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My Selfish Mother

A senior shares bittersweet memories about his Mom on Mother’s Day.

If my mother were still alive she would be 92 years old, twenty-six years my senior. Every Mother’s Day I fondly remember how well she took care of me. How she cooked and vacuumed and did my laundry and so many other things to keep our household going. If she were still alive I would be doing everything within my power to make sure that we lived together as long as she could still do those basic household chores.

It’s funny how the simplest of things can provide the greatest of pleasures. Mealtime was always a wonderful time when I was growing up. One of my favorite meals was Kraft Dinner, a version of macaroni and cheese that’s still popular today. When I was in the sixth grade I would come home for lunch; we lived right across the street from the school. Mom would ask me if I wanted Kraft Dinner and I would get all excited and she would laugh and say “O.K., Hon.” and then make some for me. She would smile as I scarfed it down, then give me a kiss on the forehead and tell me to go have a great afternoon at school. Then Mom would go relax and watch TV for a while before cleaning the bathrooms, washing windows, and then preparing dinner for me and my father. But if instead of watching TV she had gotten off her butt and done some cardio she might still be making Kraft Dinner today. Sure her bouts with cancer and arthritis would have taken their toll, but with a specially equipped walker and managed drug therapy she could easily have kept stirring macaroni and cheese well into her nineties. Even without a mind she could have been trained to prepare Kraft Dinner. I would have been more than willing to put the stuff in the pot, position her, and move her arm to give her a jump start. Would that have been asking too much of her? I think not. Kraft Dinner survived all these years. Why couldn’t she?

Mom always loved to garden. She was at peace with the world when she was on her knees digging in the dirt in the back yard, planting flowers or vegetables, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the smell of the soil. If she were still with me I know that her favorite spot would have been in my back yard, sitting on a lawn chair and enjoying the trees and the roses. I would have made lawn mowing very easy for her. I would have gently lifted her into the tractor seat and strapped her in. All she would have had to do was to steer smaller and smaller circles. A dead man’s switch on the tractor mower would have eliminated the possibility of serious accidents in the event that she lost consciousness or just drifted away for a bit. And a water bottle could have easily been attached to the steering shaft with a tube firmly affixed to her lower lip to maintain hydration and/or drain saliva. I would have made it a blue tube, since that was her favorite color. But I’ll never get to share that with her now because of her premature departure. Would a fourth surgery and another year of physical therapy have killed her? I think not. But she selfishly chose not to take that path.

So Mother’s Day for me is always bittersweet. On the one hand, I smile as I remember the way Mom cooked, cleaned, and toiled so that I could go and play with fresh clothes on a full stomach and have an immaculate bed to sleep in every night. On the other hand I resent having to do all those things for myself now just because she didn’t have the guts to tough it out a bit more. Which is why, as both a protest and to honor her memory, I no longer do any of those household chores. Especially the cleaning.

To celebrate Mother’s Day today, I will go scrape some Kraft Dinner off of the bottom of that pot in the kitchen later, smear it on some bread, and have a snack. It always tastes better after it has aged there for a couple of days.
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Copyright © © Lee Goldberg 2011, 2012, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Contact info: leegpoetry@gmail.com

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