Are Birthday Wishes Heard in Heaven?
I did manage to hold her close to my heart without being overcome by emotion, even as I avoided the Mother’s Day pageantry. No church, no brunch, no places where mothers and their kids spend this day of annual gaiety, welcomed or forced.
Today, however, is a different story. Today the grief is palpable.
Today, May 14, 2012, would have been Mama’s 74th birthday. Today is also the anniversary of my college graduation, the day my mother held me tight and sobbed as she told me that I had given her the very best 45th birthday present.
Believe me, she had plenty of reason to be grateful that I was graduating from the top undergraduate journalism program in the country. She was ecstatic that I was fulfilling her dream of becoming a “writer with a sheepskin,” a dream she abandoned to become a wife and mother.
The secondary reason for her gratitude–the one she wouldn’t admit for more than two decades–was because she knew I had inherited the family disease of alcoholism. I believe that on that May day, she was exhaling the breath she had held for four years. She wondered if I would make it through school.
Mom didn’t know how badly my disease had already advanced. She didn’t know until I told her many years later that the memory of her hugging me was one of my last memories of Graduation Day because I slipped into a functioning blackout. I only know I actually graduated by looking at the photos taken.
I had eight more years of hard drinking and hard living still in me.
After I sobered up when I was 30, our relationship took a nosedive, because alcoholism is a family disease and we were all untreated. I was in double-digit sober years before Mom began to tell me she was proud of me. And it was only when she got so sick with cancer in 2009 that we finally began to talk about those years.
That’s when I really felt her pride.
This blog was several months old when I shared it with her. I had to explain the concept of a blog to her and that yes, I still worked for The Partnership at Drugfree.org helping educate parents and kids about substance abuse.
But she understood that my writing passion was deeply ingrained. She knew my writer’s heart because she possessed it at one time. She grew a little wistful as she turned around in her recliner and looked through my eyes to my soul.
“Honey,” Mom said. “I don’t care what you write but you have to write.”
Today, I’m still hoping to make her proud as I step on a new path on this writing journey. I have less than one week to complete my first monthly article for Wild Sister, the online empowerment magazine for women who want inspiration, and who believe that by empowering women we can change the world.
You’re right, Mama, I do have to write and now I’m an official Wild Sister! The opportunity is thrilling and intimidating and . . . hang on, I think I’m hearing her voice.
What’s that, Mama? Oh right. Yes, I did forget. I did forget that you’ve always told me I can do anything I set my mind to.
My birthday wish is to say thanks for believing in me, even from Heaven.