I was seven years old when my Mom died. It was summer, 1965, in the San Gabriel valley and she had asthma. It seemed to be under control until one morning in July when she had an attack that not even my Dad, a doctor, could do anything about. Neither could the paramedics. She was DOA. My brothers were 5 and 3.
At that time, my biggest concern was who was going to do my hair for me. I had long blonde hair that my Mommy would brush up into a high ponytail every morning before school. It was too hard for me to do by myself. With everything else he had to deal with, my hair was not on the top of the list for my Dad, so the decision was made to cut it. I think I cried more about losing my long hair at that time then I did about losing my Mom. I couldn't begin to understand, at seven, what early mother loss would mean as I grew.
What followed were a series of housekeepers and then less than two years after my Mom passed my Dad remarried. There were no support groups then (at least that we knew of), no therapy (unless you were really crazy), no books on early mother loss, and no one talked to me or my brothers. Mom died, now go to school. We didn't go to the funeral. Now here is your new Mom. No more pictures of your real Mom (don't want to hurt new Mom's feelings) and not much else said about the woman who gave me life and raised me for seven years. New Mom, new life. My Dad and New Mom had two more children, both boys, and so we seemed like a normal family. I had a Mom, Dad, four younger brothers and a hole in my heart that no one noticed or paid any attention to. I did well in school and didn't get in trouble, so "she's doing fine."
While those of us who lost a parent young often "do fine", we don't really. We never get over it. My Mom died 42 years ago and I'm crying as I write this. I'm not over it. Every Mother's Day, and for the weeks leading up to it, there is the reminder of loss. The commercials are constant: "For that most special person in your life who was always there for you..." "Don't forget Mom on that special day..." We, who have lost our Mothers, tend to grieve a little every year at this time. Throughout my life there have been, and continue to be, times when I miss her desperately. There was that emergency surgery when I was ten, Mother/Daughter teas at school, the day my boyfriend broke up with me, my graduation, my wedding, and the birth of my son. Recently there was the day I had to step in to help choose my Grandmother's casket because it was something my Mom would have done if she were here. Lots of days in the last 42 years when she would have been there. Should have been there. It feels like being a boxer and going back to your corner after the round and having no one there to wipe your brow or tell you how great you did. Or even to say, use your left more, too much right.....
So we do the best we can without that role model. We try and let people close even though we walk around with the acute awareness that those we love could/do/will die. We accomplish great things, even though that one most important voice isn't there to say, "Great job! I'm so proud of you." We even go on to be Mothers ourselves even though our children will never know their Grandmother and we feel our loss so much more when she's not there for her Grandchildren.
Most of the time, I don't actually feel the pain anymore. However, once in awhile, usually when I least expect it, something will touch that sad, scared, lost little seven year old girl and there she still is. Still the same as she was that day in July 1965 when part of her died.
You might think this is weird, but I still have that ponytail. I saved it. It is in a plastic bag in the linen closet. I guess I keep it to honor that little girl who lost so much.
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