Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Mother that I Got

As a little girl, I wanted a mother who wore a Peter Pan collar and a bun in the back - the kind of mother who baked cookies and drove carpool.  A mother who made school lunches with sandwiches sliced perfectly on the diagonal. 

Instead, I got a mother who slept late. Wore a satin sleep mask to bed, and loved to sing at parties.

She was always different from the other mothers in the neighborhood, and I wanted her to be just like them, to play paddle tennis and to join the women’s auxiliary. The same auxiliary that my friends' mothers belonged to, with the thick rosters filled with fancy names.

I didn’t like that she wore pants when the other mothers wore dresses. Or, that my mother wore false eyelashes and idolized Marilyn Monroe.

I cringed when she swore, was embarrassed when she made a plaster sculpture of her nude torso as a gift for my stepfather. I hated that she talked on the phone all the time to her friends.

It took me years to appreciate, how with young grandchildren, she couldn’t wait until my children were old enough to drink and swing their legs on a barstool.

I admire my mother's resilience at 89. She still puts the make-up on and drapes herself in jewelry (now costume). She still has a crush on a man (“I’m wild about Cesar, “The Dog Whisperer”).  She knows the astrological sign of every caregiver on her floor. And, she always has the light on bright in her room, the television going, with the newspaper by her side.

A lot has changed for my mother and despite her age and her immobility, she has adapted. She has no complaints as I watch her apply her lipstick, her hand shaking from the Parkinson’s. The big bathroom in her former home with the spacious make-up counter where she said “the magic happens” has been sized down to a little hospital table rolled up to her wheelchair. 

However, it’s still her command center. Where she puts the eyelashes on everyday and just keeps going.