Today my mother would be 72 years old. She wouldn't have been happy about that; she wasn't one for aging gracefully. Maybe that's a good thing; as Dylan Thomas urged us:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
She raged until cancer, not age, had the last word.
I sometimes envy those people, like Linda, whose mother-daughter relationships were uncomplicated love stories. That wasn't my experience. But I miss Mom anyway. She had a wicked, sometimes bawdy sense of humor, was smart, perceptive, and eventually--though far too late to repair all the damage she did to her kids--got past enough of her own baggage to be a more loving mother than she was most of our lives. She was a fiercely loyal friend to those who earned that friendship, a trait we share. Alas, we also share the capacity to rip out of our lives those who hurt us or hurt someone we love, with never a second glance. I have her to blame for my explosive temper, but I think & hope I've learned a little tact, diplomacy and the ability to look at both sides and admit when I'm wrong; some days I smile to myself imagining her reaction when I am having to be my professional self, the one who says what she should and not what she's thinking; Mom is somewhere laughing so hard she can't breathe!
She was...theatrical (okay, yeah, she was a drama queen, but also once longed to be in the theatre); one day I looked at a faded yellow newspaper clipping she'd saved all her life and wept to see her young, lovely, hopeful face as she appeared in a high school play, listing her 'stage name'--Terry O'Banyon, imagining her in a 1950s teenager's bedroom, trying on different names to find the one that encompassed her desires. Sometimes I ache imagining all the dreams she had that never quite happened, and hope she was okay with that in her later years.
Three years ago I wrote about her here and I still miss her now as I did then. I think she'd have loved coming to see us (if we could have gotten her to do it!), would have savored the contrast of the mountains to the flat coastal city she and my father retired to. The critters would have made her smile, and maybe she too would have felt some of the peace that occasionally drifts across the porch with scent of lilac and honeysuckle. If I could give her a birthday present now, that's what it would be: a sweet gentle peace, soft as a warm Spring evening, abundant as a Summer Farm Market, bright as a Catskill Mountain Fall, and as warmly comforting as a firelit Winter night; a peace to fill her soul and surpass her long-ago dreams. And I say a prayer that she's already found it...