Happy Birthday, Mom!

Dear Mom,

It’s been two years, 7 months and three days since I saw you last. That was the day that you were finally able to give the Breast Cancer that metastasized to your lung the ol’ Middle Finger, and free  yourself from the “surly bonds of Earth…to touch the face of God”. And as I sit with a vial of your ashes on the desk next to me…I miss you.

We sure had our problems, didn’t we? Hugs at Christmas, but few meaningful conversations; we never really took the time to get to know each other after you left when I was very young. No death-bed amends – it was enough just to be there, even though neither of us said much for hours at a time – no last minute reconciliation…

But today, I want to tell you that I really do remember some good things.

I can’t speak for you, like I said we never really got to know each other, but if you’re there, I want to share some things that made me smile. I think we forgot to remember those things, and I think I may not have told you often enough that I do remember.

My first real memory about you was Physical Therapy. I remember being in the hospital hanging on to those bars, trying to walk. And I remember you meeting me at the end with a big hug and that beautiful smile that I saw too seldom in later years.

I remember having to do that physical therapy at home and, one night in particular, when I was about three years old, laying on the floor ready to give up all together. My legs ached and shook from  the pressure and spasms, and it all seemed too much. I cried and asked if we could stop. You said no. Dad asked if we could “take a break”. You said no and sent him out of the room. I must have protested one too many  times, because it was then that you straddled me, slammed your palms on  the floor on either side of my head and put your face so close to mine. In sheer frustration, you shouted “Do you want to walk!?”
“Yes.” I whimpered.
“Then DON’T. YOU. STOP.”

I remember you strapping my right arm to my side with an Ace bandage and sitting me down to dinner, forcing me to eat with my left hand to strengthen the muscles in my left side. I probably didn’t get much spaghetti that night, but I’m pretty sure the table, chair and floor (along with my clothes) were a mess! It must have been fun for me (and a mess for you!), because I also remember you declining future requests to “do it again!”

I remember you sitting in the hospital with me when I was 7, after the second surgery which stretched the Achilles Tendon in my left foot. I remember laying there while you sang primary songs and held my hand. I remember sitting on your lap and snuggling into your chest just to feel the vibrations when you talked or sang. I remember that you stayed until visiting hours were over, even though you had three babies and a husband at home who also needed you.

I remember a day when all four of us kids were begging to go to Burger King for dinner. You and Dad were sorely outnumbered, but money was tight, and you tried to explain that we just couldn’t do it. And then you whispered something in Dad’s ear and we all piled into the car. We found ourselves at Dairy Queen, each with an ice cream cone; and I loved that you “talked him into” that little treat.

I remember driving to Idaho in the summer to visit Rex’s parents; digging potatoes and pulling carrots and then going to the lake. I remember singing the whole trip, and you never once asking me to stop, even when I made up dumb little ditties about the silliest things. I remember learning to float and driving the dune buggy.

I remember you trying to get me a “gig” with a band (which I chickened out of), by telling the drummer “she can sing anything!”

And I remember your laugh. It is the one trait we share. I hear it when my kids tell jokes and when my husband surprises me with flowers. I hear it when I think of one of the aforementioned memories. And for the last two years, seven months and three days, I am blessed to hear it – and you – in my dreams.

I remember “I love you, Becky.” after every phone call.

I love you, too, Momma.

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