I love my Mother.
She's creative, funny, talented, quirky... She's been the message of many of my poems, the person I always think to call first when I have good news or a bad day, the person who has always encouraged me to follow my dreams, with just a splash of Jewish mother guilt thrown in.
My father, married at 19 to his then-pregnant girl friend, was already three kids and a divorce deep when he met my mother. When they started dating, he said he would never get married again and never have kids again. My mother proposed to my father less than three years after they started dating. It took another 18 years before they had me. My father was not a bad father, but I was never "Daddy's little girl." I've always been "Mommy's little girl."
My mother loves me with every inch of her being and I know she would give her life for me.
I am now 27 and she is 67, and sometimes it shocks me just how old she is.
Having been through so much with her over the last few years has really aged her (and me). It's been heartbreaking and frustrating and has really cemented in my mind just how much she means to me.
A few years ago she had both of her knees replaced. Her arthritis had become so intolerable it was too difficult for her to walk and she wanted nothing more than to walk down the aisle and dance at my wedding in 2010.
She had the first knee replacement surgery and everything seemed fine. After a stint in physical rehab she was cleared for her second surgery. She went back in, same as before... but after the surgery it became clear that something was wrong.
She wasn't her normal self. She's always been a bit forgetful and sometimes spacey, but she couldn't carry on a simple conversation. Even after she was done with the second round of physical rehab she was shaky and unsteady. It felt like she had moved backwards.
So the tests began. The repeated trips to doctors, to physical rehab, occupational therapy, more tests, scans, drugs given, hospital visits. It became too much for me to bare. I loved my vibrant, funny, silly, loving, healthy mother. Where was she?
I felt myself breaking down. I kept thinking back to the things I never did, that I would never be able to do with her. I began to mourn my Mother while she was still alive.
I feel I aged twenty years in what was only two. I learned that I was fiercely protective of her. I made sure she always had a seat, I helped her in and out of the bathroom, I chased down nurses when they ignored her, I pushed her around the mall to search for the perfect Mother-of-the-Bride dress and helped her try on every single outfit.
After ruling out so many disorders the doctors finally came up with a diagnosis: Parkinson's Disease. She has many of the markers, but not all of them. She still smiles, there is no "mask" marring her face, her sense of humor still remains and her tremors aren't so severe. I still think she may have a mixture of things, but for now she and my father seem satisfied with the diagnosis.
I love my mother. Things may be different, but she is still my mother, through and through. There are so many things I may never be able to do with her again, so many regrets. But there is one specific thing that my mother always asked me to do that I shrugged off as kid, but finally did as an adult.
My entire life, my mother had asked me to go pick fruit with her. When I was a child she was an avid jam maker, winning blue ribbons for her amazing, delicious jams. I wrote poems about her jam, gave it away as gifts to friends, bragged to my friends about it, but I wouldn't actually toil in the fields and help her pick the fruit.
Before her first surgery she asked me to go pick fruit with her. I loaded her and my now-husband, John, into my car and took off to a field of cherry trees. I helped her waddle out to a nice spot under the trees, set up a seat for her and then preceded to pick 20 pounds of sour cherries. John and I brought her bucket after bucket of cherries, as if she was a deity we were trying to appease. That year everyone received cherry jam.