Today is my birthday. Yup, December 7th (a day that will live infamy). Actually, I was born in 1959 and not 1941-Pearl Harbor Day. I will certainly never make an impact with my life to equal that of Pearl Harbor Day but I do like to recite the phrase.
Today, I am 53 years old. I’ve been married for almost 31 years to the only man I have ever loved or been with physically (which is rare I’ve come to realize). We have a wonderfully beautiful 25 year old daughter who brings me more joy than I could have ever felt possible. YET, on this day, at least for the past four birthdays, I feel lost and alone. You see, my mother passed away on March 9, 2009. She was so much more than a mother to me. She was my friend, my confidant, my biggest supporter, an advisor and above all, my hero. She accomplished things in her life I could only dream of. During WWII, she and her best friend hitchhiked from Vanceboro, Maine (on the Canadian border) to California to work in war factories. She wanted to “do her bit” she always said. She taught in a one room school house and before she retired had taught three generations of children in many families in our small town.
After my dad passed away, she and I became even closer. Although I would never live in my hometown again, I went back home every 6 weeks and stayed for 3 weeks until she was diagnosed with breast cancer when I took my daughter and my dog and moved home where I stayed with her until she passed several months later. She was 89 years old and until just one day before she passed away, she was still guiding me, directing me and even in the way she was leaving this earth showing me her strength. On her sickest days she would dictate notes to me to send to those she called, “shut-ins” and “lonely folks” in our town. She would send my sister to purchase little gifts and deliver them to elderly folks with just a note saying, I was thinking about you today and thought you could use this, a friend.
Every year as far back as I can remember, my mom called me at exactly 2:10 pm on my birthday. Even when I worked, she would call and when I answered the phone she would always say, “Today at 2:10 pm was the only time you ever caused me any pain.” Of course, that wasn’t true and we would laugh and chat away about everything and about nothing. What a wonderful mother to bring such joy to her child.
Now, all these years later, and since December 7, 2009, I watch the clock. I feel the anticipation build as it gets closer and closer to 2:10 pm. Although my mind knows the phone won’t ring, my heart has hope and I hold my phone to my heart praying that God will somehow allow her to call just one more time. I’m a collector of pendulum clocks and they are all over the house. I’m OCD about making them all the exact same time. If you have pendulum clocks (wind up) you know that there is a slight clicking sound as each minute passes. So, as I hear the clock tick onto 2:10 pm, I hold my breath and pray for my phone to ring…………………………………………………….but inevitably I hear the click to 2:11 pm and still my phone is silent. My heart sinks every time as if it was the first time and the tears begin to flow.
My sweet mother gave me thousands of pieces of advice over the years. She loved sharing quotes and quips from her mother like: it’s a poor bird who sh**s in his own nest (meaning, it’s a bad person who turns on their own family) (The “sh word” was the only swear word my mother ever used and only when she quoted that verse, I might add). Another one was, “you blister your butt, you sit on the blisters and many a blister you’ll sit on”. That one meant that when you don’t listen to the advice of your mother, you were going to get hurt and you would have no one to blame but yourself. One of the best, and much less confusing, pieces of advice my mother ever gave me was when she said, “When you are feeling sad and lonely and when you are feeling sorry for yourself, that is the time to reach out to someone less fortunate than yourself. Get “out of yourself” and bring some joy to someone else and in their joy, you will find joy as well.” I think of those wonderful words of advice each year on my birthday. Each year at 2:11 pm when I feel like my world is falling apart all over again. I allow myself time to grieve for the wonderful woman I have lost but not for long lest I fall so deep I will not “get out of myself”. Then, I reach down within to the place where my inner strength lives and I reach out to someone to try to bring joy to their lives. Sometimes it’s a phone call, sometimes I send flowers to someone not feeling well or going through a rough patch. Other times I write a note or a long letter giving encouragement and/or hope in their situation. Whatever I do, I do it then and there while I feel vulnerable and raw. It’s a time when I feel I can most connect with someone who might need more than just lip service from another person asking about how they are doing.
So, on this December 7, 2012, as I wait for 2:10 pm, I’m writing a blog post. Not so that others can read it, although it may help someone somewhere, but so that I can for the first time in my life hear the click of the clock and smile even with tears on my cheeks. Because, for almost 50 years I was fortunate enough to have received such a precious gift; one that so many people never get to experience. Today at 2:11 pm instead of weeping for my loss, I will thank God that I had a mother who impacted my life as she did and gave me the wonderful advice to look beyond myself to help others and in caring and loving others, I comfort and care for myself.
THANK YOU MAMMA! The love I have for you will live on forever and ever.