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Happy Birthday Mom

My stomach has felt hollow for days, I've dreaded this Sunday with every fiber of my being. My mom's birthday. A day, that shamefully, I forgot some years. I'd forget to send a card or to call. I thought I had time. It's the mistake of the living and the young, we think we have time. We don't.

My sisters and I have talked a lot about the all the firsts. The first Easter without her, the first Ranch Week without her, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas... holidays and family celebrations are interesting firsts. These times are supposed to bring joy, and they still do, they're just tinged with her absence. You keep going , you create the moments and celebrate the traditions but there's a sadness sitting at the edges because she isn't there.

And then there's the guilt because her absence has made some things easier. I made a quiet promise to myself that I would not erase the ugly of my childhood, the difficulty that was growing up with a functioning alcoholic, I would not silence myself to make her memory more palatable. My mother was not an easy women. The living have a tendency to put on rose colored glasses when looking back upon the dead.

But on her birthday, maybe for a few minutes I can just remember the good.

My mother never once questioned my dreams or expected anything from my life. So many parents force their children to pursue safe careers or steer them towards jobs that will ensure financial stability. I wanted to study theatre. And she never tried to persuade me other wise. She believed in me and my talents to the point that I never doubted I could do it. She created a confidence in my talents that I've literally never doubted, and I will owe her eternally for that. I think she'd love that I'm writing again.

She gave. If an organization needed money, she gave it. If someone needed her time, she gave it. She didn't expect anything in return. She just gave.

She thought I was good mother. When Carson was 1 month old I was home for a wedding. It was a little after 11pm and he had just woken up for a feeding. My mom was on the phone with her best friend Jan. They always talked late into the night like that. I could hear them as I quietly fed my newborn and she told her how natural I was at it all. How she had never felt that way as a new mother. That I was calm and loving and just so good at all the things she's found impossible as mom. I will cherish over hearing that conversation forever. Those words have held me up on some very hard days.

She loved. I never doubted it. I sometimes doubted she liked me, but I never doubted she loved me. The day she started chemo, as I was leaving the hospital, she said to me that she was the only mother I'd ever have. That she may have failed in a lot of ways, that she wasn't perfect but no one would ever love me like she did. And she was right. It's the hardest part of losing her actually, the knowledge that that relationship is forever gone.

She celebrated life. No one loved a party like my mother. New baby? Let's celebrate. New house? Let's celebrate. Wedding? Let's celebrate? Life had a limit, it's as if she always knew that. She'd lost friendships and buried those she loved and knew that nothing lasted forever and that now was the time to open the champagne and laugh and dance and make memories. And it may be the greatest lesson she left me with.

I spent so many years counting the ways she failed me, judging her choices, making fun of her hair. I lost so much time trying to make sense of her so she fit into my mold better that I never stopped and looked at her for who she was. Human. A woman who made choices like the rest of us. Some she would've changed, some she regretted, some she stood by. I wish I could've seen her this way while she was still living.

So, today on her birthday, I'll celebrate (after I'm done with the tears). I'll open a bottle of wine and watch a silly Hallmark movie. I'll fix dinner for Sunday Funday with our friends. We'll laugh and enjoy the company because time is fleeting. The days that make up our lives are limited. Write the letter, make the call, take the chance. We don't get to take anything with us, so it give it all away; the money, the time, the love. And celebrate ALL the moments.

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