Sunday, May 8, 2005

Motherless Day

 Nope, no mothers here.  Not unless you look in my dreams and memories.

I told Becky that I would write something self-pitying today, and try to redeem it and make it uplifting at the end.  You get to judge whether I succeed in doing that.

Mom in Guadalajara, 1988. Two years ago, my Dad called me up on Mother's Day.  It wasn't because I'm a mother.  I'm not.  It was because it was my first Mother's Day since my mom's death.  He reasoned, correctly, that it might be a difficult day for me.  I'd been hearing Mother's Day this, Mother's Day that, all week long.  Each mention gave me a little pang, more of anger than anything else.  The day didn't apply to me any more, and I wished everyone would shut up about it already.

See, here's the thing.  The last couple of years of Mom's life, my own life was all about her.  I visited her almost every night, because she was scared and lonely and sick and depressed.  I took her to doctors and made living arrangements.  Ultimately, though, I couldn't do much for her quality of life, and her death was a distinct relief. I do miss her, though.  Any day that reminds me of her--and trust me, there are many, many things that remind me of her--tends to make me a little sad.

Mother's Day was the day Steve and I used to give her flowers--roses and pansies, mostly.  She'd plant them in her garden in the back yard in Manlius.  Mother's Day was never the same after the family split up and that house was sold.

I was never a mother myself.  When I was 39, John and I finally decided to have a child, but it didn't happen.  We spent a couple of years and thousands of dollars trying, including many visits to Nogales, Sonora to buy heavily discounted Clomid and progesterone.  I carry the physical scars of an endoscopic procedure, and the emotional ones of a single positive pregnancy test strip, followed half an hour later by proof that I would not be giving birth after all.  (According to the OB/GYN, I really had been "a little bit pregnant.") The only IVF we could afford had failed.  John didn't want to adopt, so that was that.  I carry the name Karen Funk Blocher, but my grandparents' Funk line ends with my brother.  As far as I know, at  least this part of the Blocher line ends with John.  Oh, well.  Can't be helped. 

I'm hoping that once my life settles down a bit, I can do some kind of rent-a-kid arrangement, Big Sisters or mentoring or something.  But I'll never really be a mother.  It's all right.  I've long since accepted this.  It's only Mother's Day that still gets me down a bit.

Father Smith of St. Michael's has been out of town for a month or so, walking across northern Spain on pilgrimage.  Father (Dr.) John Hooker, a recently retired priest, composer-lyricist and seminary instructor, has been filling in for him.  In today's sermon, he talked about the fact that Mother's Day is not always a happy day for people who have lost their mothers, or for mothers who grieve for the children they've lost, and for the children they never had.  He also pointed out that motherhood is not a universal experience.  We are not all mothers, and although we all had mothers, not all of them were there with us and for us.

But my mom was.

Mom in Guadalajara, 1988. She cared if I was unhappy over school and the other kids in it.  She sent me to drama and dance classes when I was only six years old, to try to build up my self-confidence and self-esteem.  She sent me to Pebble Hill School and got me accepted early into first grade, but allowed me to drop back to kindergarten when I got scared upon encountering larger kids, and my first word with a silent k in it.  (Mind you, this was during a period when she herself was quite ill with polioencephalitis.)  Many years later, she bought me karate lessons so that I could defend myself, and to help me be better coordinated. 

Once, when I was very young, she even indulged me when I claimed to know where there was a summer camp we could go to as a family.  I really had no idea, but I reasoned that if we drove around long enough, we'd find one, possibly on Oneida Lake, although I had no clue where that was.  Mom followed her four-year-old's random pointing all the way to Snook's Pond in Fayetteville.  This just happened to be the site of the kiddie day camp run by my nursery school teacher, whom Mom didn't like. Our arrival there was a complete coincidence.  (By the way, it was on Oneida Lake that the mosquito found her and made her sick.)

Over the years, my mom arranged for piano lessons for me several times, and eventually guitar lessons.  The piano lessons were her idea, the guitar lessons mine.  Part of the time, the piano lessons were with Mom's best friend, Mary Jane. Mom also wrote a song for me, and another one for my friend Joel before he left town. 

Family vacations were a combined effort by Mom and Dad, but it was Mom who saved up for years to take us all to Europe.  Once, she drove me all the way from New Hampshire to Maine on a day trip, because Steve had been to Maine and I hadn't. Even after the divorce when we weren't getting along, Mom took me to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, to Santa Barbara and Sequoia National Park, to the Grand Canyon and to Kennedy Space Center.  She gave me my first car, and her last car. And when I lost my first travel agency job after only a week, and Aunt Flora decided not to go to Mexico with Mom, Mom took me to Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara instead, on only a day's notice.

Yes, she was there for me.  It was only fair that I was there for her at the end.

Mom in a Louisiana swamp, I think! 1995 My mom was the first person to encourage me in my writing.  I was her biggest fan as she wrote plays and songs, and she did her best to return the favor.  When I wrote my first poem, my mom was there to suggest that we send it to Humpty Dumpty or Jack & Jill magazine.  When they rejected it, she comforted me, and made it clear I should keep writing.  When I got stuck on a writing assignment for school, she teased it out of me with questions about what I wanted to write.  She was proud when I got a letter to the editor published, when I wrote poems and a few (not very good) songs, and when I started my first attempt at a novel.  Her only objection was this:  "Why does everything you write have to be so gloomy?"

Well, I hope this entry wasn't too gloomy, Mom.  Happy Mother's Day--and thanks for everything.

A note on the photos:  these pictures caught my eye Thursday night as I looked for photos for the Weekend Assignment.  Two of them are from that trip to Guadalajara.  The one with the airboat is probably from when I drove mom from Florida to Arizona in 1995.  It was a Polaroid photo, and the color has shifted a bit.



sakishler said...

This is a very, very sweet tribute. What a fascinating person.

ryanagi said...

{{{{Karen}}}}  This turned into a really nice tribute to your Mom.  :-)

deabvt said...

This is my 3rd time back to read this entry. It`s such a beautiful tribute to two women in love. Happy Mother`s Day to both of you. You were both so blessed.