We all have mothers and we all have our stories about them, but my mom is the person who defines me. My mom was an amazing woman who fought more than one battle, like many women before her. She is a true indie chick because of it.
My mom was a baby boomer. She thought women were supposed to get married when they were 19 or 20, so she did, but the man she married was a raging alcoholic. She gave birth to my sister on April 23, 1973 and buried her on May 1, 1973. (Sorry to spoil your launch day, ladies, with that anniversary.) She gave birth to my awesomeness on September 24, 1974 (hold the applause, please!). She divorced the icky man sometime around my first birthday. Then, she truly showed what a bad ass indie chick she was! She started her own company and supported us all by herself, hanging wallpaper while going back to college. Yep, she was awesome too!
Although these were difficult times, her real battle began when she was 28. My mom was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer and given two years, at best, to live. She was told to get her affairs in order and to find someone to raise me- I was only four. I have to say I don’t remember much about this other than that she was always tired, and I remember her arms being literally black from the radiation. There are no photos of my mom from this part of her life in which the smile on her face looked real. They were always so sad and painful, almost as if just moving a muscle was more painful than she could bear.
When I was older, mom told me that the only reason she didn’t die when they said she should was that she was too stupid to know she was supposed to! I know she wasn’t stupid, but she sure as heck was stubborn as a mule! This first battle with cancer cost her a breast, lymph nodes, and some muscle tissue, but she didn’t lose her hair. She didn’t have to shave for two years. I am still jealous of that.
She met and married my step dad – my daddy – and he was her rock through the rest of her life. Starting with the second round of cancer, which was caught early, we all felt really blessed that it could be treated with just a surgery! She went into the hospital, came home and recovered and we all went on about our lives. I remember that my mother didn’t talk about this diagnosis much because she figured since surgery was all it was, there was no need. She spent a lot of her life trying to hide her illness from everyone, including me.
The third and fourth battles were so hard and so long that the reality is they almost don’t count as two separate battles. The second battle left a few remnants and the cancer attacked her bones. When they found the cancer, it was in her spine, and we had to stop doing risky family trips. No more skiing and no more roller coasters at Disney. I remember the last trip we took when she was healthy, we went to Washington D.C. and New York. We ate dinner on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center on her birthday. The day those towers went down was like losing my mom again.
Like I said, my mom hid her illness so I don’t actually know when the third round started and when they “said” she was in remission. However, I do know that the fourth battle was happening when I was 15. I remember having a horrible fight with her one day, and I said,
“Why should I love you? You’re going to die anyway.”
The look of horror on her face and pain I had inflicted is burned into my memory as if it happened 20 minutes ago. That is the only thing I honestly regret in my life.
My mom’s last battle had chemotherapy, radiation, hormones and every possible thing to try to live a little longer. I remember crying my eyes out in civics class my senior year of high school thinking she wouldn’t live to see me graduate. I remember driving to the wig store in a panic one day because the night before, she had singed her wig when taking a casserole out of the oven. I remember the countless mornings of hearing her vomit in the bathroom after eating jello. I have more sad memories of this time than happy ones, but I try to only dwell on the happy ones.
One of those happy memories is her teaching me to sew formal dresses. My homecoming dress and my Christmas formal dress are still etched in my memory. She taught me years before to sew and I had been sewing for maybe 7 years, but these two dresses have some special place in my memory and I still have one of them even though it doesn’t even begin to fit me anymore.
The most important thing she ever said to me was about two weeks before she passed. She knew the end was near, so she was making peace with everyone she could. She told me not to be too hard on my husband. She told me to love life and live it. Most importantly she told me she loved me and was proud of the person I turned out to be.
My mom only wanted my life to be better than hers, and for the most part it is. Of course it isn’t nearly as cool as it would be if she were here. She got to see her first granddaughter born who is named after my sister. She saw me get married, and I am glad she didn’t see the divorce in person, but she was my angel of strength through it all. She was there the day her second granddaughter was born, at least her spirit was. I miss her more than I can express, because the English language does not have words that express this loss. I never got to say ” you were right,” “I was wrong,” “sorry for being a tool,” and all the other things you call your mom to say after you have kids and realize that your mom wasn’t a complete idiot.
I just want to work everyday trying to be half the woman she was and I pray that I continue to be the person she would be proud of. My father always called her “Darcia Maria Sweety Darlin.” That name is who I strive to be as I continue to become the strongest indie chick I can be, just like her.