I know for a solid fact that I have written here before, likely with an excess of emotion and too many words, about the relationship I have with Mother’s Day. I’ve written about how so often when the girls were little it failed to live up to expectations – mostly because children were in charge of the execution, and I was in charge of expectations, and I always put too much weight on it. It always seemed to me that Mother’s Day should be the one day a year that motherhood came off like it was supposed to, and it never did. Instead it always ended up with someone crying because it wasn’t working out the way they had imagined, and that person was often me. Sometimes that was a seven year old trying to make banana pancakes (it is worth noting that I really hate banana pancakes) or a ten year old who didn’t get a turn holding the cake, but the point is that so often the day got away from us, and it took me about 20 years of mothering to come to understand that the biggest problem with Mother’s Day was that it was coming off the way it was supposed to was in fact inevitable, because Motherhood is a mess. I’ve made a tenuous peace with the day, especially as the girls have gotten old enough to fight about cake quietly.
This year, I’ve been dreading it. Take the regular mixed feelings I have about the day, throw in a dead mother and I am a wreck. Emotionally speaking, it’s been like standing on the tracks and watching a train come. I’ve been worrying about it and trying to figure out what I can do to distract myself, and feeling sort of resentful about people who still have mothers and trying to remember that I am a mother, not just a motherless child, and that my kids have expectations of that day that I should think about. (I feel like that last bit makes me super mature.)
This is pretty much where my head was at on May 1st, not coincidentally the last time I wrote to you. That evening I went to a Bike Rally Meeting, sat down in my chair and got a call from Joe. He was calling to say that his Mum had had what looked like a big stroke, and she was in an ambulance and he was in traffic and… I stood up, walked out of the meeting, and 30 minutes later the whole clan was in a nearby hospital. Carol had indeed had a pretty big stroke, and it was scary. Lucky for us, everything went right. She was home when it happened, Old Joe was home when it happened, she got to the Stroke Centre in amazing time, and she was given absolutely the most cutting edge treatment you’ve ever heard of. It’s been 11 days and while she has a ways to go, things look bright. Joe still has a mum. A funny, loving, clever mum, who’s still all of those things, and we didn’t lose her.
Eleven days ago, if you had told me that there was any upside at all to Nana Carol’s stroke, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have said that this family has had about enough, and that we are too fragile and too hurt to manage any of this, and I would have been wrong, because as crappy as a stroke is (and don’t get me started, it’s plenty unfair, and lousy and Pollyanna has definitely not taken up residence here with an unlimited supply of unicorn sparkles and rainbows) there’s been a few things that have been amazing. The strength of this family has been outrageous. Maybe it took a few losses to really get us trained up, but we have got this down like you wouldn’t believe. We’ve been taking it in shifts, everyone showing up and sitting with her, talking with her, being with her, and not resenting a moment of it. Carol hasn’t been alone, she’s had her favourite foods, her own clothes and linens, and yesterday she trounced Old Joe at Hearts three times, so clearly on the path to recovery. It’s so wonderful to see a mother so loved, and a family so generous. I am so proud of them, and her, and that feeling is going around. They’re a fantastic team.
From where I sit, it was a small gift of another sort. I thought I was about to have the worse Mother’s Day of my life, and couldn’t see past the sadness, the loss, the things I didn’t have and can’t get back… all the Mother’s Day celebrations with my own mum that I’ll never have again.
I’d been looking at this picture a lot. It’s my mum and her daughters, and Carol and hers, just a few years ago. The lot of us had gone out for a Mother’s Day dinner together. Just the Mums. I’ve been caught up in how I couldn’t have that again… I was so happy that day. I’ve been looking at this one too, from just last year.
I posted it for our family at the time, and the caption read “No shortage of Mothers to celebrate this Mother’s Day!” I look at that first one, and feel overwhelming loss. I look at the second, and realize that there was a few days last week, a few days where I looked through a window to a family with no grandmothers in it, where both Joe and I have no mum, and where everyone in the first picture is broken-hearted about everyone in the second, and I managed to find a little gratitude for what we’ve still got, which is an amazing mum, who’s so fabulous that she makes me miss my own so very much, every day.
Also, it turns out that if you’re hanging out in a hospital waiting for someone to get better, instead of the alternative… you can get a hell of a lot of knitting done.