33 years ago today, my mother was hit and killed by a drunk driver. I was just about to turn 7 years old at the time of her death and didn’t really understand the finality of it. My dad remarried not too long after, and I had a lot of adjusting to do. I think I felt like I just needed to get through those years and I felt like I was doing okay. I missed my mom but I thought I had “gotten over it”.
It wasn’t until I turned 35 that I started to feel her absence in a major way. I worked in a retail store that sold gifts and furniture and things nobody needs but it was fun and a place where I’d see a lot of mother/daughter pairs coming in. I was a merchandising/freight manager and I would always be setting up for Mother’s Day and Cinco De Mayo this time of year. We would play music in the mornings before the store opened and I remember barely being able to contain my tears when Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time after time’ would play on the Pandora playlist.
A few things were going on at that time and I always refer to it as my midlife crisis, but in reality it was the realization that life is short. My mom was 39 when she died, and when I turned 35, I realized that I had done nothing that I wanted to do. I was afraid of everything, I wanted to appear to be perfect, I didn’t want to make any mistakes and it made me not want to try new things. I worked all of the time and put a lot of my self worth and importance into my job. When I left there, I had 6 weeks of vacation built up because I just never went anywhere.
These last few years have been the best years of my life. I have gone places, not exotic places (unless you call Godzilla-fest in Chicago exotic) but they were fun and I felt like I have been creating good memories for my son, just like my mom did for me in the short time I had with her.
My mom’s youngest brother committed suicide 6 months before her own death, and I don’t know if it was because she was thinking about her own mortality, but she would talk to us kids about it and would say that she didn’t think she would live to see 40. She died 3 months before her 40th birthday. I never really feared death and oddly enough, in some ways maybe romanticized it, not in a dress in black sort of way, maybe it was more like acceptance. One of my good friends’ mother died at the age of 39 as well and we both had felt the same strange feeling that we might share the same fate, so when I had a large lump on my thyroid, even though the mortality rate is very low, when I had surgery to have it removed and there were slight complications, I couldn’t help but think that this is it, as irrational as that sounds. I turn 40 in a month and I wonder if this build up and this anxiety will go away. My brother calculated what day he would have been the exact same age as my mom when she died, and says that he feels like every day he has lived past that day feels like a blessing, that date for me was February 12th.
My oldest brother turned 18 ten days after the accident. He told me that he used to have great conversations with my mom and that she was doing a lot of good things to improve her life right before her passing. He told me that I reminded him a lot of her. I think I live everyday hoping that she’s proud of me, and I hope that I am half the woman that she was. I wish I could include all of her journal entries in this, her writing, even in her 20’s, was so wise and kind. I remember her always smiling and I was always told that I had her laugh.
I feel like I have lived a good life and I hope to be able to provide a good life for my son. Whenever my time comes I hope to be as prepared as I am now, and maybe now I won’t be waiting around for it and it won’t be a countdown. Time will tell, I’m sure I have more mistakes to make and a lot more immaturity in me, but I guess that’s all a part of the grand adventure.