I think the best lesson my mother has taught me is the value of having a positive mental attitude. Sure, it sounds a little Oprah-y, but bear with me.
I forget what my plans were last year for Mother’s Day.
Probably, I had planned some sort of brunch, I mean right? For some unknowable reason moms love the crap out of a good (or even passable) brunch. There’s something magical about hollandaise, or eggs, or a carving station that drives them wild.
That Saturday I got an oddly calm call from my mom that my dad had been involved in a gnarly bicycle accident while riding from Richmond to Williamsburg in the Cap2Cap. He had broken his pelvis, collar bone, and a bone in his back. Mom was insistent that everything was fine, and she was just going to head down to the emergency room by herself. Like it was no bigs!
The next day, Mother’s Day, my dad was laid up in the hospital feeling sheepish and immobile — a convenient way for him to get out of celebrating Mother’s Day. As he likes to say “she’s not my mother.” I called my mom to get an update on his prognosis and found out what she had planned for the day: a lonesome, solitary trip to River City Diner for pancakes. She didn’t want to intrude on anything I had planned for my wife so she thought she’d spend Mother’s Day alone, temporarily husbandless, eating pancakes. No bigs!
Mother’s Day 2010 capped off what had been a particularly tough year for the Catrow matron. In the fall of 2009 she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. My mother! Eternally fit, infinitely healthy! Inconceivable. There was one moment, one, where I can remember her looking defeated and unsure. She had just woken up from a massive internal surgery where they scrapped out her insides and my dad told her that what the doctors had found was malignant. Her response:
From that moment on — literally every moment since — she has been nothing but the most positive person I’ve ever met. She started bringing her iPod to chemo because she couldn’t stand the other patients chattering constantly about how there was no hope, life was terrible, etcetcetc. As her hair fell out she got stoked on hats. She became a master knitter (this is perhaps unrelated, but not an exaggeration!). She finished the chemo (no bigs!) and moved on with life.
My mother is an enfleshed, continual lesson on how to keep a positive mental attitude. And, it has always been thus. I am incredibly lucky to have such a tangible reminder of such an important lesson.
But really, what impresses me the most — more than her positivity in the face of cancer and chemo — is that she is happily surviving retired life with my father. Miracle upon miracles! They even seem to be having fun!
Mother’s day is May 8th. You’ve got two weeks to figure out where you are brunching or what you are a buying, or maybe even what story you want to tell. Hopefully our Mother’s Day guide can help you with some of the practicalities — we’ll be updating it throughout the next two weeks.