This will be a bittersweet posting this week.
Twelve years ago, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Over the years, mom disappeared, and not always with grace. There were tough times. She blamed me for taking her car, for having her go to an institution, and for generally messing with her life. I am her oldest child, and she was living in Marshall when she was diagnosed, so it fell on me to do the best I could. She had a lot of friends who disagreed with the early diagnosis, but they weren’t around when I had to bail mom out for non-payment of bills, for not taking her medicine for three days, then taking three days worth all at once. They weren’t there when mom called at 3 in the morning wondering what was going on with her. They didn’t drive to her house and spend time calming her down. Anyway, there is still a lady in town that has her name, living in a very nice, caring place, but mom left a long time ago.
By the time this appears in the paper, Mother’s Day will have come and gone. Mother’s Day is not a unique holiday. It is held in various forms throughout the world.
It is a bit different here in the United States. In 1905, Anna Jarvis’ mother passed away. Anna worked on making a day devoted to mothers. She wanted it to be about one’s own personal mother, so she went for the singular possessive of Mother’s Day, rather than the all inclusive Mothers’ Day. An apostrophe does make a difference.
Anyway, she got the U.S. Congress to pass Mother’s Day as an observance in 1908, and she held the first celebration at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, W.Va., in that same year. By 1911, all states were observing Mother’s Day in a haphazard fashion. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared that Mother’s Day would be observed on the second Sunday of May, and it is that way at present.
Anna Jarvis got upset at the card manufacturers for making Mother’s Day cards. She thought that one should celebrate quietly and do something personal for their mother. She became further incensed when groups started to sell carnations on Mother’s Day to raise money for their organizations.
What would she think of all of the faux Christmas holidays we have now? Halloween and Easter have become largely unrecognizable. People have Halloween trees, and presents and food, there are Easter tress with plastic eggs in people’s front yards, and the Easter bunny uses FedEx and UPS to deliver presents now instead of hopping into the house and leaving a few brightly colored eggs as a surprise. Oh yes, and people might go to church that day if they can find the time.
Luckily, Mother’s Day hasn’t evolved much past the greeting card and carnation stage. Hopefully, people find time to have their mother over for dinner, or take her out for the day and just spend time with her. That’s what we used to do with my mom.
Today, Melody and I will go to her care facility, give her some roses, see if she recognizes them as such and try to talk to her for a few minutes. She doesn’t actively know us anymore, but sometimes she will cry or get upset, and I think it is because she knows that she is missing something and can’t quite figure out what it is.
My mom was a special person. She raised my brother and me in a hostile religious environment. She went on and got her master’s degree during three summers while my brother and I spent the summers with our grandparents. Those were wonderful memories for the two of us, but very difficult for our mother. Mom never said anything bad about dad, but she didn’t have to. I had about 15 conversations with my dad in my entire life, so I knew how things were.
Mom got one job, then another, then another, and worked herself up to head medical librarian at two separate highly respected universities. She had three bouts of cancer; two of which she didn’t even mention to us until the treatments were completed. She misjudged my brother and me on those occasions, as we would have gladly helped in any way possible. Perhaps her only flaw was that she thought she could accomplish anything all by herself. That stubbornness and independence partly contributed to her defensive posture when I tried to assist in her early Alzheimer’s.
Everyone has a mother, whether they get along or not. Mine has an illness, but she is the single most powerful person in my life. I have always loved her, and do to this day. I will love her and cherish her memory and always marvel at her persistence and goodness for the rest of my life.
We all need to do the best we can with our families. They are the most influential people in our lives. I hope that all of you had good relationships with your families, but I know better. Perhaps though, you were able to take a little time to honor your mother on May 13, and just send it out there that you love and appreciate her.