Saturday, May 11, 2013

A motherless daughter on Mother's Day

Walking home last night, taking the long route to prepare myself for Mother’s Day weekend, I spotted a copy of “Motherless Daughters” outside of a used bookstore.

The copy on my bookshelf is actually… stolen. Desperate for help as a college student, I saw a pastor for therapy. He wasn’t a good fit for a nice Jewish gal like me, but offered to let me borrow the book from the church’s library. I never saw him again, and he never saw the book again. Though I like to think he knows it’s in good hands.

Turns out that the book was my therapy. Dozens of stories from girls just like me, who’d lost their mothers and were trying to recover. Those women brought me such comfort and confirmed that my life would go on, eventually happily.

Passing the bookstore last night, I tried to imagine the person who sold it. Was it a symbol  that they’d moved on? What did it mean that I still need mine on my shelf, like a dear friend I’d never abandon?

This Mother’s Day is different from the last 10 years of motherless Mother’s Day. This year I have mothers: my stepmom, Mark’s mom, and Mark’s stepmother. I’ll celebrate tomorrow with my stepmom and the rest of the family, and it’ll be a wonderful day.

But on this rainy day, I’m missing talking to my own mother… because sometimes that’s just how it is.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I did it: I bought Mother’s Day cards

After a decade of avoiding the card aisle in May, I did it: I bought Mother’s Day cards. Inspired by two friends who are celebrating their very first Mother’s Day with adorable infant daughters by their sides. And blessed this year to have a stepmom and two mother-in-laws by my side. I thought it would take having kids of my own to make this holiday joyful, but I’m already feeling the love.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club

As soon as I heard about the book, The End of Your Life Book Club, I wanted to read it. I sometimes judge books by their covers, but I always judge books by their titles—and this was an intriguing title.

Reading the summary, I learned that the book was meant to be read by me. The author, Will Schwalbe, a book publishing maven, writes this memoir about his experiences of being in a book club with his mother, who is dying of pancreatic cancer.

I felt an automatic kinship to Will, the way I do to anyone who has lost a parent. I pictured Will and I seated across from one another at a diner, tea and toast between us, sharing a knowing look.

But as I continued to read the book, I found myself rooting against Will. I was mad that he was in his 40s, compared to my 20, when his mom was dying, and that his mom was 75 to my mom’s 59. I was mad that his mom was a saint, building libraries in Afghanistan and raising refugees in her home, whereas my mom was a small-town saint, teaching special ed children in Queens. I was mad that he’d had an editorial profession and the wherewithal to recognize their experience as a book early on and capture the detailed memories necessary to bring a story to life. I was mad at him for having a book to hand to anyone at any time and say “Here. This is what I went through, and this is how special and remarkable my mother was.”

As I neared the end of the novel, my jealousy reached an ugly peak: I wanted my mom to have lived longer. My mom had survived 2.5 years with pancreatic cancer—a miracle for a disease known to massacre people in 3 to 6 months. As Will’s mom’s health declined after 18 months, I felt a sense of relief. He’d won at everything else; at least I had this. 

Immediately, I felt ashamed. I pictured us again at that diner, the toast and knowing look shared between us. How could I brag that I’d trumped him? We were both on the same team, regardless of age and career status and how long or short we’d had with our moms. On the team of loss, we are all created equal. If this blog has taught me anything, isn’t it that?

So I’m sorry, Will, for thinking such cruel thoughts, despite loving your story and characters wholeheartedly. I will take you to the diner anytime—my treat.

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