May is always a strange month for me. It’s a tough month, holding holidays that are bitter and sweet.
I’m not sure why I always respond to dates, to milestones and to things that happened on specific dates. I’m not good with numbers, but let something bad happen on some random date, and I remember it for years.
As a child, May was our special month. My mother was born on May 5. I was born on May 18, on my maternal grandmother’s birthday. And, in the mix, you get Mother’s Day.
We pretty much celebrated all month, because my mother really liked to celebrate. Plus, May was followed by June, which had a “bad date” in it -- the date my father was killed in an airplane crash. Mother never liked June.
My mother died in 1990 at the very young age of 65. It was a long time before I could face most May days without feeling lost, sad and weepy. Time helps, and children help. As they grow, they give you new reasons to celebrate.
In 1995, I wrote a column for the News Sentinel about my mother and the month of May. I wanted to share it with you today, as the month is still new and Mother’s Day dawns this Sunday.
Here it is, from May 6, 1995:
Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. She would have been 71 years old.
I miss my mother almost all the time, but the month of May is especially poignant. Her birthday, her mother’s birthday, Mother’s Day, my birthday. . . May was a month full of celebration for us. It was always a happy month that passed much too quickly, a month of surprises and gifts and parties.
Then it became the month I dreaded most. The memories were too intense during May. Moving past the pain to the point of enjoying the memories took me a long time. It’s been five years since she died, and I still find myself reaching for the phone to call her.
It has gotten easier in these five years. My family no longer has to tip-toe around the house on May 5. They no longer have to contend with a mom and wife with eyes swollen from crying. They don’t have to be careful not to mention the date.
One of the reasons it’s easier is that I see my mother all around me, and I find that comforting. She’s in the pictures she had framed for the den, in the dishes she helped me choose when I got married, in the color of the countertop we had a big fight over.
But most of all, she is in the faces and personalities of my children. In Trey, I see her stubbornness, her resolve, her dedication to seeing something through to the end. He has her gentle way of dealing with young children, her playfulness and her love of action. He also has her eyes.
In Brett, I see her tenacity, her kindness, her generosity. He has her compassionate heart, her way of drawing people to her side and her love of friends. He also has her stubbornness.
And, sometimes, to my surprise, I see her looking back at me when I look in my mirror. I see her heart - how it filled with love for her children, how fiercely she would defend them and protect them, no matter the circumstances.
I see her brow, how it creased with worry over making the right choices for her family.
I see her attitude, how bullheaded she was, how she believed that she usually knew what was best, how she meddled without apology in the affairs of those she loved.
And all around me, I see her gifts to me. My inheritance wasn’t something I could touch or spend. But I could feel it. Her gift was in teaching me how to be a mother. Her legacy was a legacy of love.