Today is my mother’s birthday. I sometimes write about her on this day because it is a day I feel her especially close to me. You see, our birthdays are a day apart. Hers on the 13th, mine on the 14th. We always celebrated together when we were physically together and when we weren’t (which was more time in my life than I like) we always talked on the phone both on her day and then again on mine. That’s significant because way back before cell phones, in the dinosaur era, we had to call long distance and let me tell you, that was a bit of a luxury she and I could rarely afford for a big part of my life.
The last birthday we celebrated together was 12 years ago. She turned 56 and I turned 36. Now, I’m staring into the future of only 8 more years until I’m the same age my mother was when she died. When I was 20 years old, 56 seemed VERY OLD and now that it is a mere 8 years away, it seems quite young indeed. When I was 36, it seemed young as well.
By the time I was 36, I realized that youth was fleeting. I was staring at 40 back then. Now I’m starting at 50. I am an age that I remember my own mother being which in and of itself is a weird thing. How am I like her when she was my age? How am I different?
I hear her come out of my mouth more. Not just in the things I say, but also in the way I say them and the sound my laugh makes now. Sometimes it is a bit disconcerting to hear my mom’s laugh when I have a good chuckle. I sometimes even turn my head trying to figure out why I can hear her.
Only 8 more years and I will be the age my mother was when she died. I just lost a friend who was only 54. My mom and I shared so much more than a birthday…we shared similar happenings in our lives which was always a little weird too. We both had hysterectomies when we were in our mid-twenties. We each were told we would most likely never have children and then we were blessed with only one child which was a major surprise to each of us. We each married while still teenagers. Our love lives were both complicated. The only difference there is she eventually found her 2nd soul-mate at the ripe old age of 44. I’m technically 4 years past that date now!
I worry that our death age though will be close and I hate that. I’ve had that fear since the day she died. I guess that is why my “no regrets” mantra began to take hold a couple years ago. I don’t want to die with regret. I know she died with a few.
Mom’s health prevented her from doing a lot of things she was passionate about. I know she died feeling blessed because she was loved and had a great husband, beautiful grandsons and of course me…but I worry that she had regrets that she never got to really get into making jewelry like she had wanted or travel with my other dad like they had envisioned for their retirement days. She seemed content to while away the days here in the same house I live in now but she had quit living in a way.
My mom was 16 ½ years sober when she died. That sobriety was hard fought and for probably 12 years she was very involved in AA. She was a sponsor and a much beloved presence in the program while she lived in Corpus Christi and then Midland, but once she moved to Katy and then Goliad, she began to quit going as often. I think that was another thing that she regretted. She was like a bright light when she was involved in AA. She shone hot and bright and always spoke her truth without apology.
Once her health started leaving her due to basically a broken back that had too many surgeries done to it that crippled her in many ways, she lost her joy in being around others. She and my (other) ‘dad’ retired to Goliad and she was content to stick close to home and tend her many plants and be around her dogs and her man. She loved to go shopping at Bill’s Dollar Store downtown Goliad when it was still open and she loved volunteering at the nursing home doing manicures. When she quit doing manicures I noticed her decline. She was probably about 54 when that happened.
I too have health issues. While they are different than my mom’s, I feel she probably suffered from some of the same ones that were never treated. I literally walked with my mom’s cane for years because of the health issues I have dealt with over these last 10 ½ years. For a while, I was afraid that I might actually die before her death age. I’m now stronger than I was 10 years ago. I will never be what I once was, but I’m better than I was, and I take heart in that.
So, while my mom began to give up on life the last couple of years she was alive (and I by no means want it misconstrued that she was depressed and despondent, because she wasn’t…she just didn’t have her normal ‘zest’ for life) I don’t want that to become me. I want to live every single moment I can with as much life as I can put into it. I want to realize my dreams and work towards all of them. I don’t know that I’ll ever make it to Ireland like I want, but if it never happens, I’ll work on the more attainable goals. At one time I thought writing a novel was unattainable. I proved myself wrong on that when I wrote 7 of them in 13 months. I thought being a published author was never going to happen and I made that happen as well. Am I as famous as J. K. Rowling? Not yet….but I’m learning in life, “never say never”!!!
Do I only have 8 more years to live? I don’t know…I may only have 8 minutes, days, months or years…no one knows that for certain except the good Lord above. So, for now, I want to be as passionate as I can about life. I want to love with great passion even if it isn’t with a partner….I have my child, my grandchildren, my daddy & my other mom, my friends who are now my family, my friends who could someday be like my family, my extended family who are also my friends, my animals and all those in between. I want to love them all with a great passion and I want them to always know how I feel. So, I might say “I love you” a little more often when I hang up the phone or end a text. I might hug a little tighter and kiss a little more. Whatever ways the passion I feel comes out, it is because life is so incredibly short when we look at it in the broadest scope possible.
So, as Tim McGraw sings, “Live like you were dying….” Because really, we all are in a way….and the best testament to our lives and the legacy to leave to our children and grandchildren is a love and zest for life. Live the life you want for your kids. Live the passion you want your children to have in their own lives. Be your best authentic self and never lose sight of how incredibly blessed you are….even when you feel like everything is wrong, get up and try to make it right. Even if you don’t have kids of your own, live the best life you can and be an inspiration to others. You never know who may be watching you and looking up to you. The best things I’ve ever heard are when someone tells me that something I did or said made a difference in their lives. Even if no one ever tells you, I guarantee you are making an impression on someone.
I guess in closing, I’ll tell you this about my sweet mama….she was a force of nature. She was someone you never wanted to piss off but she was also someone who you wanted on your side in a storm. She loved fiercely. She was loyal to anyone she called friend or family. She had some pretty bad years when she was an active drunk…but she’s the first one to own all the bad choices and decisions she made during those years. She loved with her whole heart and thus could be hurt quite easily, but you would probably never know it because she’d be damned before she let you see her hurt. She was actually extremely vulnerable when she was with someone she felt exceptionally close to. She only ever had a handful of friends she felt that way with and of course me and my other dad. Even then, she sometimes hid that hurt really well from me.
My mama was loud and bawdy and could out-cuss a sailor or at the very least make one cry. She had extremely dark brown eyes and let me tell you, she could shoot fire out of those things when she wanted. She loved to be all dressed up with her makeup just right and perfume on with as much jewelry as she could possibly get away with wearing at any given time when she went out in public. She could also dress down and not give a crap what anyone thought when they saw her in a ratty old t-shirt and cut-off shorts while grocery shopping. She absolutely adored her husband and yet still loved my daddy in her own way, which always made me happy. She was full of contradictions, but she was my mama and I loved her so much.
So, happy birthday Mama. I know you aren’t here to celebrate with me, but just because you aren’t here doesn’t mean I’ll ever quit marking your birthday as well as my own. With every passing year I’ll be grateful for what I have. I hope to someday celebrate your 100th birthday because that means I’ll have made it to the ripe old age of 80 and my sweet Steven will be at that 56 marker! If I don’t make it that far, I think it will still be okay because then we’ll be together marking that time with one another…until then…I’ll eat a piece of cake for you!