A year and a day – at least I’m calling it that even though the calendar only says it’s been a year. 366 days is an important time frame used in many instances to say you survived, met a challenge, a spiritual goal etc… but because of leap year, my 366 day actually falls on the anniversary of the day. You see, March 1st 2015 was the day I lost my mom.
They say that parents live on in their children. A good friend of mine reminded me of this when I was missing my mom recently. And if there is any way I wish to honor the part of my parents that is inside me it is with my actions. Today I honor my mom – dad will just have to wait until May.
My mom grew up poor – and by poor I mean at times living with the fear of impending eviction because they did not have the rent money. Poor as in she started working when she was barely in double digits. Her family was rich with love but material things were often hard to come by. My mom was eight years old in this photo and she hated it. She was embarrassed because the coat was a hand-me-down from her adult aunt, and it was much too big for her, but it was all she had to wear so she did. This impacted my mom for the rest of her life. Though she didn’t say as much, I could imply from our conversation about the coat that she got teased because of it. Decades later, when she and dad moved into Park Springs, a retirement continuing care facility, she was very concerned that she dressed appropriately. When we would go shopping, I could hear the 8 year-old girl wanting to make sure she fit in and wouldn’t stand out for all the wrong reasons.
It’s probably that 8 year-old girl in my mom that made her so aware of the under-dogs in this world. My mom would frequently try to get the person who wouldn’t talk or participate in a group, to join in. She’d whittle away at their resistance, and before they knew it, she would have them talking, opening up, letting her see inside the wounds that kept them at a distance. I called them ‘her projects’ and whether it was the lady down the hall who always looked lonely or the bad card player that drove everyone else crazy, she tried to let them know someone cared. She wanted people to smile.
I know my friend is right. She does live on through me. I go to a local indie coffee shop twice a week to meet a writing friend. Unlike the vast majority of Starbucks that I visit, the people working at this indie coffee shop are not friendly. They don’t smile, they don’t talk – and well, like my mom, I made it my goal to get smiles out of them, to get them talking, to lighten their mood and day. It took me three months…but finally, the girl smiles when I come in and now initiates conversations. Give me another three and I’ll know her story. I am my mother’s daughter.
My mom and dad believed in family. Family dinner whether it was a birthday or holiday was always important and included mom’s glorious cooking. As years rocked on, slowly we took on some of the cooking duties, but getting together and sharing a meal always remained important. Eventually, we settled on once-a-month Sunday family dinners. My mom often told me how much my dad looked forward to them, though he was less forth coming with his emotions in words, it was obvious he enjoyed us being together. It was something that for them was important that we continued after they were gone. In an age where families drift apart and lose touch, our parents succeeded in laying a foundation of closeness and love. As if to put an exclamation mark on their importance, Mom had her first stroke late in the evening after a family dinner. A week later, she left the carrying on of family traditions in her children’s hands.
I should be teaching today and tonight I will go meet with my Honor students, but this afternoon, I’m having lunch with my sisters. After lunch, I’ll drag one of my sisters shopping and there will be coffee and a hand of Knock Rummy played at the local Starbucks before the afternoon drifts into evening. And if there is one thing I know for sure, my mom and dad are looking down on us proud to see that family bonds are being kept and that their love lives on in each of us.
So, I survived a year and a day (bugger-off leap year). The grief doesn’t magically disappear nor do the tears, but there are more smiles as the memories flood through me. My relationship with my mom was a rich and deep one making remembering all that much harder, the emptiness all that much deeper, but as time moves on, and my year and a day moves forward to a year and two days and more, that richness fills me with the joy of a relationship that molded me and changed me. I love you, mom.
A senior lecturer of marketing at Kennesaw State University, Tyra is a gamer-girl, gadget geek at heart.