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Mother's Day orphans: When your mom's no longer here

On Life

Ruminations and provocations.

Mother's Day orphans: When your mom's no longer here

Stephen H. Provost

Mother's Day is not my favorite holiday. Father's Day isn't, either. I remember being young and asking, "Why don't they have a Kids Day?"

"Because every day is 'Kids Day,'" I was told.

Yes, kids sometimes have it easy. I know I did. I have no complaints about how I was raised, and I couldn't be more grateful to my mom and dad for their patience, generosity and the hard work they did to raise a sometimes difficult boy. Especially when that boy was enduring the crucible that was (and, from what I hear, still is) middle school. It's not hyperbole to wonder whether I would have survived those years without Mom and Dad.

Which brings me to why, at least in part, Mother's Day and Father's Day aren't my favorite times of year - now, far more than when I was a kid.

First, I'll invite you to look at where the apostrophe is in those names. It's before the "s," which makes it singular, and that's how I always took it. Mother's Day was a day for me to appreciate my mother, and for you to appreciate yours. Here's the rub: I haven't had a mother for 22  years now (and, as of last August, I don't have a father anymore, either).

It's fine to say that all mothers deserve to be appreciated, and I couldn't agree more. They should be appreciated every day of every year they're on this planet.

My mom isn't on this planet anymore. Yes, I still appreciate her. But no, I can't give her a schmaltzy Hallmark greeting card to tell her oh-so-imperfectly how much - and at the moment, I wouldn't want to. I'd just want to give her a hug (even though she was chronically off-balance from the polio that left her half paralyzed as a child), and tell her I loved her so she could hear me.

Please don't tell me she can hear me from heaven or "the other side of the veil," because even believing that wouldn't make it the same. It doesn't for me, and I doubt it does for anyone else, either.

It will never be the same again.

It's not just the winter holidays

I've heard people talk about having a blue Christmas, sometimes invoking the all-too-clinical-sounding term "seasonal affective disorder." They don't enjoy the winter holidays because they bring back memories of times spent with loved ones who are no longer there. Mother's Day does the same thing to me, and if anything, it's worse, because there was only one of her, and this day is supposed to be about that one person.

For years, I've tried to shrug it off and not get too wrapped up in sorrow over it, because my mom's death remains the single most traumatic event of my life. When my father passed away last year, he'd been unconscious in a hospital bed for 10 days, and as hard as it when he died, I'd had time to prepare myself.

When my mother died, it was sudden. I was working one evening when I got a call in the back paste-up shop at the newspaper where I was working (back when they still had such things). I heard my dad sobbing on the other end. He never cried. But when he told me Mom had gone to lie down for a nap and hadn't woken up again, it just didn't compute with me. She had been ill, but not that ill. I hadn't seen her since Christmas, which had been more than two weeks earlier, and now, I never would again.

So, Mother's Day isn't a cause for celebration to me. As much as I appreciate everything mothers all over the world go through for their kids, none of them is my mom. I know the same thing will happen at Father's Day this year, and it will might even hit me harder because this will be my first year without Dad, and the day often fell right on his birthday.

None of this is to say you need to tiptoe around me Sunday. I won't take offense at others who, unlike me, have a Mom who's still here to celebrate. Just excuse me if I feel a little left out. I might not even show it on the outside, but it's there, and I wanted you to know because I doubt I'm the only person who has this kind of reaction. And as important as it is to celebrate your mom (please do!), it's important that you know there are other feelings associated with days like these. 

I still miss my mom. Even if there were 365 days to honor mothers, she'd still be the only one I'll ever have.