Everyone has a mother, and every mother has the capacity to be magical, magnificent, and magnanimous. Too often, the celebration of these amazing creatures called Mom is limited to just one day in May.
When my mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I started writing her a love letter. I remember that it was my goal to finish it as soon as possible. Not that I wanted to rush through it, but I wanted her to be able to read it while her mind was still clear enough to comprehend all the emotion and gratitude I was attempting to pour into this one important document.
Just recently, in clearing out a lot of things stored in various parts of my house and garage, I came across the short essay that was written more than a decade before my mom died. She had put it into a file next to a lot of greeting cards, photographs, postcards, letters, Christmas cards, and mementoes.
The title at the top of the cover page reads “The Definitive Guide to Mom Facts, Mom Myths, and All Sorts of Mom Stuff.” The pages were printed on several different types of paper, from heavy stock to lighter and more translucent pages that were there to allow the reader to see through to some image on the following page. For example, you might be looking at a page that said something like In Appreciation of the AudreyMom, as I sometimes called her, but you’d also be seeing a ghosted image of a large word like “love” on the next page.
All the pages were held together with pink ribbon, giving one side of it a kind of feeling that it might be a birthday or Christmas present. The document wasn’t in pristine condition. The ribbons were a bit crushed from having been held in the file. The pages were a bit worn, but that seemed like a good thing to me because I think it meant she had often held it, reread it, gone through it, and (I hope) even caressed it.
Going back a bit
One section of the missive was headed “Who was the first mom?” Perhaps I got a bit too evolutionary about things, but in the document I wondered a little about the family tree of life, so to speak:
We all started with a mom, and each mom started with a mom, and if you go back far enough . . . well, nobody knows for sure, but god could very well have been a mom.
Not sure how politically correct this is, and there certainly will be some blowback from it, what with all the religiosity freaks out there, but I was happy with this section when I wrote it and I am fine with it now. In the margin, my mom wrote a large exclamation point with a circle for the dot. Based on other notes she made during her life, that meant she enjoyed what she had read.
In another section of the epistle was a brief discussion of some of the ways I had been considering the doppelganger of the rare AudreyMom. There were only words in this part. Not a photograph, not a video, not a sculpture, not a painting; just words. I attempted to suggest the totality of her essence using visually specific language.
The word-picture I submitted for her included some standard things, perhaps even some expected things, like “stars blazing in the heavens” and “rainbows stretched out across the sky.” Both of those are fine, I still believe, but I also wrote about “lots of purring cats,” something she would have loved. Of all the books I inherited from her, the largest percentage (about one-quarter of them) dealt with cats. Picture books, instruction books, novels; all sorts of books about cats.
There is also a page that contains very little except line after line of solitary words, including the following: Love. Tenderness. Affection. Comfort. Serenity. Warmth. Hugs, Kisses. Kindness.
The Last Word
Whenever I go back to anything I have written, there are always things I want to change. An edit here, a tweak there, and so on. But the final line in my AudreyMom piece cannot be improved:
Best of all, when it comes to words, a mom knows just what to say to make the hurt go away.
To my mom in the cosmos, and to every mom everywhere: Happy Mother’s Day.