I hate using the word “lost” for what happened to my mom. She wasn’t “lost” at all but died after a hard-fought, five-year battle with a beast named Ovarian cancer. I was just about to turn 18 when she died and it was devastating. I had yet to graduate from high school and I often thought of all the other milestones she would miss. Those kinds of thoughts were very dangerous, and would reduce me to a whimpering puddle, alternating between tears and screams. It was agonizing.
For a time, I thought I would be lost forever, not able to climb back out of the hole I was thrown into. It was then, that so many amazing women came to my rescue. There’s no other way to describe it. These women have saved me in every way a person can be saved. They’ve lifted me up, given me wings and taught me to fly. Most of all, they have mothered me into becoming the strong woman I am today. As Mother’s Day approaches, I choose to not be sad for what I have lost but completely overjoyed for what I have gained.
AUNTIE CARLA – MOTHER SUPERIOR
I have often talked about my amazing Aunt because without her, I could never do and be all that I am. That is a fact. She thinks she does nothing, but she actually does everything. When she first came to help me with the boys (which is literally the day they were born!) I didn’t realize just how much I needed a mother. I hadn’t really been “mothered” in years, and what I felt is truly indescribable.
Here is the tip of the iceberg of what defines my Auntie Carla:
1. She was with my mom when she died. My mom asked her to watch after me and my brother and she takes it very seriously.
2. When I was in the hospital, after the twins were born, she came in with her homemade chicken soup, sent Mike home to get some rest and took over the feedings and burpings and diaper changings of two newborns, while I ate and slept. She’s like an freakin’ angel.
3. She does 80% of my laundry. Seriously. If there’s a single stitch of dirty clothing in my house when she gets there, she sniffs it out and washes and dries the hell of out it. Nothing dirty escapes her.
4. When we came home from the insanity that is Disney World with four-year-old twins, my brother, his wife, their two kids and the grandparents at 11pm on a Sunday night, I opened my fridge to find a fully-stocked array of food – fruit salad, baked chicken, sauce, meatballs, pasta (we’re Italian, come on!), a gallon of milk and a huge sign that read “Welcome Home!” I cried. Wouldn’t you?
5. She makes a point of being at every.single.race I’m in. Now you know – that is a lot of races. She’s my biggest fan and cheers and takes pictures and cries. She genuinely loves being there, and seeing all my hard work pay off. She’s one of the few who see my day to day struggles and my overall journey, from training to race – and most of it ‘aint pretty. But, she’s always there for me, cheering me on, pushing me to the finish.
I could go on, and on and on but I need to recognize two more “moms:”
JOANNE – STEPMOM, MEMERE EXTRAORDINNAIRE
My dad married Joanne a few years after my mom died, when I was about 20 years old. You can imagine how well that went over. I have to confess that I wasn’t always very good to Joanne, and it’s one of my biggest regrets. She is an amazing woman who took this wounded and broken family, and gave us a safe haven with her amazing cooking and selfless nature.
1. My kids love her more then almost anyone. I’m confident leaving them with her because she doesn’t take any of their crap. She has the best balance of loving Meme and prison guard. It’s perfection.
2. She has the biggest heart. She opens her home to anyone and everyone. Each holiday she will always ask if I have any friends who don’t have any place to go. She’s more then willing to make more food, although she’s often already cooked enough to feed an army.
3. I can tell her almost anything and she will never tell a soul. Joanne is the vault. She keeps all my secrets and I don’t even have to bribe her.
4. She’s fiercely independent. My dad is often away on business trips and she manages her own business (Curves!), takes care of the house, bills, trip planning and anything and everything else.
5. She has the memory of Rain Man. You can tell her your cousin’s, wife’s, brother’s kids birthday and those freakin’ kids will get a card and an Edible Arrangement on their birthday. She knows the name of almost everyone she’s ever met, their blood type and social security number. Clearly she should be in law enforcement. Maybe she’s secret CIA and we don’t even know it? Whatever it is, she’s amazing.
AUNTIE LAURIE – BAD A$$ MOTHER
Auntie Laurie is most definitely the “cool” Aunt. She’s also the sister who is most like my mother. I love just being around her because I feel so close to my mom when I am. She is the ying to Aunt Carla’s yang, in that she doesn’t sugar coat things, or feel badly about things and never apologizes for being who she is. Who is she? Just one of the best Aunt’s a girl could have.
1. When Aunt Carla will text me about my upcoming race in Spain she’ll write something like “You’ve worked so hard but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Whatever you do will be amazing.” And Aunt Laurie will write “You’re going to kick so much ass!” Gotta love that.
2. Even though she has two daughters and just recently was blessed with the most adorable granddaughter – – she always makes time for me. If I asked her to, she would drop everything to help me or talk with me. Just knowing you have someone like that in your life, makes your life better in every way.
3. She couldn’t care less about what other people think. When my husband gifted me a rather expensive hand bag, I told her I felt a little silly using it around town. She said, “If you like it, just use it! Who cares what people think? If you spend your time worrying about that, you’re worrying about the wrong things.” After hearing that? I wore that bag when I was in sweatpants and a t-shirt to the local grocery store. I love that bag.
4. She gives the best hugs. Olaf has nothing on Auntie Laurie.
5. She gave Vaughn his first bath when I was afraid to. She showed me that I can’t break my newborns and no matter what I do, it’s the right thing because I’m their mother and I love them. She was right.
So yes, my mother dying was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I suffered. I still suffer but, having these women (and so many more!) surrounding me, teaching me, supporting me – has made me suffer so much less. I feel downright lucky. Some women lose their moms and have no one and nothing and I feel like I have everything.
Don’t even get me started about how ridiculously amazing my dad is…
Happy Mother’s Day!
Do you have an amazing woman in your life who isn’t your mom? Tell me about her!
How will you celebrate Mother’s Day?