Mother’s Day 2012: The Joyous Pain

Mills Family 1977
Someday I’ll scan more photos to the blog. But for now, this really is pretty much how she made you feel even when you were older. Safe, happy and supported.

Yeah, here we are again.

Thinking about my mother messes with my head and I start to feel all that familiar sense of sorrow and loss.

Because frankly, it isn’t any easier. I still miss her so much. I still get caught off–guard by a song at Mass, or a random remembrance or sometimes just enjoying my kids and thinking, “They will never know her.” At least, not in this life.

And the worst part is, I don’t ever want to let go of that pain. So long as I feel it, I know I still love her. So long as it&rqsuo;s there, it’s something to remind me of her.

It’s pretty depressing that it’s what I’ve got.

So I’d planned this whole thing to write about today, and after sort of running through some of the feelings with Agent Bun and Hawk and Jar Jar Hater and a few others, was going to grasp for a few things that might be worth writing.

Then I went to Mass, where the homily naturally dealt with mothers and the very special role they play. And it turns out, some scientific knowledge got dropped in the course of it that I didn’t know. And to be honest, I’ve been thinking about it all day.

Mothers carry the cells of their children in them, and vice versa, through a process called microchimerism. I’m not focusing on the potential health implications or the good–versus–bad science of it. Just the sense that literally, there is a piece of my mother still within me as much as there was a part of me still within her.

It hit me really hard that the reason there’s this ridiculous bond, this inability to “get over it,” is because when she died, my brother and I literally lost a part of ourselves. It’s literally why, even though the woman could drive us nuts, we were hopelessly devoted to her. We still are, to be honest.

And though it hurts that maybe she never gets to interact directly with the kids, it strengthens that sense that she’s still here through me. It adds to that joyful burden I have to make sure they know her as best they can through what I tell them and show to them.

I know that it’s thanks to her that I’m OCD about showing them affection. Snuggling is a requisite in this household; it’s the baseline of communication, solace and support. My mom was an incurable snuggler. You couldn’t walk past her without getting a hug or a kiss or a smile. No matter how sh**ty her day was, and she had plenty of sh**ty days, it was never about her. She shelved it all and just tossed full into the ring supporting you.

She told you to stand up and stand strong. She would lay out a blueprint for success and then you got to follow it, or stumble and go back and follow it, muttering under your breath the whole time that you hated when she was proven right.

Shake It Off

There is one story a few know, and at this point I figure what the Heck, may as well toss it out there. If Mitt Romney can’t make a stupid mistake in High School without people knowing all about it, why should I be any different? I don’t think I’ve really shared it in a public forum before, anyway.

I was “mercurial” in High School, which was the polite way of saying I was unable to have an emotion and not express it forcefully. It was part of my charm, I guess, in that I didn”t feel anything by half measures. I was joy, I was rage, I was sadness and I was love, and always an absolute of each; occasionally each one was on display within one hour!

When I rediscovered Star Wars, it wasn’t just something to love. It became a defining characteristic. When I committed to being The Doors Fan, Morrison became an idol worthy of worship. I took a few brutal emotional shots from people I considered friends back then, but I kinda deserved them. I didn’t know how to be anything but extreme in my feelings and the expression of them.

So, while recently speaking with Hawk, I was reminded of the first time I broke up with a girl. Or rather, she broke up with me.

I did not take it well.

One day, after the breakup, when I was trying still to be “friends” with her, and she walked away, I kinda lost it. Said stupid stuff, and tossed out there that I was going to do myself harm.

Did I mean it? Probably not. I was an attention whore, still am from time to time (hence the blog!), and had a tendency, as I’ve said, to do nothing by half–measure.

I was brought into a counselor’s office (Brother Bob!), and there were people there. Including the girl in question, which in retrospect was kinda screwed up. Hawk was there (natch).

So the friends go away and the counselor says, I have to go home and I have to get one of my parents to pick me up. I first said I wanted Dad (I didn’t want to disappoint Mom). Then I said, “No! Mom! My mom!”

She came and picked me up, took me to Roy Roger’s near home and spoke with me. At the end of the conversation, she told me I had two choices. I could either go home (by this point I was mortified that everyone in school knew I was a nutcase) or I could go back to school.

I said I wanted to go home.

She said fine, but then gently mentioned that she really wanted me to go back. Just make it through the day, she said. She would pick me up and we would figure this out. Things were going to get better. But go back to school.

See, she gave me wisdom that day. She told me that if I didn’t go back, I would always be defined by this moment. People would treat me differently. But if I went back and rode it out—for just this day!—they would forget. They would let me be remembered for better things, and that was something worthwhile.

So this 16–year–old boy listened to her. And I had a pretty respectable High School life after that. To be honest, I doubt any but a few even remember my melt–down that day (though others certainly came to mind later).

So Why Share It?

Honestly, because my mom was tough as nails and she knew the world would eat her son alive if he let it. She did help and she did show me the way after that day, but she also knew that I had to learn a lesson about the world itself and not letting it define me by one moment.

And the thought that I’m still carrying a part of her in me, in a literal sense, gives me a sense of strength. She is physically there in me, all day and every day. And so not just that strength and that wisdom, but literally some of her innate nature, is being shown to my wife, my friends and, most of all, my little girls every day. And that’s more than comforting.

It’s heart–breakingly beautiful.


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