It was on a school bus, sitting in the far back while I giggled nervously, when I realized the force my mother could be. I do not remember the exact circumstances leading up to this moment, but there was a substitute school bus driver and some slight this driver had delivered. We were upset, all of us kids, and the driver was the cause. I had told my mother and the next morning when the bus came to pick us up, she stepped up to the door and spoke her mind.
The bus was from that era before electric doors…it had the huge silver handle the driver had to pull to close the door. Mom stood on the bottom step, just inside the door, and I remember that substitute driver pulling on that handle with all her might trying to close the door on Mom. Didn’t work.
Mom stood with her hands on her hips, clothed in her bathrobe with her hair pulled up, and clearly explained to this driver that things would change.
And they did. I don’t remember how much longer the driver was subbing, but I remember things changed. And we giggled in the back row.
I learned that day that Mom was a force, that her presence could not be ignored…and that she heard me when I was hurt and frustrated and she stepped in and changed things.
I stood at the store the other day looking at all the Mother’s Day cards and thinking about Mom. I read all the sentiments of love and of the impact of the mother in our lives…and I thought that we need a section for those who have their mother and yet don’t. We need cards for those who still want to send cards, but know the card will not be understood. I know that the exercise is mostly selfish at this point…we want to remind her that she is loved and she is not forgotten, even when she cannot remember.
I remember that she loved us well, and she delighted in children. Even when Dementia began to take her memories and her personality, she delighted in the grandkids.
Mom could laugh and make everyone around her laugh. It was contagious.
She dominated a room when she entered, not by trying, but simply because her presence was so strong. She carried herself with grace and dignity, with humor and wit, and sometimes with roaring anger.
Mother’s Day is another opportunity to pause and to remember her in her strength and fullness. She may not understand the cards anymore, she may not recognize those who love her…but I believe she knows in some way that she is cared for and there are those who are present for her when she cannot be fully present.
Her physical presence is a reminder, though, of all we are missing. I am constantly amazed at my Dad and brothers who care for her with such tenderness and perseverance. The distance between us is more acute on days like today.
“I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history..” C.S. Lewis
I wish she knew today, all that are around her. All that she cultivated and caused to be. The people we have become, and the mother I am as a result of growing under her care. She was not perfect, but even the challenging aspects of her personality caused me to be who I am today. For that I am thankful. I see glimpses of her in myself and my kids. In my only daughter, who carries her name…and the set of her jaw.
Dementia cannot wipe away a personality so large and so strong.
I still giggle when I think of that bus driver. I think of so many situations when she made me laugh genuinely out loud. I inherited her sense of humor and her love of laughter, and in the midst of this season I am all the more thankful.
“He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.” – G.K. Chesterton