Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

May 6, 2010

Mother’s Day 2010

I must admit that, when you’ve lost your Mom and your “kids” are only capable of bringing you headless mice as presents, Mother’s Day pretty much sucks.  It’s probably a little like Valentine’s Day to the achingly single and the newly-divorced.  A day not quite made for you…Like everyone else got an invitation to the party except you.

You don’t want to see one more flower shop advertising Mother’s Day roses and tulips and hanging baskets and bouquets.  The commercials on TV leading up to the day are, at times, everything from saddening to maddening.  The actual day feels a little like getting the chicken pox on the day when all your classmates are going on the class trip.  You feel left out.  Lonely. 

My Mom’s lilac bush blooms every year just in time for Mother’s Day.  Those early years after her death, I would solemnly head to the cemetery on Mother’s Day with my bunch of lilacs to lay on her grave.  Driving past seemingly countless and relentlessly happy people buying hanging baskets and bunches of flowers for their LIVE moms.  Cars full of dolled-up women heading out to lovely laughing festive dinners with their children.   La La La La La…

 There I was, without my tail,  stuck in line at the cemetery behind all the other cars full of people waiting to drive in and find their dead moms.  Like the Dead Mom Parade.   It was awful.

I had to change things.  That day was so hard that I had to set down a little of the weight of it.  Too much to carry.  Empty out the bucket of too many tears.  I knew I couldn’t change the fundamentals of it but I could surely figure out something to make it a little less miserable.

I mean, beer is only going to take you  so far…

I knew that people find other ways all the time.  Like couples who cannot, themselves, give birth to children.  They adopt, they foster, they rescue pets…Mother’s Day is literally spilling over with wonderful people who didn’t just stop and quit with their disappointment.  Like any other facet of brain injury recovery, you have to find a way that works better and feels better.

So I went to the cemetery today.  I brought my Mom her lilacs and cleaned off the headstone.  Trimmed the grass around it.  This weekend, no doubt, I’ll think of her often and I’ll surely shed some tears.  But I’ve created ways to find some joy in a day that is otherwise so much about loss for me. 

I “steal a little mom” from some of the women in my life (you know who you are).  From time to time over the years, each has stepped in and filled my need for a Mom.  Standing in at awards presentations and being there for me to “bring my crayon drawings to”.   Being willing to “kiss the boo boos away” when life has kicked up its heels and deposited me onto my bottom.  Doing the things moms do and saying the things moms say.  I can’t thank them enough.  They are utterly treasured. 

So now I take more time on Mother’s Day to celebrate them.  I celebrate my friends in their wonderful role as great moms.  I celebrate my sister-in-law who is a terrific mom to my niece and nephew.  I celebrate my friends who are loving and caring moms to fur children.  We’ll get one of my Mom’s favorite foods and tell funny stories of her that push aside the tears and welcome the warmth of true laughter and fond memories.

I will find the good.  And there is always good to be found somewhere when you decide it’s important to look.

When life takes from you those things you counted on staying “forever”, you feel cheated and it’s just plain rotten.  It hurts.  I know, not only a lot of people who no longer have their moms, but also several moms who have lost children. 

These Hallmark Card Holidays aren’t always like the commercials.

And neither is life.

It’s hard to learn the lesson that life isn’t kidding.  That often we counted on a lot of things to be here that aren’t here anymore. 

We have to find other things to celebrate, to recognize, to invest in, to enjoy.  For those of us with brain injury, too often we confuse losing at all with losing it all.   The losses appear so complete that we can’t see anything beyond them.   We mistake losing A life with losing our lives.  Mistake losing a lifestyle with losing a lifetime.

There is a big difference. 

A few weeks ago the simplest of truths suddenly came to me and I laughed my fool head off.   I said to myself, “Kara, if you want to lose weight, at some point you have to start eating less.”   I can’t tell you how funny that was to me.  Even now I’m laughing.   A friend of mine who wants to be a published author was struggling with her inability to find her muse, unsnarl her writer’s block, create her perfect environment for writing, etc.  I said to her, “If you want to be a published author, at some point you have to just write the damned book.”   Oh did we laugh.

I can spend ten hours “getting ready” to go for a half hour walk.  Talking to myself.  Telling people on the phone that I’m going to go walking.   Thinking and anticipating and dreading and getting motivated.  Planning when I’m going to go.  At some point, if I’m going to go walking, I need to get up and start walking.

Laughing here.

People ask me all the time how to restart their lives, how to get going after their old lives are gone, how to begin again without the slightest inkling of which way to turn.   When we’re tempted to think it’s so hard and sticky and tangled, what comes to me is this:

If we’re going to start living a new life, at some point we have to start living a new life.  If we’re going to start living a new life, at some point we have to stop living our old one. 

Yikes, did I ever get sidetracked.   This is supposed to be about Mother’s Day.   OK.  Sorry about that.  I’m like a little kid with my attention span sometimes.   Angry Angry Tears Angry Tears Oh Popsicles….

Speaking of which, last week I went to see my 5-year-old nephew play in his first tee ball game ever.  My 3-year-old niece was a cheerleader.  It was one of those days that reach right in and wrap around your heart and paint a picture on it that you will return to many times to enjoy.  Life just bursting at the seams…

At one point Charlie got upset and ran right to his mom.  She wrapped him warmly in “it’ll get better” and “I’m sorry you’re hurting” hugs and soon he was off smiling and laughing and playing again.   I thought to myself, ah…mothers…all you mothers…

The countless comforting holds and hugs that, as adults, we no longer recall but wear somewhere quiet in our hearts.   The so many times we cried on your shoulders and heard your soothing voices in our ears-moments that planted the seeds of peaceful loving adults watered by the tiny tears of children. 

As adults, we often take all the credit for the boasting best of our character.   But I believe with all my heart that our bests had their beginnings when Mom sat us on the bathroom counter and kissed our scraped knees.  When she took us out for ice cream after losing the championship game or the spelling bee.  When she told us she loved what we made her when she had no idea what it was.  When she gathered us crying to her chest and told us we were important, loved and special.  

And yes, even when she made us pull weeds, do dishes and wash windows…

Sometimes we don’t have to remember the moments to believe with all our hearts how they touched us, shaped us and filled us.

We don’t get to have our moms forever.   But, at the same time, we do.  At some point we stop blaming them for how they failed us or left us or wronged us and we start recognizing how truly truly living and lasting their gifts to us remain.  We don’t have to go find them in some cemetery when they’re right here singing sweet lullabyes in our wistful hearts.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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