By Greg Smith
My mother died nearly 50 years ago. I was just a little boy when she passed away. Even though almost half a century has passed, if I close my eyes I can still remember how she smelled and how soft the dresses she wore felt on my cheek whenever I gave her a hug. She nearly always wore a dress.
She was so easy to hug because she never told me that she was too busy caring for my younger sisters or doing housework. I might have to wait for a few seconds, which always seemed like they lasted forever at the time. But I always got my hug.
I remember the last time I got to hug her. She let me hang onto her as long as I wanted. It scared me because she would normally tell me she had to go. It was the last time I saw her.
She was home from spending several weeks in the hospital. I later learned she had leukemia. Back in the early 1960s, learning you had such a disease was just like hearing you had been given a death sentence.
As a seven-year-old little boy I couldn’t understand why she left me. I was angry for a long time. Other kids still had mothers. Why didn’t I? It wasn’t fair. I was mad at her for not coming back.
Later on I made promises that I would behave if she would just come home. I badly needed her to walk through the front door and give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. To prove how sincere I was about being a good boy, I even ate stewed tomatoes with crushed up crackers one night. I had made a big stink once when my maternal grandmother served it as part of a meal. Mom sent me to bed early for being such a brat. After she was gone, all I wanted to do was tell her how sorry I was for not eating what grandma had served.
After being angry at her and negotiations failed to bring her back, I finally cried. I shed the tears of a small child who missed his mother. One who really needed her to be there with him. Who needed a hug that only she could provide.
As I got older I started to read about leukemia and what it did to the body. How unlike a heart attack, people with such a disease knew weeks in advance that they were going to die. How incredibly brave she must have been to manage to keep the fact she was dying from her three small children. How much effort it must have taken her to make my favorite pancakes the last day I saw a live.
I’m 57-years-old now. Most of what I remember of her are impressions ingrained in my mind. How easily she laughed at the strange thing I’d do. How she tucked me in at night and woke me up in the morning. How she always watched me climb the small tree in our backyard, no matter how many times I had done it before.
Today is Mother’s Day and I will again think of her and all the little things I can still remember that she did for me. The Mickey Mouse Pancakes, the One-Eyed Sailor and popcorn with extra butter for Saturday night movies. So today, I say happy Mother’s Day to everyone who still has a mother. Enjoy them while you can. And be sure to take some time to remember them on Mother’s Day when they’re gone.
Happy Mother’s Day, momma. I wish there had been a way for us to get to know each other better.