although she’s gone, it’s still my mother’s birthday

All day I’ve remembered:  April 9th is–or was–my mother’s birthday. She passed away in 2007. Lung cancer, a tough way to go. She had time to say goodbye and was surrounded by all her children (plus a few spouses) that early morning on March 18th when she gasped her last breath.

What new thing can I say? Just that I will never be a mother…..this lifetime. Only furry children in this household. I’m relieved, though:  I get anxious enough with the dogs and cats. I swear I was “Olde Mother Hubbard who lived in a shoe/had so many children/she didn’t know what to do” in a previous life, swearing I wouldn’t couldn’t please don’t make me do that again, God! So I haven’t.

Funny–I don’t remember celebrating Mom’s birthday when all five of us kids lived there in that house at 406 Millville Avenue. Doesn’t this seem strange? Part of this is my memory, I’m sure, yet–wouldn’t one stand out? Perhaps she grew tired of so many birthdays–five kids, after all, a dad (later step dad), and grandmothers, too, to keep track of. All in the busy–no, hectic–schedule of a mother.

I can send no card. I could sing a song. Instead I will write this piece on my blog, then post it on Facebook and Twitter to share. We’ve all had a mother and many of us have lots of mixed and complex feelings about it.

Like kitchen ones:   she rarely allowed me to wash the dishes after a meal. I offered. Believe me, I was the oldest and knew I had a role to play. Yet she said no. I believe she liked being alone for those rare moments when she washed, dish by dish, cup by cup, then placed each item carefully in the drainer to dry overnight. She would allow me to help her make cookies. But when she’d use the store bought ones, prefabricated, in slices in a tin, this would occur:   she’d catch me licking a piece of the chocolate chip dough and accuse, “You’ll get worms from eating that raw dough!” Year later, I asked about this of some friend who knew a lot about cooking and was told this information was erroneous. My mother lied?

But then I recall the night Grandpa died. She consciously took me aside, specially, and sat me down for a serious adult conversation. I think I was seven. Mom told me he had died and that I would never see him again. She felt it’d be better if I didn’t go to the funeral. It was very factual and I don’t think I cried (I was closer to Grandma, anyway; it was perhaps my first experience with this thing called dying).

Which brings me back to this evening’s reflection:  someone has a birthday but is dead. Passed into another dimension. Gone. How does one celebrate when that being isn’t “here” to participate?

Well, consider this a toast to Irene Shirley Hornsby. And who am I to say, with any certainty, whether or not other beings can sense when their name is sung?

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3 responses to “although she’s gone, it’s still my mother’s birthday

  1. Thank you, SiS.

  2. Rashma N. Kalsie

    I suppose we could celebrate the birthdays of the dead by connecting with people who mattered to them or better still remember to create art in their memory on their birthdays. And that is what you do too, Phebe. I really liked this post.

  3. Loved your writing about Mom. Sorry it took so long to get back to you. You know I’m computer illiterate! Brings back my memories of our childhood which I have very few, too. Love you, Sis!

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