I’ve been missing in action blog-wise for a few weeks and I want to explain why: My mom died. Since August 2 when she passed, I’ve been to MD for her memorial service and to CA to visit family there. No time or inclination to write. Losing a parent is always difficult. Anyone who has experienced this loss knows this. My mom and I were especially close. I’ve been losing her slowly over the last nine years to dementia and other assorted physical ills. Still, she knew who I was to the end and I am grateful for that. I dreaded the day when I walked into her room and she looked up at me with a look of confusion and non-recognition on her face. I was spared that heartbreak. One of the last times I saw her, I kissed and hugged her as I readied to leave and told her she was the best Mom ever. She looked at me and said, “I’m your only Mom.” “Yes”, I replied, “but you are still the best.”
I’m sure Mom did not expect the daughter she got. I was a tomboy who loved sports and hated dresses. She was elegant and her accessories always matched. She never made me feel out of place just because I was the only girl playing football and baseball with the neighborhood guys. She had never been interested in sports. She ferried me to high school basketball games and sat on countless bleacher seats to watch me play. She did give me a few dolls at Christmas (which made great hostages in my fantasy adventures where I saved them from disaster). She did make me little dresses (which I insisted on wearing my two gun holster set over). She sighed and let me be me. I will always love her for that simple act of love and acceptance. Not everyone gets this from their parents.
Few parents are prepared to have a gay child. My mom was no different. When I finally came out to her after several trips home and chickening out (My Dad died before I had the courage to tell them both), she knew exactly what was important and was able to brush all other concerns out of the way. She focused on her love for me and the fear of disappointing her she saw in my teary eyes as I told her. Just as she loved the tomboy and the athlete, she loved the lesbian who was her daughter. She gave me the greatest gift a parent can give: She loved me as I am and let go of all the things I was supposed to be or that she may have wanted me to be. She was in my life so completely because I was able to share it with her – both the good and the bad.
At her memorial service, my brother and I both spoke of her sense of humor and told some stories about her irreverence and playfulness that we learned to love as we grew up. I’ve spent the last two weeks since she died looking through old pictures and remembering some of her particular “momisms” as I started calling them. The friends I have who knew her have reminded me of stories about her. We talk and laugh about the woman she was before the fog of dementia closed in on her and robbed her of so much of her personality, humor and playfulness. I cherish all of these memories and am grateful to have friends who share them.
Even as dementia closed in though, there were some days when the fog cleared and her wit was still there. I was visiting her in the nursing home where she lived the last two years of her life. The TV was on. It was an old John Wayne movie called North To Alaska. The 60’s rock n roller, Fabian, had a bit part in the film. When I was in junior high school, I had a big fat thing for Fabian. I had pictures of him all over my bedroom walls. I had all of his albums. I was a member of the Fabian Fan Club. Never mind that Fabian couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and had no sense of rhythm. I guess it was a sign of my heterosexual impairment.
Anyway, I saw Fabian on the TV and said, “Mom, it’s Fabian! Do you remember him and how I had that big crush on him?” She looked at me, the fog rolled back, and she said, “Yes, and it’s a good thing you have better taste now.”
That’s my Mom. Augusta Scott Griffin, Gussie to her friends, just Mom to me. Mom, I’m glad you are free of the mind and body that were failing you. I am happy you are with Daddy. And I will miss you more than words can express. If the task of parents is to give children roots and wings, rest assured that you certainly did that for me.