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A Year in the Life of a Mother

A year ago today a bedside full of love surrounded you while you listened to a video of your sweet granddaughter's laughter. We, your daughters, held your hands and assured you that it was ok to let go and finally move on. To finally get your wings. To finally be free.

I pictured Kari leaping through heaven's gates to meet you.  Our Kari finally with you. You finally with your first born. Kari couldn't enter a room without jumping through a doorway at home, so surely this had to be the way you were greeted. If a person is going to have an O.C.D., it should be this one.  It is happily endearing and makes neurosis look so damn cute.  The thought that my big sister and beloved mother were reuniting, coupled with the belief that Mom was seeing her parents, Grandma Kitty and Grandpa Jack again, made those first few days livable. That, and the fact that I would probably lose a little weight in the process.

Hey, a little vanity does a girl good. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I would much rather be the fragile, petite-looking thing next to her mother's casket as opposed to an alarmingly rotund, large Marg in charge looking to see if someone brought her a whopper on their way to the funeral. And the best part is— Mom wouldn't have it any other way.

Those first few months were a blur. It's hard to process the finality of your mother no longer being present. It's like this bandaid that no one can rip off. It's just stuck on your skin, hanging there by a thread. I refused to let that bandaid rip. I knew if I wallowed in it, the pain from that full on rip would kill me so I was determined to divert my attention away from it. And let me tell you, with a nine-month old at home, it was pretty easy to be distracted.

I watched my kid take her first steps, throw her first tantrum and have her first kiss all inside a three-month span. Maddie's tenacity immediately showed in the way that she would run more than she would walk. She would kiss back little Landon Murphy more than she would play hard to get.
She would throw a tantrum better suited for a two-year old diva, as opposed to a one-year old toddler. She would move on to have her first best friend, whose name she would repeat any chance she got on the way home from school. In fact, our conversations for quite some time in the evenings would be..

"How was school, cutie?"


"Did Mr. Kenny come and play music?"


"Do you want pizza for dinner?"


Finally we would give in and act as though she was really answering one of our questions..

"Whose your best friend?" Mike would then inquire.

"Emma!" Our child was a genius.

The first real "I love you" from Maddie to my husband and I nearly stopped my heart and the first time she ran to the door to greet Mike while yelling "Daddy, Daddy," I swear I could have died. But there was also the onset of my first grey hairs — Madison's broken leg. Who would have thought an afternoon out with my girlfriends and our children, would turn into a trip to the ER… days later.  What was thought to just be a sprain, turned into a six-week cast. I would have been better off pushing her down the slide the way the evil elves did in the movie A Christmas Story as opposed to sitting her in my lap.

If you had been here, Mom, I know you would have said something smart like, "Well I hope your joy ride on the slide was worth my granddaughter's dance career."

Or, something along the lines of what Grandma Tynan said which was, "I tell you what, Mommy. Next time you see a slide you want to go on, you sit on MY lap and I will take you for a ride the way you did my Granddaughter. " … have I mentioned everyone in my family is crazy?

The thing about being a mother is that they don't give you a handbook.  You can read every volume of "What to Expect When Expecting" for every year of your young one's life, but it can't teach you how to be a parent.  It can't teach you how to feel. And it most certainly can't teach you how to love. And trust me, there are no chapters heeding warnings of twisty slides!

What I do know is that when I think of being a mother, I think of her. I think of the way she remade my bed after I had already tidied it to to make sure everything was just right. I think of the times she would send me back to my room because I had no idea what I was sorry for.  I think of every birthday afternoon growing up when she would bring me to the mall to pick out a few birthday outfits. I think of sitting around the counter in the kitchen with her and my sisters, eating her famous chocolate chip bundt cake topped with mint chocolate chip ice cream. I think of snuggling next to her in bed to watch Friends and Seinfeld repeats. I think of walking home to my first apartment with my husband and calling her to tell her every detail of my day. I think of my wedding day and how lucky I was to have her there to laugh with and hug. I think of the day I had my daughter and smile knowing she was the first person to hold Madison after my husband and I. She is my mother and there is no way she would allow something like death to keep her away from her granddaughter. After all, Madison got her tenacity from someone.

It hasn't been an easy year without my mother, but I've managed to keep my chin up and vow to make her proud. Were there times that I was maybe over focusing on keeping my chin up and say maybe walked into a lamp post or two? Sure. The harsh truth however is that your mother can't hold your hand for everything, but she can make sure you know you have her support. And Mom did just that.

I had asked her to send me a pink balloon on a special occasion or when times were especially hard.  Today, on her anniversary, when Madison and I were walking out of her school I noticed three pink balloons. I then learned that they were part of a hot air balloon project that Madison's class had completed during the day, making them that much more special.  Well played, Mom, well played.


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