I'm sitting at my mother’s bedside in Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, not remotely liking Mother's Day or the fact that today *IS* Mother's Day, as she moans and makes noises while awaiting a nebulizer and chest X-ray. I'm not sure if this is worse or better than hearing her talk to folks that aren't in the room, including old neighbors and former relatives. She just prepared lox and bagels for someone and has been fixated on the laundry. Suffice it to say these moments are anything but 'Downy soft.'
My children have wished me a Happy Mother's Day from Israel, where we now live, and I so appreciate that. Truth is, Mother's Day is the penultimate Hallmark holiday which is why there is no such day, that I know of anyway, in Israel. I think my kids know that while I'm grateful for their Mother's Day greetings, it’s the care, concern, and devotion those greetings encapsulate that speak volumes to me. They know how much I am struggling and hurting and doing everything they can to keep me smiling. When we lived in America, I was not the day's biggest fan. It's nice to be celebrated, but that's what my birthday is for. I remember telling my husband awhile back that I didn't want to go out to eat on Mother's Day because sitting in a crowded restaurant listening to other families celebrate, while others pretended to celebrate, hardly made it a fun day for me.
Today's cards and greetings and Facebook posts are all about the positive; for the best moms in the world, the ones who would do anything for their kids, the ones who are amazing grandmothers and save the planet in a single bound, capeless. There are no celebrations or cards for moms who have been hurt or hurtful, moms who have been beaten down and never learned that they didn't have to relive the pain. Nobody gives flowers to the most stubborn mom or the one who hasn't always chosen her words carefully. Hallmark hasn't figured out how to celebrate those moms.
Life with my mother wasn't always a picnic. In the last few days and weeks though, I've acknowledged that there are things I will forever be grateful to her for. Her artistic rendition of a pigeon in the second grade, her ability to pull me onto dance floors at weddings to get me to boogie even when I thought I didn't want to. Her love of books and pretty jewelry, her strong sense of identity as a Jewish woman. Her advocacy when I was bullied in elementary school and her pride when I won an award, got a good grade, and became religious. Our relationship has very much been on her terms because she could not understand or even try to understand mine. Ours has not been a relationship of listening and sharing and respect. I have grieved that for years, but more so recently. We have argued and fought and I have often wondered if it was even worth it. Disagreements that result in little more than promises to never do "it" again leave one feeling truly unheard and disrespected. They leave you breathless in all the wrong ways.
Though I've been a mother for almost 18 years, today I feel very much like a daughter. Feeling like a daughter at this moment, in this place, hurts. My mother's roommate's amazingly loving and attendant daughter is primping over her as I type. She keeps telling her mom, who lay in bed contracted, with mitts on her hands and the inability to speak after suffering multiple strokes, that she's gonna get better. This adoring daughter is telling her mom that as soon as she gets better, they can go shopping again. That mom will be able to tell her what she likes and what she doesn't when they hit the stores the way they used to. This daughter is praying for her mom's strength, assuring her that she is right by her side. She is crying and telling mom not to worry and that all will be alright, though it is pretty clear that she is trying to convince herself of that. There are even moments when it seems she believes her own words. All of their moments, especially the ones I've been given access to, make me hurt for all of us. Two elderly, ill, frail moms, with their tired, emotional daughters at bedside.
I guess I hate Mother's Day because I can't stand all those cards and flowers and balloons and sales that are seemingly in my face. I don't begrudge those who are happy, most of the time anyway. But the constant reminder that today is a day to celebrate moms seems almost cruel right now. It hurts because I can't celebrate my mother- celebrate that she's laid up in bed with an increasing amount of bed sores, congestion, confusion, and irritability? Celebrate the mom she was before her health went down the drain? Celebrate the mom in the next bed who is trying desperately to communicate with her children? I guess I don't have much celebration in me right now.
I love being a mom. My husband and I have four children who make me cherish being a mom more than life itself; their birthdays are my real Mother's Day. Each celebration of their lives reminds me of when I became a mother for the first, second, third, and fourth time. They are my life and soul, beings who turned two young marrieds into two young marrieds- turned-parents. I adore watching them develop into the extraordinary individuals they're becoming.
As for Mother's Day? I'm still not a big fan. Somehow though, I'm grateful my mother's here today, still breathing life that is celebrate-able. The fact that she is here despite the ailments that plague her is pretty miraculous. In that sense, I guess today is noteworthy. Any day where life is present is a good one. Any day where death is not ready to swoop in can be considered a good one. So mom, today, in some sense or another, is a happy day. Happy day to you, mom. Happy Mother's Day to you.