As my memory rests,
but never forgets what I lost;
Wake me up when September ends.
- Green Day, Wake Me Up When September Ends
Undoubtedly it was just a coincidence.
A frustrated customer called to complain, again, that his Wednesday morning copy of The Chronicle didn't include The News-Times. It's been a recurring problem that we thought we'd solved, but as of that morning it was apparent that we had not.
I had an errand to run out in his area, so I took him a paper. His wife answered the doorbell, thanked me for the delivery, and asked if I was who she thought I was. (I was, by the way.)
"I knew your mother," she said, explaining that she'd been a patient at the doctor's office where Mom worked and commenting on how much she thought of her.
That was good to hear. It was unavoidable that I'd been thinking of Mom a lot with Mother's Day coming up, and there's a certain amount of validation in knowing that someone unrelated to her remembers her, too.
It's been nine years since Mom got a Mother's Day card from me. All the cards I've bought since the turn of the century have been from the "To Wife" subsection of Mother's Day cards. (And usually from the "To Wife, Humorous" sub-subsection, since I'm not too crazy about the "To Wife, Sappy" cards.)
No matter how funny or touching those cards are, it always feels a little fake to express feelings or mark an occasion by using someone else's sentiments.
But it feels downright awkward to know there's a whole section of those cards that I'll never need to even browse again - those labeled "From Son."
Oh, I've still got a mom. That'll always be true. I just don't have one who's expecting me to show up with a card on Mother's Day. Since she died back in September 2000, I've left those cards in the rack for other people to buy for their mothers.
Am I envious of those sons and daughters? Absolutely not at all. Just the opposite: I'm thrilled for every person today who is able to celebrate motherhood with their mom. And I'm likewise saddened for those who, like me, skipped a section of the greeting cards this week - especially those who have done so this year for the first time.
A couple of friends have unwillingly joined that group in the past year. I'm never really sure what to say when that happens, though I'll always remember one kind but blunt friend who told me, at Mom's funeral, that while the hurt was bad then, it would be worse six months later.
She spoke from her own then-recent experience and was absolutely right, though I suppose it's impossible to know whether her prophecy for me was self-fulfilling. In any event, a few months after the funeral the full weight of the loss finally settled in like one of those lead X-ray blankets: heavy, stifling, miserably uncomfortable.
Because I find tremendous value in being blunt, I not only appreciated her insight but have since passed it on to others - if, perhaps, a little more gently. I try to make it sound less like a warning and more like a friendly head's up.
Either way, it probably isn't possible to provide a similar alert at the greeting-card aisle: "Warning: If you've lost your mother recently, you might want to skip this section."
We certainly won't skip the holiday, though. Along with my daughters, I'll celebrate the motherhood of my wife (who, one naughty card reminds her, became a mother only with my help). And we'll all celebrate her mother who is still very much with us and is, as she proudly and frequently reminds us, the matriarch of the family.
And I'll also use the occasion to remember the happy numerical coincidence that my mother, born in 1939, was with me for 39 of the best years of my life - and remains with me in happy memories.
Happy Mother's Day to all.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.
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