“I am not a perfect mother and I will never be. You are not a perfect daughter and you will never be. But put us together and we will be the best mother and daughter we would ever be.” Zoraida Pesante
The harsh reality of life without my mother for the last four years is the most frustrating for me each Mother’s Day. I manage to muddle through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even her birthday in January. Mother’s Day, though, is complicated because it never ceases to remind me how much I miss my mother, our long discussions on how we could solve the problems of the world and the all laughs we shared.
The quote I include at the top of this story defines perfectly, the relationship I shared with my mother, Patricia. Either one of us could have written that quote, followed by a fierce argument over who came up with it first. If I claimed the quote as my own piece of brilliance…my mother would have countered back saying I could thank her for my clever writing skills. In addition, let us not forget (for the millionth time) her grandfather was the editor of a big city newspaper. Yada, yada, was my usual retort.
A highly liberated woman, Patricia was, perplexedly, somewhat of a flip flopper when it came to the feminism movement. She practically made the evening news in the 1960s when she decided to throw her apron in the trash, trade in her sensible shoes for spike heels, divorce my father and leave us kids to fend for ourselves while she headed into the workforce. That was unheard of in my little rural town. All the “good” mothers were at home baking, cleaning and secretly reading racy novels while their husbands were at work.
Yet, she forever bemoaned that womanhood was doomed from the moment the first unhappy females burned their bras in protest. While Patricia was breaking speed limits in her convertible with the top down, wearing short skirts and tall boots, teasing her big hair and daring anyone to question her standard of living…she openly cursed the bra burning feminists. “Well…thanks to them, men won’t even open the door for us anymore,” Patricia would wail. Yada…yada!
My mother was an educated woman. Graduating high school at 16, she headed to Boston College to study physiology and graduated with honors. I cherish her life memories she shared of school and sneaking off to dance with “much older sailors” while Benny Goodman played Swing Era tunes at Canobie Lake Park. She was an adventurous young girl who tapped danced on stage and crashed her “Daddy’s” brand new car into an ice cream truck; hiding it in the garage for him to discover when he went to work the next day.
I lived dual lives as the daughter of Patricia. When we went to visit her family in the city, who were sophisticated, prim and proper…it was Patent leather shoes, frilly dresses, white gloves and hopeless hats with flowers and ribbons for my sister and I. Dress shirts and miserably tight penny loafers for my brothers.
At home in the country, we climbed trees, chased the neighbor’s geese, never wore shoes and walked everywhere. In the city, we took a taxi with my great aunts (wearing our gloves) to the Bixiou Theatre to see “The Sound of Music.” We ate at fancy restaurants like the Prince Grotto, where I slipped two red linen napkins into my little purse to bring home and it cost my uncle $5 apiece. Patricia loved both worlds and so did I.
Patricia sat on the table with her head down, in horrible pain, in the emergency room early one Thursday morning. The nurse called me from the waiting room to see my mom and she left us alone. “I have bone cancer and it doesn’t look good at all, Katie,” my mother said through her tears. With my heart breaking, I asked through my own tears, “What do you want to do, Mom? “Nothing,” was the only word she said.
From that moment, I would have twenty-eight days left to be with my mom. There would never be another Christmas or a birthday with her. We would never watch the Kentucky Derby again together. We never got to the beach or went to our favorite restaurant again. There could be no more laughing til our sides split. It was over like that. Just eight weeks before was the last Mother’s Day I would spend with Patricia and I miss her the most on this day.