A Reason I Love My Mother

Two days ago I came across a blog that SNL head writer Chris Kelly wrote the year his mother died of cancer (the blog later turned into the film Other People with Molly Shannon). Both the film and the blog are incredible; they’ll make you laugh out loud at the joy this woman brings into the world, and they’ll make you cry over the loss of her, even if you’re in public (as a New Yorker I’m entirely too comfortable with this).

His blog is part of what inspired me to write this one. I’ve started a couple other “cancer blogs” to talk about the battle my family is facing, but they felt very factual and not interesting. Facts are helpful when telling a story, but what matters is how those facts affect you.

I’ve been feeling really guilty this week. Guilty for being so far from my family, guilty for not being as strong for them as I want to be, even guilty for not having cancer. I read Chris’ blog about all these great memories with his mother and I felt guilty because I don’t think I have enough family memories to fill a blog, and that hurts.

My mother and I have had all kinds of ups and downs (mostly ups as we’ve aged), but this memory makes me smile every time.

My first pet was a dog named Clem (Clementine). She was old when I was born but managed to stick around until I was about seven. I was so sad when she died, so my mother suggested I name my stuffed dog after her so I could keep her close to me.

A couple years later, we got a black lab named Kylie, and she was the cutest thing ever. In case you don’t know anything about labs, they like to fetch things and they like to tear things to shreds. Those are their two main purposes in life besides looking happy and licking everyone. As you can probably guess, Kylie decided Clem was a housewarming gift and tore her to shreds.

I never saw the traces of my beloved dog scattered around the yard because my mother collected them before I got home. That didn’t mean I was any less distraught by the random disappearance of my favorite stuffed animal.

A couple weeks later I came home to find a very sad-looking reincarnation of my stuffed dog sitting on my bed. Her big plastic eyes had been replaced by small, knotted-up balls of yarn. Her previously floppy ears were sewn (at different heights) flat against the side of her head. Most of her fur was replaced with a new material, and you could see that her entire head had been sewn back onto her body.

But she had a beautiful red ribbon around her neck. And she was back.

At the time I was horrified by the Clemenstein monster that had taken the place of my once-beloved dog. I actually hid her in my closet (next to my sexuality) because it hurt too much to see what she’d been through.

Now she sits proudly on my (grown-up, 33-year-old’s) bed. My mother does NOT sew. She is not crafty and she doesn’t like to make things. But she knew she was the only hope at salvaging something I loved so she did her best.

I look at that pathetic looking dog and I know without a doubt, my mother loves me. And I love her.

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