Happy Mother’s Day, to a Mother who Doesn’t Know what Day it is
You had me at the ripe age of 43, despite being told a healthy birth wouldn’t be possible. Weighing a mere 3 pounds, I just might have been the smallest guy to be delivered via C-Section. Each of us made it out okay, paving the path for a beautifully bright and depressingly dark trek ahead. Together and as individuals we’ve experienced the very best of both emotional extremes, and I suppose a higher power wouldn’t have it any other way. Miles of distance lay between us at the moment, but we’re in very similar living situations and states of mind. I’ll push through my test of life and be stronger at the other end. I’m afraid you can’t do the same. All I can do for your well-being is take care of mine, and I plan to continue doing so with you forever in mind.
Although I wasn’t your firstborn son, I was your only son. From my upbringing to present day you’ve loved me exactly how a youngest child and only son should be loved. You instilled in me many of my finest character traits, from compassion to a compelling need to break through misery with humor. We need that knack for dry wit now more than ever.
What you demonstrated as early as I can recall is a deep love and passion for animals — particularly dogs, deer, and birds. One would have thought our dogs were royalty the way you provided for them. Dishing out table scraps and allowing them to do whatever they wanted wasn’t necessarily the best for their health or development, but you meant so very well. I received the “having full conversations with dogs” gene from you. I find myself unintentionally sharing thoughts and views with dogs just as you always did. From time to time I catch myself in the midst of a dog discussion, much like a nut would be, and it reminds me of you.
I remember days of strolling alongside ponds feeding ducks. You never refrained from speaking to them, either. Later in life I gathered they were your favorite bird. It tipped me off when you covered our fireplace mantle with various wooden duck statues. Perhaps it was their mostly calm demeanor and aura of serenity that made you love them. I can’t be sure, nor can I be entirely certain why I appreciate them as much as you do. When I consciously notice myself silently observing birds, almost meditatively, you’re the first thought to cross my mind.
Soon after illustrating your love for any and all animals, you introduced me to your most prominent passion — Thrifting and perusing flea markets. You immersed me in the fascinating world of finding vintage clothes and collectibles that quickly became my favorite place to be. Spending every weekend in the dilapidating wooden table-lined dusty gravel lot known as Jake’s was our premiere hobby. It was there we met the most eccentric characters, gathered stories, and made our most interesting purchases. From literally every piece of furniture we ever owned, to my crusty old bikes that lasted a month, and the notoriously ominous “Psychic Circle,” we picked up some cool shit.
It wasn’t until we started “hitting the Salvation” and going to Jake’s that I realized how cool and fashionable you were. You pioneered the vintage clothes movement years before hipsters dived into it, and I owe my impeccable fashion sense entirely to you. In middle school I borrowed your sunglasses and jackets, because nobody had style like you. My friends frequently described you as “fresh” — the truest words they ever uttered.
Through fleas and thrifts I learned of your swagger, but more importantly I saw your unmatched gregariousness. You engaged in conversation with everyone, crazy people included. Somehow you carried conversations with the most weathered, rough looking characters. Their smiling faces indicated how much joy you brought them. Often times you opened up about personal life to complete strangers, which seemed strange at first, but you managed to make others share honestly as well. Your ability to connect with people and reach others was your greatest gift. I wouldn’t be as personable as I am if it weren’t for you.
If there were a yard sale in the surrounding area you were the first to know about it. We loved thrifting more than anything, but going to soccer tournaments was a close second. You never missed a game, from kinder soccer to high school and club, nor failed to cheer me on. “Go Mike,” I’d hear from you on the sideline as you puffed away on a USA Gold menthol. You truly were my biggest supporter. Even after rough performances you’d save my self-esteem and tell me I played well. I’m sorry I ever phased out of soccer, as I knew how much you enjoyed watching me out on there on the field.
I could never read your opinion about me delving into sketch comedy and stand-up, but you were at least somewhat impressed and intrigued. How could I forget you continuously informing, “Mike you can be funny without being vulgar.” I’ve attempted to keep your kind suggestion at the forefront of my mind, although clean humor isn’t always my lane. Regardless, you told me years back “I’m happy as long as you’re happy,” and that meant the world to me. I don’t believe you’ve ever stopped believing in me.
Your kindness never ceased reigning true, and I sense you haven’t strayed from being proud of me. My sobriety thrills you. Unfortunately, I know nothing ever hurt you as badly as my years of issues with booze. Ruining my own life was bad enough, but it was seeing your pain that tore me up the most. Today I’m on the right path with nothing but brightness on the horizon, and that’s the extent of what I can do for you.
Throughout recent years your mind has been rapidly deteriorating. You’re not aware of the date or day of the week, but it’s Mother’s Day. I’m thinking of you and fondly reminiscing more than usual. Cheery reflection is all I have, for it’s solely the memories that can keep you and I in good spirits. I can even look back happily at the days of watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy nightly with you in the midst of your most progressive Alzheimer’s. At times you’d fade away and stare into space for 30 minutes at a time, but I took comfort simply in our togetherness.
Keeping myself happy is all I can do to keep you happy. Your disease is the most baffling and upsetting obstacle I ever faced, and it’s a daily struggle knowing you’re not the bright-eyed, sweet, humorous and personable person you once were. I vividly recall our finest years together, though, and they’re enough to remind me how beautiful you are inside-and-out.
I’ll forever grin thinking back to our Jake’s ventures, particularly the time a crusty old flea vendor tied a dresser to your car with Cabbage Patch kids. We made it 300-feet out of the parking lot before hearing a thud and looking back to see the piece of furniture in the street, surrounded by a scattered plethora of Cabbage Patch dolls. We shared a long, hearty laugh, which was a constant in our relationship. We were in hysterics after stumbling upon a picture frame with a chunk of fur taped in it during one of Quakertown Farmer’s Market visits. You being your curious and social self had to inquire, “What’s with the hair.” The grey-bearded, longhaired hillbilly confidently responded, “Wooly Mammoth fur.” That interaction was a genuine staple in our flea market tales.
I’ll forever appreciate the style you passed onto me, and my zest for vintage. I’ll never stop valuing the caring nature you instilled in me. I’ll always respect your 40-year nursing career, throughout which you helped countless people in need. Never will I forget the hope you’ve had for me, nor the encouragement you unwaveringly gave me. You were a teacher and a blessing for Deana, Maria, and I.
It kills me knowing you resent the home in which you live, filled with “fuckin’ creeps and old people.” You’re oblivious to your worsening dementia, which I’ve been exposed to since the young age of 17. Maybe that naivety is for the best. This is possibly the best test of character strength I need. Thank God I’ve improved at dealing with your condition.
I promise to push forward, and continue progressing to keep you and I joyous. I vow to achieve my every ambition for my own self-contentment, and your vicarious happiness. Most notably, I’ll use your present state to never stop reflecting upon the countless beautiful and hilarious times we shared. Through the memories I’ll remember you as the strongest, nicest, and coolest person I’ve ever known. You did more than enough to ensure my positive development over the years. I love you for it, mom. You won’t read this because you’re not even familiar with what a smartphone or computer is, but I hope you hold onto the paramount love I hold for you. I dread the day you forget my name, yet I know you’ll achieve merriment in hearing that your only son is living with his. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.