I always forget that the fact that my mother is dead might upset me on Mothers Day. At first, I have this guilty pleasure that I don’t have any responsibilities. (No cards to buy, no flowers to send, no calls to make.) Then I remember I have a stepmom and a mother-in-law, and the weight begins to shape, particularly as I consider myself as a mother too–How do I want to celebrate? What if no one else does? Should I plan something? Should I give tips? Hints? Should I let it go?
I get pissed off when I click on a Facebook article, entitled, The Best Mothers Day Gift is a Mother, after I discover that it’s written by someone like me–without a mother–who makes everyone else feel bad because they don’t appreciate their own moms who are still around.
So with stinging tears, I decide to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction, and encourage people to bash their mothers if it makes them feel better.
Even though my mother is dead and this is terribly taboo, I’ll jump first…
My mother was stupid.
She was also the kind of person that people came to with their problems. Her unique perspective softened any angst, opening hearts and minds to new possibilities.
Wise counsel was Bonnie’s gift of spirit–besides being a prolific child-bearer–9 children over twenty ears.
How is it then that she could be so stupid when it came to living her own life?
Bonnie found herself pregnant after a summer fling with a lifeguard. She painfully gave up her first-born to adoption, only to find herself pregnant again in less than a year–with me–followed by a marriage to a guy who was still in college, with years of schooling ahead of him.
She continued to have children while he made his way through his undergraduate degree (#3), medical school (#4), his internship, and his residency (#5.) We survived on cases of hospital Similac. My mother chose something stronger.
I was in the fifth grade when the fighting began, and a year later, my father explained the term: alcoholic. Another year and another move, and Bonnie rebounded–giving up the bottle for two more babies (#6 & 7.)
My parents divorced. My mother gave birth to her last child (#9) while her twenty-something husband began cheating on her. Her drinking spun out of control.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Year after year, Bonnie watched as our lifestyles diminished, while our surgeon father’s exponentially expanded. “I should have just stayed with your father so that you girls would have what you deserve,” she’d say. (She never cared too much for things herself.)
I never accepted Bonnie’s apologies–doing so would mean opening up to all that was hurt and angry and sad inside of me; and I was afraid that she was too fragile for that.
When her drinking became a threat to the safety of the children, our family was separated. The newest siblings stayed behind while the rest went to live with my dad and his fiance. Sending your own children off to live with a man you can’t stand who is about to marry a 27-year-old who didn’t want to mother his cheating ex-wife’s 6 daughters was the height of Bonnie’s stupidity.
Later she died of cancer, at a very young age. 57. That was stupid too. Now there were all these wounded children who were orphaned. Many of them claimed that I raised them. There are no words to explain how that grieves me. (They deserved so much more.)
Bonnie has been dead for 8 years now, so I tell her to her face, with tears streaming down mine:
“You were stupid, Mom! What were you thinking!”
She sits beside my writing desk as one of most precious muses.
Whenever she’d complain about all the demands on her, a handful of children closing in around her tiny frame, I’d say, “Why did you have all these children!”
But actually, Bonnie rarely complained. She just trudged along, offering wise counsel to anyone who needed it and making the most of the life she created–faults and all.
Ten years before she died, she gave up the bottle for AA, and she spent the last years of her life, mostly alone, as she had always been, but sober, and profoundly present, and helping others in the program.
Despite the ravages of life around me, it was my mother’s steady heart and soft spirit that sustained me, and sustains me still, through my own mistakes and stupidity.
She is and will always be, one of my greatest loves, stupidity and all.
Happy Mothers Day again, Mom. You always said that once I had children of my own, it was “my” Mothers Day, but I can’t stop celebrating the gift of you!