
One day my sister, Laura, was feeding her and mom said, “Are you the girl from ‘Dirty Dancing’?” Instead of saying ‘no, it’s me, Laura. Remember mom, I’m your daughter?” She said, “Yes I am.” When we told our big brother about it, he asked, “Which girl from ‘Dirty Dancing’? The one with the big nose or the blonde who gets pregnant?” Without missing a beat Laura said, “I’m not sure. They’re both skinny so either way, it’s a compliment.”
So when the last day of her life came and went none of us would ever be the same. Not just her children or her husband or her friends but all the people who would meet this lady through the stories she left behind.
Happy Mother’s Day, to all Mom’s (motherless or otherwise!)