So today marks 17 years since my mom passed away. 17 years. I have officially lived longer without my mother than with her.
And yet I’m lucky to have had her for the 16 years that I did. My siblings were 10, 9 and 7 when she passed away. They lost the memory of her long ago. They probably don’t remember that…
…she used to run the gas tank in her car down so low that we frequently ran out of gas (I’m talking like once every six months. See Jeff, I come by that honestly!).
…she worked for UPS during the holiday season.
…in the beginning of every year her and I delivered phonebooks together. Our house was filled with piles and piles of phonebooks which we spent hours organizing and then driving around and leaving on people’s doorsteps.
…I used to sell hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout cookies thanks to her ingenious idea to go to the dorms at Penn State. She would help me organize and deliver every single one. …she loved throwing parties for all of our friends. We would have a huge Halloween and Easter bash every year where approximately 30 kids would run rampant around our house and yard. We even had organized activities, like bobbing for apples, games, and easter egg hunts. And I thought hosting a play date with 4 little girls under the age of 5 was craziness! But I absolutely loved those parties and want to carry on that tradition with my kids. …Ty was absolutely obsessed with pigs when he was 4 years old and she nearly purchased a pot bellied pig to keep in the house. Thankfully she settled on a stuffed one instead.
…she loved big hair. Hence why I got my hair permed all the time in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade (earning me the oh-so-creative nickname of “Poodle”) and my sister had hair styles like this. …she put everyone in every activity imaginable–baseball, soccer, gymnastics, wrestling, baton twirling, volleyball, tennis, skiing, sewing, swimming…and those are just the ones that I remember. Plus we had two horses at one point as well. …she went all out for Christmases and birthdays. I cannot believe the amount of crap that we got every year!
…she worked at BiLo as a cashier for years and years and everyone knew and loved her (I learned my people skills from her, without a doubt. She would have been proud of the “Nikki Keck Fake Empathy Award” and my “Perkinator” name tag). She got me a job with her when I turned 16 and started off my 10 year career in the grocery store industry. Before her days in a grocery store she worked at Balfords, the dry cleaners.
…she locked her keys in the car almost as often as she ran out of gas. We had a bright blue conversion van for awhile and the only thing my mom loved about it was the fact that if she left the sliding window open in the back then she could boost Ty up and he could crawl through it and retrieve her keys for her.
…she would let us skip school one random day a year and we would hang out at home by our pool all day long (another tradition I would like to continue).
…her and my father used to fight like cats and dogs and would have gotten divorced for sure if she hadn’t gotten sick (which is where my hatred of “staying together for the kids” was born. That is not a household children should grow up in).
…she liked to “borrow” things from places. Like when we went to a water park she discovered their bright yellow life jacket fit Ty perfectly so she smuggled it home. Or when we lost the puck for our air hockey table she tucked one from Chuck E Cheese into her bag.
…she desperately wanted a small car/convertible and one day surprised my father in a not-so-pleasant way by pulling into our driveway in a bright teal Geo Tracker with a white top that she had purchased earlier that day without telling anyone. The car that became mine after she passed away and I absolutely adored. I still get nostalgic every time I see one on the road…which is practically never anymore. Some day when when we have our “forever” home I’m going to buy one and leave it parked in the driveway just so I can look at it.…she loved the beach and we went every summer for vacation. In the beginning we camped out on Assateague with the wild horses. After our family size grew we switched it to staying in hotels at Ocean City, Virginia or Dewey Beach. …she was Eeyore in Disney World before I was born.
…she loved cats. We had several paintings of tigers and black panther statues. After she (finally) got her Geo Tracker she made sure it had one of those wildlife license plates with a tiger on it. She had a friend who worked for PAWS, an animal rescue in State College. He had two tiger cubs in the rescue (I have absolutely no idea why!) and one day she took us out there and we got to play with them. Totally against the rules so we were not allowed to be photographed with them. We had several outdoor cats. Tiger, Tigger and Boots are the only ones whose names I remember clearly, but I know there were several more. We were totally that family that didn’t spay or neuter our cats and poor Tiger had 14 litters of kittens at last count. Every time she had another liter we’d stick a “Free Kittens” sign next to our house and give them away to random strangers.
…she loved yard sales. We had our own every year, plus we went to thousands of them every summer.
…every year for Halloween we all took a family trip out to Harner’s Farm when they were doing their “Get as many pumpkins as you can carry for $20!” promotion. She made my father stack at least 15 pumpkins in his arms and we’d take them home and carve every single one of them. And by “we” I mean she’d help us draw out elaborate pictures and then force my father to figure out a way to cut them. Sound familiar honey?
And most clearly I remember her coming into my room on Christmas night in 1998 and telling me that she had cancer. She had had it for awhile and what had started out as cervical cancer had spread all over her body and was terminal. She only had a few months left. I remember the medicine belt she wore all the time after that, hidden by her clothes. How tired she was. How hard she fought–hard enough to stretch her two months into five. Her last few days in the hospital. I didn’t spend nearly enough time with her in the end. I was 16; I had a job and school; I was in denial; I hated being at the hospital where she was in a morphine haze all the time and had no idea who any of us were. I remember having to call all of my friends when she passed away to tell them the news. How completely mortifying that was, which is one of the reasons why I’m so thankful for FB now. How much easier that made it to tell people about Zoe. I remember one of my friends, Shana, coming straight to my house that night after I hung up with her and dragging me to Perkins to sit there and just talk for hours. I’m still grateful for that. I remember going shopping for clothes to wear to the funeral with one of my “big sisters”, Sharon. I still have that outfit somewhere. I haven’t worn it since that day but can’t bear to get rid of it.
Every junior in my high school had to write a paper for English class and then read it aloud. I can’t remember what the topic had to be–a significant event in our life? An inspirational person? I wrote mine on her. I remember reading it to the class, barely able to keep it together. My teacher asked if I wanted to be excused after I was finished and I declined; instead I sat in my seat and bawled while my two best friends comforted me. How mortifying. I have no idea what happened to that essay but I would give anything to read it again. I know there are things about her in there that have slipped my mind in the last 17 years.
Although I was luckier than my siblings (and millions of other children who lost a parent so young) in that I was older and therefore am still able to remember her, I was still robbed. I never had the chance to have the relationship that so many people have with their mothers. I was a relatively good teenager, but my mother and I weren’t super close. I never got the chance to get past my teenage years and to have a close relationship with her. To have her see me get married. To introduce her to her grandchildren. To call her up for parenting advice. To have her comfort when I lost Zoe. Who knows if we would ever have had that relationship–we may not have–but the opportunity was taken before we could find out. In some ways the grief was easier for me than for others who lost their mothers at an older age. We both have to lose out on the same major things–weddings and grandkids–but since we never established a close relationship I don’t miss our conversations, her advice, our friendship. I miss the idea of it, the missed opportunity, but it’s not something I had to learn to live without after having…I never had it to begin with. So now I think of her with sadness, sure, but a nostalgic type of sadness. A sadness for the opportunity that was missed. A curiosity of what could have been.
Just like what my grief for Zoe will eventually turn into.
Miss you Mom.