One of the Last Things My Mother Ever Said to Me
My mother loved William Holden. Not unusual at all, I’m sure; many women were in love with William Holden. But this was my mother, and as strange as it sounds, I never thought of her as more than that. Yes, she was a person, but she was my mother. Remember, this was a time parents were not our “friends”. Long before social media, and spontaneous cell phone pictures shared with the world. The era of black-and-white photos, imprisoned behind plastic sheet covered pages, in books that hid in the attic. Parents were our parents. There were no emotions outside the family. They made breakfast, lunch, and dinner and provided us with clothes and shelter and kept us safe at night.
And they were never wrong.
My mother was sick for a long time. It began at the beginning of the seventies, and by the end of the decade, she was gone. During that time, I did not handle the situation well. If I’m generous with myself, I chalk it up to my age. She had been sick through my teenage years. At the time, I didn’t understand the relationship between a parent and a child. To clarify, I’m not talking about the relationship of a child to a parent; I knew that one, and I was flawed. I’m talking about the relationship between the parent and the child. I was clueless.
The brunt of the hardship of my mother’s illness fell upon my sister’s shoulders. Maybe women are just better at this than men (am I a sexist to say that? I don’t know anymore). With my mother sick, my sister handled everything. Perhaps, it was to prepare her for challenges she would face in her own life. My sister is the strongest person I know; her conversation with Governor Corzine at her husband’s funeral is family legend (story for another time). Our mother’s illness was just the first round.
For years, my mom was in and out of the hospital. Back home, I carried her up steps after chemo treatments. Even with that, she made jokes and made us laugh while residing on a couch in our living room.
I always wondered about the last day they took her from the house. The last day, not knowing if she’d ever return to her home. Did she think about the cracked window in the living room; the one that was never fixed? (I told you, kids, don’t play ball in the house!).
And, if she did know, did she worry the house would not be clean enough for the inevitable company that would soon arrive.
In the hospital room, before she slipped into a coma, she spoke to each of us. Not sure what she said to my brother, and I’m sure she told my sister to take care of me (Geesh, Mom, I’m not a kid anymore).
When I stood by her bedside, her face and body frail, she took my hand. It took me years to realize, but what she said to me in the moment, was wrong.
She whispered, “You’ll never know how much I love you”.
As the person living on the child end of the parent-child relationship, it was wonderful to hear, even under the horrific conditions we found ourselves. It gives credence to the saying, “tell the people you love you love them because you’ll never know if you’ll ever get that chance again”. (Is that a saying? Seems awfully long for a saying, but you get the idea)
It wasn’t until years later, after I was married, and about to start a family of my own, did my mother’s words echo in my head.
“You’ll never know how much I love you.”
No, Mom, I do. Not then, but now. The moment I held my first child in my arms, I knew exactly how much you loved me.
Say hello to Bill Holden for me.