October 17th will be the 30th anniversary of my mother's death*. It took me many of those years to figure out that she was not only not the bad guy in our doomed little family, but, in fact, she was the only person to devotedly mend that thread by which it always hung. In my own defense, I was 17 when it happened and in my most rebellious, I-hate-you years. When a parent dies when you're a teen, you can often experience arrested development. I am fully aware that in a lot of ways, I'm forever mentally 17, and I don't need anyone to point this out to me (leave me alone, you're not the boss o' me, Foghat rules). I like to believe that my mom somehow knows this and waited patiently all those years from her vantage point in the Beyond for me to come around to see her side of things.
About five years ago, I started reflecting on some of my biggest life moments. You know how you do, after the thrill of turning 40 is gone and you're just left with time marching on. And, you may not believe this but stay with me anyway, I stumbled upon a definite and undeniable pattern to things. When moments of sometimes gentle and sometimes traumatic nudging towards life-altering change have happened in my life, they’ve consistently fallen on or right before or after October 17th, the first of these being the day I learned I was pregnant with my only son, Spawn, and last year's being the manifestation of my Post-Single Motherhood Website, a pretty big article being published in a trade magazine, and the Fall realization that I was living on the street of my dreams (not actually IN Ogunquit, but looking eerily similar to it). Call me crazy, but I think maybe my mother had been harboring hope for her sometimes emotionally lost and struggling daughter all this time.
I don't know what she has in store for me this year, but I'm busy readying for her visit. I'm thinking about her and talking to her, about our first five years together before everything started to go wrong, and I'm remembering and appreciating how hard she tried for every one of our 17 years together. Sometimes, that's the best part of a parent - knowing that he or she cared enough to try. For her unwavering, seemingly annual, help in my finally recognizing that, I will always be grateful. Sorry that it took me so long to see, but most grateful. October is my favorite month what with the cooler weather and the changing leaves and football and sweaters, but she's made it even more special for me. I don't mean because she died, but because she lives again, in me. Thanks, Mom.
*The Death: She and my father were at a week-long business convention in Chicago. That night, at a big dinner, she started feeling ill. She and her best friend, Rita Rogers, whose husband worked for my father, went to the restroom together and when my mother got worse, Rita called 911. She died not long after at Northwestern University Hospital. Massive heart attack. Her last words to my father were, "I'm too young to die". She had just turned 50 the month before, but at her funeral, my father made sure that she was referred to as 49. They were both some kind of fucked up about things like age and appearances and the proverbial Joneses, but even I can't deny the love in that. I made a lot of the funeral arrangements and all of the phone calls to family and friends and took care of my screaming grandmother who had just lost her only child after losing her husband less than 5 years before, but I have never cried. I should have, but at the time, I didn't think she'd cry for me, so there (see arrested development/forever 17 above). I saw my father cry once, then get drunk a lot, and then never mention her or my brother's death (or his life, now that I think about it) 13 years later. For him, we all never existed that day. He moved on in every way. Ah, the Irish. No wonder I like to write stuff down.